In a recent discussion, it was posited that the reason the Suns were on the outside looking in was largely due to Channing Frye's shooting woes. This is a difficult assertion to argue with - it doesn't take too many advanced stats to discern that his 3 point percentages early in the season were dismal, at best. But the assertion came with a comparison to Amar'e, and when I looked into it, I came up with some surprising data.
If you want to see it, you'll have to jump.
I plan to defend Mr. Frye in this kangaroo court - I'd appreciate some help. But I also invite whoever wishes to bash away, do so. There's too much of it in game threads, post game celebrations and pity-parties, and everywhere else. In the process, I'm going to put forward a couple of theories that I have about relationships on a basketball team, and how Channing and others fit into the grand scheme of things.
Channing Frye was drafted #8 in 2005 by the NY Knicks. For the draft loving tankers, this should be pleasing. It was a pretty good draft - Bogut was #1, Marvin Williams #2, Deron Williams #3, Chris Paul #4, Raymond Felton #5, Martell Webster #6, Charlie Villanueva #7, then Frye. He was drafted ahead of Bynum (#10), Danny Granger (#17), Gerald Green (#18), and Hakim Warrick (#19). Interestingly, David Lee was # 30 (also drafted by the Knicks), Monte Ellis was # 40, Andre Blatche was #49, and Marcin Gortat was #57 in this draft. So why did Channing go so high?
It wasn't 3 point shooting. Channing, in 4 years at Arizona under Lute Olson, only shot 23 of them, making 6. He averaged 15.8 points, 7.6 boards, and 1.9 assists in his senior season, very close to his junior year averages. In his Draft Express report, which you can see in full here, they list his attributes:
- Nearly 7 feet tall
- Runs the floor extremely well
- can finish at the basket, change shots defensively, and rebound in traffic
- nice wingspan - excellent shot blocking threat from weak side
- excellent FT shooter (83%)
- Good pick and pop player
- shot 56% from floor - solid up to 16-18 feet
- Narrow frame that won't be able to carry much weight
- Gets pushed around an awful lot
- Average foot speed
- Lacks strength and tenacity to hold position in the paint
- Lacks lower body strength to back down to the hoop
- Takes too long to gather himself in the paint
- Lacks upper body strength, too
- Settles for "soft" outside shots when he gets tired of being pushed around
- Man to man defense fairly poor - uses hand much more than feet
- Gets out-hustled by smaller guys
- Consistency, mental toughness biggest issues
Well, good for Draft Express. I think they got it about right. They didn't think that his game would translate to the pros very well, and thought that, at best, he could be a role player. He was projected at anywhere from 8th to 40th in the draft, so it was a gamble. He played quite a bit as a rookie for NY, logging 1572 minutes in 65 games, starting in 15. He averaged 12.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, .8 assists, .7 blocks, and .5 steals in 24.2 minutes. He went 3-9 from 3, and shot 47.7% from the field and 82.5% from the FT line. He was Easter Conference rookie of the month in Nov, 2005, and a 2005-06 NBA All-Rookie. In the next year, he played in 72 games, starting 59. His numbers dropped a bit, most notably in FG%, to 43.3%. His defensive rebounding went up, his offensive rebounding went down, and he averaged 9.5 points per game. He was then traded to Portland on June 28th, 2007.
Rather than go through all of this year by year, here are his stats from basketball-reference.com
Notable in all this is that in his first 4 seasons, he attempted a grand total of 70 3 pointers in 4 seasons, and made 20 of them. His game was steady, if unimpressive, but with Portland he only started 21 games in 2 seasons, and averaged 17.2 minutes the first year, and 11.8 minutes the second. His per 36 minutes stayed fairly constant, showing a steady improvement in rebounding, decent shooting percentages, and not great defensive numbers. In 2009, Channing was a free agent. He made $3,16 million in his last year withPortland, mostly by virtue of the #8 pick. He signed in Phoenix for $2 million, and I would have to say, did pretty well in the next year. In our WCF season, he played 81 games, starting in 41 of them. He made 172 threes on 392 attempts for a 43.9% average - 6th in the league behind Jared Dudley (4th with 45.8%), Kyle Korver who shot an insane 53.6%, only played in 51 games. All the other guys ahead of him on the list played 56 or less games, and were SG's or SF's (Korver).
So, in 2009-10, Dudley was 4th in the league, Frye was 6th, Nash was 10th, Dragic was 25th, Jason Richardson was 27th, Grant Hill didn't have enough attempts to qualify, but he shot 43.8% that year (35-80). This is important, and speaks to my assertion that these stats don't happen in a vacuum. Whenever there are 5 guys on the court, what the other guys are doing can have a huge impact on the performance of another player. Why these 3 point statistics are so significant is that in that year, we were one of the best 3 point shooting teams ever, and we had a dominant big man in Amar'e. So our starting line-up had 3 legit three point threats on the floor - and so did our second team. Channing crossed over from one team to another, playing the center position both with the first team and the second. Robin was hurt a good portion of the year, and Jarron Collins played as a starter, but very few minutes.
He was key for us that year. His surprising start to the season led us to a 14-3 record , and he shot 51.1% for those 17 games from 3. He pulled a big man to the perimeter to guard him, which gave Amar'e the room he needed to operate inside, Amar'e averaged 20 pts/game in that stretch. JRich was suspended for 2 games, but upon his return, shot 46.5% for November from three. He dropped to 25.4% for December (7-9 record) and 32.8% for January (7-9 record) before picking it up in January. Nash was his usual stead self, shooting 44.2% dropping to 39% in March for his worst month.
Here's my point - Frye did well because everybody was doing well. He was taking open shots, and he was open because no team can guard everybody. Who are you going to leave open? Frye, Nash, or JRich? Cove them all, and there's Amar'e. Or, if he was playing crossover minutes with the second team, leave Dudley, Frye, or Dragic open? That's why we went 14-3.
So yeah, that was a good year. Channing was a center, started half the games, and played with both teams, and did very well. He certainly earned his $2 million dollars. He was strong in the playoffs, as well, with the exception of the WCF, when he went cold. Oh, the howls of outrageous misfortune. 1-8 in game 1 (the 1 was a three). 0-2 in game 2. 0-7 in game 3 - but we won. Then he went 4-8 in game 4 - all threes, 4-10 in game 5 (3-8 from three) and 5-7 in game 6 (2-4 from three). So, we let him live.
( Just for grins, do you know who was making 2 million or under for the Lakers that year? Jordan Farmar, Shannon Brown, DJ Mbenga, and Josh Powell. Guess who did better for his team. Luke Walton was making 4.8 mil, Adam Morrison was making 5.3 mil, Sasha Vujacic 5 mil...and it goes up from there. Odom was making 7.5 mil, Bynum 12.5 mil, Gasol 16.5 mil, and Kobe 23 mil. I point this out for perspective. )
To the great, great credit of BSotS, that wasn't done here. Our response was more geared to the lack of defense. Incidentally, this is just when I discovered the wonderful Bright Side, having followed 2nashty here from SS&R, having enjoyed his prolific, pithy, and badly spelled posts. Thanks, BroSoT. I wrote my first post between games 5 and 6. I stayed here through the summer at the knee of dahking (Alex), learning about the CBA and what we might do about keeping/losing Amar'e. A little noticed side-note to that summer of negotiation was the re-signing of Channing Frye, who opted out of his player option in his second year. Having played so well, he wanted to get paid. Here is the thread in which his potential contract was discussed right here on the Bright Side - both informative and fun!
He ended up getting 5 years/ $30 million. Basically the MLE. The discussions at the time centered around his age (27), the likelihood that he'd get better (or not), particularly at defense, whether he was a SG trapped in a 7 foot body, and what his role going forward would be. We signed Warrick at right about the same time, and Amar'e was still the big question mark and topic of discussion. I will say this - most of the people who are still commenting on this board were in favor of the signing, so he probably ran some people off. And onc again, Seth has proven to be absolutely right.
Left up to the will of the people in our ever-so-scientific polling, 53% voted to pay the man while 28% were ok with the $25m offer and the rest wanted to see him get less. In my sick, twisted mind, Robert Sarver saw this poll and listened to the will of the fans and upped his offer in a brilliant attempt to rehabilitate his image as a cheap skate. There is NO evidence to support that, but that's ok; this is just a blog so our standards are already low.
Of course, we all know the story - Amar'e left, and was replaced by...Hedo?
So, here we find ourselves, on the doorstep of the 2012 playoffs, but not in the door. Channing is being blamed for a good portion of this - he did shoot miserably to start the year. But then, so did Grant Hill and Jared Dudley. Both of those guys are back to shooting well, and Channing isn't, so I guess he does deserve the blame. There's a lot of sarcasm in there, btw - I know it doesn't always come out in typed form.
So how do we tell if he's an overpaid/terrible/wastofskin/pos/worthless/soulstealing/badacting/zombie from Hell? Well, let's compare him to his peers, shall we?
A great deal of the discussion in the summer of 2010 was about Power Forwards. Amar'e, Dirk, Bosh, David Lee, Boozer, and Scola were all on the market. So was Lou. So was Warrick. I even wrote a post about it. Now, these guys are superstars, so I don't really know if it's fair to compare them to Frye - but I will. In the Draft Express report, they said Frye's cieling was "a poor-man's Chris Bosh". So I'll use him. To me, it seemed at the time that David Lee was gettable, and he was drafted by the same team in the same year, so I'll use him. I'm going to use Turkoglu, too, and I'm going to use Amar'e. I may think of someone else in the meantime.
The simplest metric. How much and how often? How efficiently? This is complicated a bit by the fact that Frye takes 40%+ of his shots from three, so I'm going to heavily emphasize True Shooting % to even the playing field a little bit.
As you can see from this chart, Frye's shooting % is low, but his True shooting % is closer to the other guys - that's because he shoots more three's. TS% also takes into account free throws. Frye's TS% in 2010 was 59.8%, his eFG% was 57.3%, his PER was 15, and his Ortg was 120. Still, his simple shooting % is the lowest of his career this year.
I used Turk's Phoenix numbers for this, since he was our PF - his numbers this year are understandably lower. the ORB, DRB, and TRB are per 36 numbers.
Frye is right in the mix here - better than Bosh and as good as Amar'e (this year). But the fact is, he's turned into a pretty damn good rebounder. Morris isn't far behind, either.
Frye tops the list in blocks - Morris is second..Milsap is pretty impressive all around. It would be fair to note that when PF's get assists, it's usually to someone close to them under the basket or a kick out, so another big man or a corner pocket shooter can help this stat.
Bad contract? Really? Please.
There are so many other stats I could throw out there - I didn't even get to 82games, like I had planned. But I've spent too long on this as it is. We can hash the rest of it out in comments.
I will acknowledge this - Frye needs to shoot better. I have always been an advocate for the playing better thing, and he needs to, soon. But he has been - post all star break, he has raised his FG% from 40.5 to 41.1%, his 3 pt % from 33.8% to 35.1%, and his ppg from 9.7 to 12.3. At the same time, his rebounding has gone from 4.9 in Jan to 7.4 in April. His blocks have gone way up. His defense has been better. He's learning to play inside.
My ultimate point is that Frye was signed to be a backup center. He's done that, started at center, and backed up and started at PF. If he wasn't doing what Gentry wanted him to do, I think we'd know about it. He's done everything that was asked of him, and he's climbing the ladder. I don't know if he'll get there, and I would be happy if he went back to the bench, where he'll likely be the best reserve C/PF in the NBA, and we might need him to do just that. There are only two areas we can improve, realistically - we are going to presumably have Nash, Hill, and Gortat next year - if we don't, we'll have bigger things to talk about than Frye. But upgrading the PF or SG spot are the two obvious choices, so...