Inconsistency isn’t such a terrible thing if you can predict when both the good and bad will occur.
If you play in yearly fantasy basketball leagues, an inconsistent player isn’t so terrible as long as their overall numbers are solid. If you play in daily fantasy sports, it can be the worst. Not being able to trust a specific player will cause you to avoid him on many occasions when he may be usable. The Suns have a variety of these "difficult to predict" players but none more so than Channing Frye. I always say he’s hard to trust but I have never really glanced over the numbers. The point of this article is to determine whether there is a method to the madness that is Channing Frye. Are there certain matchups or teams that spark his monster nights or is it all dependent on whether he is feeling the shot on a given night? Does he succeed against above.500 teams or below .500 teams? Do teams with larger, unathletic big men help him get open above the three point line? I had all these questions going into this article and it was time for answers.
The first place I started on my quest to make sense of Frye’s numbers was his seasonal splits. Sticking out to me immediately was his home vs. road splits. Frye averages almost one full point more at home with a 4.1% better shooting percentage (47.6-43.5). He actually takes fewer shots at home but produces more points. Three point percentage was even larger of a discrepancy: 45.6% at home as opposed to 38.3% on the road. Strangely enough, he averages exactly 2.3 3PM both at home and on the road. As I looked back to 2011 (his last full season in the NBA because he missed all of 2012-13), Frye averaged over 2.0 PPG more at home and also averaged a better FG%. So undoubtedly, without much research needed, it appears Frye’s matchups are much tastier at home.
I don’t put much stock into certain statistics but sometimes coincidence is too much to overlook. When looking at his splits from starting vs. coming off the bench, his starter numbers were head and shoulders better. Then I realized he has only come off the bench for one game this season and had three points in the game. Cross that theory off the list. There are actually statistics that keep track of stats by days of the week. This year, Frye is by far the best on weekends (Saturdays and Sundays). On those two days, he averages 49.3 and 52.8% FG respectively and over 3.5 PPG more than his season average on both. After I noticed this trend, I cycled back to his 2011 numbers and those were two of his worst days of the week. I also noticed he only has a combined 12 games on those two games this season. I’d be hard pressed to put any stock into the days of the week theory.
Now, onto the theory I really wanted to look into: analyzing the actual teams he has excelled against this season. Let’s look at the teams that Frye has scored the most against so far this season:
1. Minnesota: 1 GM, 22.0 PPG
2. Detroit: 1 GM, 21.0 PPG
3. Oklahoma City: 1 GM, 19.0 PPG
4. Milwaukee: 2 GM, 17.5 PPG
5. Cleveland/Miami/Washington tied at 16.0 PPG
These are kind of a strange assortment of teams to have success against. Of those teams, only two are in the bottom ten of fantasy points allowed per game to the power forward position (MIL, OKC). Strangely, the power forwards on those teams couldn’t be much different. Ilyasova avoids physicality and doesn’t impose much on defense. Ibaka, a talented defender and athletic freak, takes chances on blocks but will also body up his man at any given time. Just singling out those two, I saw nothing that could be solid evidence of what Frye liked about them specifically. So I took a look at the build of the starting power forward on each the eight teams Frye has torched this year:
1. Kevin Love – 6’10, 260 lbs
2. Greg Monroe – 6’11, 253 lbs
3. Serge Ibaka – 6’10, 220 lbs
4. Ersan Ilyasova – 6’9, 235 lbs
A trend emerged that I had somewhat suspected from the beginning. Aside from Ilyasova and Ibaka, most of these guys have some experience playing center in their career. Whether it was Kevin Love/Thompson playing some in college or Bosh/Monroe/Nene starting there earlier in their career, most had played there at some point. Due to experience of guarding bigger players, I can understand how adjusting to stretch four like Frye may be difficult. Love was a center at UCLA and was about 30 lbs heavier. Since losing weight, he has not yet adjusted into a great defensive player. Greg Monroe was the starting center before Drummond came to town, Nene started at center on Denver and Bosh started there on Toronto for years. Most of the players that they faced off against were physical beasts. Having to step out on Frye to cover the three is not something they are used to. For that reason, it seems Frye has some form of better success against bigger, less experienced defenders.
So is there something here? Maybe, I still think this is too small of a sample size. All I know is you are better off playing Frye in a situation where he goes against a bigger team. He’s not really a rebounder as-is, so when you play him, you are relying on points and threes. He’ll have a better chance of hitting threes against a big that has a hard time getting out on him; one that is used to defending the post. If you see a big oaf coming up on the schedule that mans the power forward position, then look to put Frye in your lineup at that time. Beyond that, Frye will continue to give you headaches with when he decides to step up. Really, trends are still just educated guesses. Sometimes the hot hand really just prevails over all. For my money, I’ll bet his hot hand happens most against big power forwards at home.