Now it is time for the shooting guards. I've already written about how Jared Dudley and Shannon Brown were used on offense. Dudley is a pretty efficient all-around offensive player, while Shannon Brown has his strengths but doesn't play to them nearly enough. Now it is time to see how these two fared on the other end of the court: defense. The results may surprise you.
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.
Jared Dudley has a pretty good defensive reputation. He works hard and understands how to play smart defense. However, in the NBA, smarts and hard work aren't enough. For those expecting Dudley to replace Grant Hill as the Suns' designated defensive stopper, don't expect much (particularly if Dudley has to defend shooting guards).
Dudley's most commonly defended play was spot-up jumpers at 37.6 percent of his plays. He was pretty good at contesting shots inside the arc as opponents only shot 38.9 percent against him overall, but he struggled defending shots beyond the arc where opponents connected on 41.1 percent of their attempts. The 3-pointers hurt his overall effectiveness, as his PPP against was 0.93 which was ranked 173rd overall.
He spent 18.1 percent of his plays defending isolations, and he did okay, but certainly didn't lock opponents down. Offensive players shot 38.1 percent against him and scored 0.83 PPP, which ranked him 183rd.
Dudley struggles a little more against pick-and-roll ball-handlers, a play he saw on 16.4 percent of his possessions. Ball-handlers shot 45.7 percent from the field and hit five of eight 3-point attempts for a PPP of 0.99 and a rank of 210.
However, he looks better in the the rest of the categories. He gave up 0.90 PPP against shooters running off screens and was ranked 91st. He gave up 0.70 PPP in post-up situations, ranked 40th overall. And he did a fine job defending hand-offs, holding opponents to 9-25 shooting and 0.77 PPP, ranked 22nd.
Dudley's overall PPP is pretty bad at 0.91, which ranks him 341 overall (that's almost Michael Redd bad). The poor numbers are a result of him struggling the most against the plays he defended most often. He did a good job of playing smart defense against hand-offs, post-ups and players running off screens, but those plays comprised only 126 of his 529 total plays defended. He struggled more in the areas where speed and athleticism really help to cover ground: isolations, spot-up shooters and pick-and-rolls.
An interesting note on Dudley: his 2010-11 numbers were very different than those from this past season. In fact, they are pretty much completely opposites. Where he struggled this past season, he did well in 2010-11, and vice versa. Perhaps the position change had something to do with this, but his 2009-10 numbers compared well to those of this past season, even though he played mostly small forward two years ago. I'm not sure how I should read into this. Do you guys have any theories?
Surprisingly enough, Shannon Brown actually graded out better overall than Dudley did.
His most commonly defended play was also spot-up shooting (28.9 percent), and he was pretty terrible at it. Like Dudley, he really struggled defending 3-point shots as opponents shot 42.7 percent against him. He didn't defend inside the arc quite as well as Dudley did, though, as opponents shot 40.2 percent overall. He gave up 1.07 PPP an was ranked 319th.
He defended pick-and-rolls almost as often at 25.7 percent, and fared much better. Ball-handlers scored 0.78 PPP against him, which was ranked 101st. The big difference between Dudley an Brown was the 3-point shooting.
Brown's speed served him well when chasing shooters off screen, which he did plenty of (18.4 percent of his plays). He held shooters to 38.1 percent overall and 3-12 shooting from deep, and gave up just 0.78 PPP (Rank 39).
Brown didn't defend isolations as much as Dudley did at only 11.8 percent of his possessions, but their numbers are pretty similar. Brown gave up 37.5 percent shooting, 0.84 PPP and was ranked 194th. The biggest difference between the two was that Brown was more prone to fouling.
Overall, Brown gave up 0.88 PPP and was ranked 280th. Brown wasn't that much better than Dudley, and Brown actually gave up a higher field goal percentage. The difference was opponents only shot 34.8 percent from 3-point range against Brown compared to an even 40 percent against Dudley.
Jared Dudley is a smart defender who plays hard but doesn't have the athleticism needed to really lock scorers down. Opponents also shot really well from deep against him, which may be his fault or may just be bad luck.
On the other hand, Brown has plenty of speed and strength but often loses his man which results in a lot of open jumpers.
If we could combine those two's strengths, we might have a really good defender on our hands. Sadly, that isn't possible, so we'll just have to make due as these are the guys who will be defending opposing shooting guards for the Suns this year.