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Phoenix Suns Power Forward Analysis: Defense

Remember when Channing totally shut down Blake Griffin? Good times ...
Remember when Channing totally shut down Blake Griffin? Good times ...

Summer has begun, classes are over and I have nothing but time on my hands (until I get a summer job anyway). So, armed with, I've decided to assign myself the task of going through the Suns' roster and breaking down the usage and success rate of each position group.

I've already broken down the numbers for the power forwards on offense. Now it is time to see how Channing Frye and Markieff Morris fared on the other end of the court: defense.

Once again, Hakim Warrick is not worth writing about considering he didn't register enough plays to even qualify for a ranking on most play types. But his overall PPP was 0.98 and his ranking was 423, mostly do to being abused in the post and not defending spot-up shooters very well at all.

Make the jump to see the breakdowns of the guys who mattered.

First, allow me to explain in more detail the numbers I looked at. Here's a key for the terms Synergy uses:

Synergy Stat Definitions

PPP – Points Per Play. A "Play" is always ended with a shot attempt, turnover or getting to the free throw line. PPP is the player’s total points, excluding technical free throws, divided by their total plays.

Rank – This is where a player or team’s PPP ranks amongst their league peers. A player must have at least 25 plays for a given category in order to qualify for a league ranking.

%SF - Percent Shooting Foul. This is the percentage of plays where the player or team drew a shooting foul.

%TO – Percent Turnover. This is the percentage of plays where the player or team turns the ball over.

%Score – Percent Score. This is the percentage of plays where the player or team scores at least 1 point, including any resulting free throws.

So these numbers track the raw results. They don't factor in everything, which is where the interpretation begins and where watching the games live helps.

The offensive categories are Isolation, Pick-and-Roll Ball Handler, Post-Up, Pick-and-Roll Roll Man, Spot-Up, Off Screen, Hand-Off, Cut, Offensive Rebound, Transition, All Other Plays and Overall. On defense, the categories are the same minus the Cut, Offensive Rebound, Transition and All Other Plays categories as there aren't really any individual defenders assigned on these plays.

With that out of the way, let's dive into the numbers.

Channing Frye

Channing Frye’s most commonly defended play is the one he struggles with the most, unfortunately: spot-up shooting. He defended spot-up shooters on 36.8% of his plays, and gave up an ugly 1.04 PPP (ranked 285). The PPP is given a bump by the 28-72 3-point shooting against him, but he struggled even more inside the arc, where opponents shot nearly 50%. Overall, opposing spot-up shooters scored 44.8% of the time against Frye’s defense. Offensively Frye is an asset as a spot-up shooter, but he’s also a liability defending the same play at the other end.

Frye also defended post players quite often (29.7%) and fared much better. He gave up 0.78 PPP, was ranked 99th and held opponents to 37% shooting. He fouled as often as he forced a turnover, but didn’t do either at a high rate. Post players scored against Frye 39.5% of the time. This is an area Frye has certainly improved in over the years, and he’s become a formidable post defender.

He’s done very well in 79 isolation situations this year with a PPP of 0.63, good for a rank of 44. He held opponents to 28.2% shooting and a %Score of 31.6%. He did even better on his 61 plays defending the roll man in the pick-and-roll with a 0.79 PPP and a rank of 26. He was scored against only 39.3% of the time in the pick-and-roll.

His overall PPP was 0.87 and his ranking was 197, although he was only scored against at a 39.6% clip. The numbers are skewed by his poor numbers against spot-up shooters, especially the 3-pointers he gave up.

Markieff Morris

Morris also defended spot-up shooters more than anything else (45.7%), and he gave up a more respectable 0.91 PPP, which earned him a rank of 147. Shooters converted at a 38.6% rate, including 32.3% from 3-point range. Overall, shooters scored 38.7% of the time against Morris.

Unfortunately, Morris didn't do so well in the post. He defended post players on 79 plays, and was abused with a PPP of 1.13 (ranked 271). Opponents shot 61.4% and he also committed six shooting fouls. He did force 12 turnovers, but his %Score was still 55.7%, which is not good at all.

Morris wasn't very good in his 38 isolation plays either, fouling another five times and giving up a %Score of 39.5%, the highest of the Suns' four bigs. He did a little better on 33 plays against the roll man of the pick-and-roll, with a %Score of 51.3%, but he struggled to get out on shooters in the pick-and-pop as his opponents hit six of their nine 3-point attempts against his defense.

Overall, Morris put up a pretty bad PPP of 0.99, which has him ranked 429th. Yikes. Opponents scored against him 45.3% of his defensive possessions. Oddly enough, his overall %SF was 6.8%, which doesn't seem that bad. Fouling was a big problem for him as a rookie, but it seems like a lot of these fouls may be more of the loose ball or on-the-floor variety rather than shooting fouls.


Channing Frye's defensive numbers are pretty interesting. For all those that still say he is a terrible defender, that simply isn't the case. Outside of defending spot-up situations, Frye was pretty good. A lot of people advocate letting Robin Lopez move on via free agency and sliding Frye back to the center position behind Gortat. Considering he did well defending post-ups, isolations and pick-and-rolls, but struggled to defend shooters, that strategy seems to have some support in the numbers. The question is, how would these numbers translate to Frye guarding centers as opposed to power forwards? That I don't know. The last time Frye was used primarily as a center (2009-10), he really was a bad defender and didn't do so well. But he's come a long way since then, and considering he might be playing against back-ups more than starting centers he might do just fine.

Markieff Morris, however, struggled in more than just one area. He was lost often enough defensively and was taken advantage of by the more experienced players he was asked to defend. It's pretty difficult for most rookies to come into the league and play good defense in their first year, and the jump was made even more difficult due to the lack of offseason and in-season practice time. Morris is a tough player with a strong base, so there's certainly no reason as to why he can't be a good defender. We'll just have to wait and see what he will do next year after a full offseason and a year of experience under his belt before we make any judgments.

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