I am perturbed. Actually, squeamish. These next few weeks are of the utmost importance for both the Sun's immediate and long term success. I have faith in Ryan McDonough. The Stone Cold McStunner has manipulated a train wreck into a situation that actually contains a capacity to tango with the elite. After
gracefully maneuvering destroying his first off season at the helm, tough decisions loom. He has a plan. A well-crafted hypothesis that has a forgone conclusion. P.J. Tucker is a restricted free agent. Channing Frye has a player option. Both could be Suns in 2014-2015. Both could be heading elsewhere. However, I have an established confidence that at least one will still be a Sun next season. I am going to pretend McDonough plans on only retaining one or the other. I like this topic, particularly because I know there is a wide spectrum of opinions on both players. I will let it be known. P.J. Tucker: Stud. Channing Frye: Stud.
I love his story. He plays like a rabid dog. He beats his opponents like a government mule. Sidebar: Steve Albert and Eddie Johnson are great, but a Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler combination would be potent. I really respect P.J. Tucker. In my opinion, he is the type of athletic participant that is essential for a winning formula, and these types of players are not as replaceable as some seem to think. He is a winner. He is tenacious. He is a dirt worker that brings his lunch pale every damn day. Is he the best defender in the world? No, but he creates an unpleasant experience for his match-up every single night. He is a professional that leads by example. He is a pro's pro and has an impressive resume of basketball achievement. If you go to war, P.J. Tucker should have a reserved spot in the bunker.
Now don't get me wrong, there are some stones I can throw. P.J.'s 13.31 PER isn't eye popping. However, it is a respectable 13% improvement from the previous season. His field goal percentage unfortunately declined from a healthy 47% to a less spectacular 43%. I can live with that decline because we also witnessed a 7+% increase in his three point efficiency and his attempts per game more than doubled. His game is improving and it isn't really predicated on athleticism. I know at least once, anyone reading this has envisioned P.J. Tucker coming down the lane like a 16 pound bowling ball. I can live with that too. The man of over-sized cajones possesses a tireless work ethic that will continue to produce major and/or minor improvements to his game. With an O-Rating of 113, and a D-Rating of 106, one can appreciate the impact Tucker has on a basketball game. We don't need the stats to recognize his impact either.
Not only does he try to make all the little plays that help a team win, but he also brings that corner spacing that is critical in today's NBA. Oh, and he also rebounds the rock. P.J. is a man.
NBA SF REBOUND RATE (Minimum 20 minutes per contest)
RReb / 3PT% (just because)
1. Al-Farouq Aminu 14.1 / 27.1%
2 .Tobias Harris 13.0 / 25.4%
3. Draymond Green 12.4 / 33.3%
4. Carmelo Anthony 12.3 / 40.2%
5. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 12.2 / 11.1%
6. Kawhi Leonard 12.1 / 37.9%
7. P.J.Tucker 11.9 / 38.7%
8. Shawn Marion 11.9 / 35.8%
9. Lebron James 11.5 / 37.9%
10. Nicolas Batum 11.1 / 36.1%
The names that don't make this top 10 include Kevin Durant, Paul George, Josh Smith, Trevor Ariza, Rudy Gay, Luol Deng, etc. 4 of the top 5 on this list are somewhat surprising, but the bottom line is P.J. gobbles up boards like Pac-Man does pac-dots.I am also not the most detail-oriented individual, but outside of Carmelo,it looks like P.J. shot the best three point shot from this collection of names. Tucker is crafting his game to fit the bill of an elite D and 3 specialist.
I feel rather content. I
cherry picked selectively presented some stats and provided an parameterized eye opening visual that clearly show Tucker provides immense value to the Suns. He brings all of the intangibles that a winning franchise demands and requires. Statistics and adjectives aside, the money is a significant factor. I like using Tony Allen as a bench mark. His 4 year $20 million sets a solid precedent, though I believe its possible Tuck Daddy gets an offer north of that in terms of annual salary, not duration. Let's say a three year pact, with a fourth year partially guaranteed, with a annual average salary of $4-4.5 million. That sounds fair for both sides. I hope the free agent frenzy Tucker creates does not inflate that number. A Tony Allen type deal does make me pause, but only for a moment.
Overall Conclusion: The production could be
easily replaced, but the hole from a tangible perspective would be immense. I simply just don't see that many P.J. Tuckers walking around the NBA. Especially not at 38% from downtown. Tucker makes a compelling case to have a role on the next great Suns team. He has is notable flaws, but those don't scar him enough to not comprehend his value to this team.
Some love him. Some hate him. Others are indifferent. I don't need to defend his two and half month collapse at the end of the season. His efficiency plummeted. We all were
furious frustrated. If Channing had maintained his early season successes, maybe the Suns make the playoffs. Maybe they win the whole damn thing...However, statistics aren't everything. His impact on the Sun's offense goes beyond his three point percentage. The slashing ability of Bledsoe and Dragic are well documented and Channing Frye is a key cog in the process. He is not the bull in a china shop that P.J. is, but rather a meticulous individual who knows his role.
The Frye guy isn't a great defender, but he holds his own in the paint most nights. He is also a dismal rebounding
power stretch-four. He spends a significant amount of time hovering around three point land, which undoubtedly negatively effects his offensive rebounding percentage. In fact, his ORB% and DRB% both hit career lows, according to basketball-reference.com. Sidebar: All statistics have been gathered from a combination of basketball-reference.com, ESPN.com, and 82games.com. I hope that is sufficient credit to my sources. Moving on. Put one and one together, Frye had his worst rebounding season of his career. But I'll be darned, interestingly enough he had the best defensive season of his career per Defensive Win Shares, at 2.4. For comparisons sake, Chris Bosh's Defensive Win Shares was 3.4 in 2013-2014. Hmm, Frye also respectably compares to Bosh in rebound percentage and block percentage. I didn't plan on going rogue, but this Frye vs. Bosh comparison is worth noting. Frye is no where near Chris Bosh, but Bosh did look a lot like Channing Frye in the playoffs this year.
Anyway, so Frye had a solid defensive season in comparison to past seasons. He does alter shots with his length and usually demonstrates solid defensive awareness, in my opinion. His rebounding numbers declining on both ends of the court is concerning, but we also saw bumps from Tucker, Markieff, and Plum Dawg.If he can return his rebounding rates to normal percentages, Frye proves not to be a negative on the defensive end. Solid enough for what he is asked to do. Make bombs.
Aforementioned, the last two and a half-ish month collapse in his shooting of the pill was upsetting. Not trying to make excuses, but whether from fatigue or injury, many of the Suns fizzled out down the playoff stretch. Goran, P.J., Frye, Plumlee, etc. The list goes on. If you watched the playoffs this year, and just listened to the way analysts, coaches, and players discussed fatigue factor, it is real. No excuses though, if Channing replicates that pro-longed inconsistency again? I will grab my pitch fork.
His Offensive Rating at 111 and his Defensive Rating 107, helps support his positive impact that he applies to this Suns team. I am pretty sure Goran Dragic benefits as well. And Bledsoe. And Markieff's
Plumlee's post game. I think this has been stated ad nauseam by Frye supporters, but he and Goran are the best pick-and-roll (these stats include pick and pop as well) tandem in the association (as of Feb 28, 2014 per John Schuhmann of NBA.com). Oh and the other tandems that sniff the efficiency of the Dragon-Frye combo were between 196-281 LESS attempts. Wait, so this tells us that as of 2/28/14 Goran and Frye scored more points per pick and roll/pop possession than any other tandem in the league, and they do it on average 270% MORE OFTEN than the next best nine tandems in the league. That is remarkable. Oh wait, to be fair to the Frye haters, his shooting woes really picked up around the same time Schuhmann wrote that article. That is irrelevant. This data helps demonstrate how vital Frye and his roll is to the Suns offense. Not to mention Goran had his best season of his career by far too. Weird.
Team -- Ball-Handler -- Screener -- Scr. -- P&R Poss. -- Team PTS. -- Pts/Poss
Whether you love him or hate him, we can find some common ground. He doesn't rebound well, but in his defense he was out of position to do so often. He isn't a great defender, but he alters shots and plays solid post defense. He still shot 37% from three on the season. He is still a leader. He is respected. He provides great value to this offense and the way it hums. Similarly to finding a new P.J. Tucker, solid defensive-6'11'' three point snipers aren't that easy to find either. The best five man units the Suns trotted out every night included Frye. He was a constant. Whether he makes his shots or not, the offensive still thrives. In less minutes, and less fatigue on his 31 year old frame, Frye will continue to be an offensive glue for this Sun's team. Playoff teams would
die really like to have Frye's skill-set.
The money is a factor for P.J. It is no different for Frye. The Buffet of Goodness has the choice of opting out of his player option and exploring
free agency a new long-ish term deal with the Suns. $6.8 million sounds a little steep for a player of his caliber. He brings great value, but as his role changes, and we see a more appropriate 15-20 minute workload, it is tough to give a player over 10% of your cap. Especially when Bledsoe will likely be cutting into 25% of the cap. In another year, Goran will be at a 16-21% of the cap. If Frye accepts a slightly lesser, home-team friendly contract, at about 3 years $15-18 million (again not too much more than P.J. Tucker money) I would be pleased. $5-6 million a season for the best pick and pop big men in the league? Sign me up. Realistically, if Frye opts for free agency and wants to explore other bids, I think 3 for $15-18 mil gets beat. Other teams will value his services for that price all day.
The question I have been trying to answer, is who would I prefer on this Sun's team for the next 3-4 years? Padlock or Frye. Similar money. Both bring rare skill sets. A motor like Tucker's isn't built every day. He is unique, and he is getting better. Frye is unique in his own right, and he is a key element in determining the success of this team's offense. Both have the respect of their teammates, coaching staff, front office, and
most the fans. Both help this team win in their own way.
If I could only have one: Channing Frye. My heart hurts. Because I think P.J. Tucker is the man. Because he is so conducive to a winning culture. I reluctantly think Frye is more of a key element. The big man who comes off the bench or starts that can spread defenses thin and pick and
pop roll them to death. A big man who allows our greatest assets to thrive as well.