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Learning to Love Mickael Pietrus

Mickael Pietrus didn't have me at hello. Not even close. I figured he was just a throw-in to make our deal with Orlando work, the Suns' primary goals in the trade being to unload Hedo Turkoglu's contract, and acquire Marcin Gortat. Pietrus' "chuck 3s from anywhere at any time" offensive game left me cold, as did his goofy personality. I also thought his vaunted defensive prowess was overrated. Besides, why did we need another wing when Josh Childress was already wasting away on the bench?

After a couple of months on the Suns, and the best performance of his brief Suns career last night, scoring 20 points and pulling down 8 rebounds starting at SG, it's time to re-examine. Is there something to love in the gunslinging goofball from Guadeloupe?

96622_suns_clippers_basketball_medium_medium

via cdn2.sbnation.com


I was wrong to underestimate his defense. Watching Pietrus play, the first thing that jumps out is his fierce, physical defense. It's easy to see that he's passionate about his play on that end of the court, as he uses his considerable athleticism to hound opposing wings. When he signed with Orlando in 2008, Stan Van Gundy had this to say:

"Go to Cleveland and he'll probably guard LeBron James, then go and guard Dwyane Wade and guys like that at the two," Van Gundy said. "He's an outstanding rebounder, and obviously that's an area where we need some help."

He was signed for the specific purpose of defending opposing superstar wings like LeBron and Wade. That's quite a statement. How did he do in that role? In his first season with the Magic, they won the Eastern Conference, defeating LeBron's Cavs in the conference finals along  the way. I'm not going to claim intimate knowledge of that series, as I didn't watch it closely. Looking at box scores on basketball reference, LeBron took a bunch of shots and scored a bunch of points. After all, he's LeBron. But in the deciding game 6, he only scored 25 points on 8-20 shooting, as Pietrus scored 14 points (4-7 on 3s) in 35 minutes off the bench.

Is he a LeBron stopper? No, nobody is. Is he a pain in LeBron's ass? Yes. And, for us, he can be a pain in Kobe Bryant's ass, a pain in Manu Ginobili's ass, etc. We've seen this already in his time with the Suns. After adding Pietrus and Gortat, the Suns' defense has improved dramatically. It's not only his play, it's his mentality. He wants to play defense.

On the offensive end, Pietrus is a wild card, but a below average player overall. His career PER (for what that's worth) is 12.1. Three point shooting is almost the only thing he does, and his career 36% shooting there is respectable. After a slow start with the Suns, he's now hitting 34% of his 3s for us. We can live with that. At 6'6", 215 with a strong upper body, he'd seem to have the talent for a nice post-up game, but I haven't seen much evidence of it and I doubt the Suns would ask him to do much of that anyway. Ballhandling? Eh, just catch and shoot, Mickael. His shot selection has caused and will continue to cause some facepalm moments, but he's not a disaster on offense.

I refer to Pietrus as the loosest of loose cannons, and he is that. But sometimes that cannon aims true and does a lot of damage to the enemy. He's not a star, and I don't want to see him starting for us long term. He doesn't complete me. Still, I can love Pietrus as a solid role player who brings a valuable skill set to the Suns. I can even get behind his turrible nickname of "Peaches." Let's close with some music:

peaches (via presidentsrock)

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