Here at Bright Side of the Sun we take the words TOTAL COVERAGE pretty dang seriously.
While our beloved Suns are off taking nice vacations, we are still slaving away, attempting to provide you all with first class Suns coverage.
So friends, without further adieu, we present you with the Phoenix Suns Season in Review, 2011-12.
Up for discussion today is Jared Dudley.
There weren't many sure things going into this season for the Suns. Although the entire starting five returned from the end of last season, Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye and Jared Dudley hadn't proven themselves as legitimate starters in the NBA, and the two proven starters, Steve Nash and Grant Hill, were creeping dangerously close to age 40.
Overall, that starting five proved to be quite effective, and Dudley was one of the team's most dependable players, finishing the season second in scoring, 3-point %, 3-pointers made and minutes played, and third in win shares/48 minutes. Along with Gortat, Dudley was somewhat of an iron man, missing only one game and playing big minutes in this sprint of a lockout-shortened season.
One could look at Dudley's 12.7 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and conclude that he under-produced and is in need of replacement. For a team that went 33-33 and missed the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, that's a perfectly reasonable assessment. If an upgrade is available, a pure go-to scorer who can lift this team to a higher place in the Western Conference's pecking order, I'm all for it.
But finding a clear upgrade from Dudley won't be so easy and, unless a star shooting guard is acquired, Dudley has no intention of relinquishing that starting spot.That spirit, giving no ground and constantly fighting to prove himself, is what makes Jared Dudley. It's remarkable how accurate the scouting reports on Dudley were as he was entering the NBA. From NBA Draft Net's Matthew Maurer and Aran Smith:
- "Plays the game with toughness and a highly competitive will to win. Understands the game like few others as Dudley's basketball IQ might be among the best in the collegiate ranks"
- "Understands how to initiate contact and draw fouls from opposing defenders. When doing this he will incorporate a number of pump fakes to get defenders off their feet."
- "Scrappy player who hustles for loose balls and will do whatever dirty work is necessary to win."
- "An overachiever, maximizes his talents."
- "Work ethic is top notch as one only has to see how he has developed since entering Boston College's program as a freshman."
On the negative end:
- "Too small to play in the post and lacks the speed, athleticism and quickness to guard perimeter players."
- "Has yet to fully create offense for himself off the dribble."
- "Not especially explosive or athletic."
Well, damn, that sure sounds like the Jared Dudley (now five seasons into his NBA career) we know, doesn't it? The same questions remain: is he athletic enough to keep up with other wings on defense? Can he create for himself adequately?
One question that he has answered is that he's an excellent NBA shooter, as his .409 career 3-point % and .546 career eFG% aren't far behind Steve Nash's .428 and .557. He's not only a "try hard" player, he's a real spot-up shooting threat.
As a shooting guard playing with Nash, spot-up shooting is a critically important skill possessed by Dudley. But the Suns need more scoring, more of a go-to player at that position, someone closer to Jason Richardson in 2009-10 or Joe Johnson in 2004-05. Here are comparisons
Rk Player Season Age G MP PER TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG% ORtg DRtg OWS DWS WS WS/48
Dudley's an efficient, effective player. He's not always sexy and doesn't fill up the box score as some would like. As much as I'd like the Suns roster to be full of athletes who throw down pretty dunks and make the game look easy, having players who are smart, tough, hard working, steady producers is just as important.
The criticism I have of Dudley as a starter is that he's not aggressive enough in looking to score. He shoots at a high percentage, he can draw fouls, and has a little "old man's game" going to the hoop. Maybe it was because it was his first season with the starters, but he deferred on some open shots. If you're the best option, fire away!
Dudley weighed in on the topic of whether he should be a starter, replying to a Tweet from our own Toon Army Sun:
RT @ToonArmySun: @JaredDudley619 Do you expect to still be a starter next season? ( What u think?)— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) April 27, 2012
That's the spirit of Dudley, never backing down from a challenge. And that's what makes me put all the "he's not fast enough and doesn't jump high enough" stuff in its place. He brings a professional approach, shoots accurately and displays leadership. Dudley played a nice starting SG for us this season and, of all positions to upgrade, SG isn't at the top of the list.
Coming into this season, Dudley had started 37 games total in his career. This season he started 60. Nobody knew how he could perform as a starter, then he showed up and contributed every night.
Based on expectations and performance, I give Dudley a solid B+. Replace him and send him back to be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate if we can. Until then, he's getting it done with the starters, at a salary of less than $13M total over the next three seasons. This makes Dudley one of the Suns' most valuable assets.
"How can you not get better with someone who makes everybody better?" Dudley replied when asked whether the Suns can rebuild with Nash. An excellent question, and it might be asked back of him.