Welcome to the third piece of the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns Player Evaluations. We here at Bright Side of the Sun have assembled somewhat of an All-Star cast of writers to put together alternative views on the players, front office, and coaches. Your favorite and least favorite Suns will no doubt get plenty of attention, and the compliments or criticism they deserve. Unless we're talking Vince Carter. Only criticism there. Anyway...
Hearkening back to the somewhat-better days of last summer, we saw the arrival of three new acquisitions for the Phoenix Suns. Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress were introduced within the matter of just a couple of days, and throughout the 2010/11 season the carousel continued on its merry way. After the curtain dropped rather prematurely in early spring, we had seen Turkoglu, Warrick, Childress, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, Vince Carter and Aaron Brooks all make debuts as Suns. Looking back at my own mindset at each respective time, I wasn't more excited to see any one of those players lace 'em up for the Purp as I was when Josh Childress the 'Fro-licious signed here.
It was impossible not to compare Chill to Shawn Marion. His hops, garbage-pailness and athletic yeah-I-just-snuck-in-there-and-did-thatness had me highly anticipating the Matrix Reloaded, right down to the jumper that was so fugly it could put Bill Cartwright in hysterics.
Well much like the Matrix Reloaded, it was more fizzle than sizzle, even though that 'fro is righteously fo' rizzle. What went wrong? Was all this because of a busted finger? Or did Gentry perhaps cost the team a few wins by not releasing the Chill? It's all just so much pontificating at this point; what's important now is: Will a consistent 25mpg from Josh Childress make this team better?
For the sake of argument, let's assume that the broken finger he sustained in preseason was the root of most of his troubles. His failure to hit even half of his freethrows after a career of being above-average in that department lends no other explanation. I'm willing to write off his horrid shooting this season as a product of injury. The problem is, even if you wipe that away, things don't bode very well for the future.
For his career (again, not counting this season), Childress has averaged 0.9 three-point attempts per game. As a wing player for the Phoenix Suns, this is, for all intents and purposes, unacceptable. A shy trigger-finger in this system will pretty much punch your ticket straight to Garret Siler land. This is why Mickael Pietrus was given a spot in the rotation, despite maniacally hoisting up scud missiles from anywhere on the court, while Childress was a spectator. I'm not saying it's right, but it's the preference of the coaching staff and likely (and probably more importantly), it's the preference of Steve Nash.
It would be natural to point out in defense of Childress that Shawn Marion has a worse career 3pt percentage (.332 to Childress' .343), and that didn't stop him from thriving in the Suns system. The big difference here is that Shawn has attempted 2.3 a game; adding up to 1.4 more attempts from deep than Childress. Drilling threes like Ray Allen is not a requirement to play for the Suns, but passing up shots or showing any hesitation on the perimeter is disastrous for a SG or SF in this system. If Steve finds you open in the corner, you better damn well let the orange fly.
So what would it take for Childress to earn his keep as a Sun? His reputation as a solid defender preceded him, but like every other part of his game the sample-size as a Sun was too small. His best shot might be to become a younger and more athletic version of Grant Hill while splitting time with him at SF, thus allowing the Suns to keep a versatile defensive ace on the floor when Hill sits. For this to work, however, he would have to A) start shooting when open, maybe learning the corner three Raja-style, or B) be so effective in his defensive-minded garbage-pail role that he can stay on the floor despite his shyness on the perimeter.
I don't have much confidence in either of those things happening, especially since "earning his keep" would entail playing up to par for a contract that will pay him $29mil/4 years. Even at his best, Josh Childress is still (stop me if you've heard this before) a role player. You know who pays role players $30 million? Championship contenders. Teams that pay role players $30 million and don't contend end up being... the Indiana Pacers.
As much as I hope I'm wrong about this, the best case scenario for Childress and the Suns is for him to play well enough to increase his trade value. This team needs players with potential for growth, not more role players with limited skill-sets.
Sorry Josh, this hurts me more than it hurts you.