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The Suns lack the top end talent of a lot of teams, but even so that isn't their biggest problem. It's not the guys at the top of the depth chart that are losing the majority of these game, but rather the guys that should be at the bottom of it -- or out of the rotation all together.

NBA.com's John Schuhmann recently wrote about the players that have the biggest defensive impact on their teams relative to their back-ups for the Hangtime Blog. He took a look at the best on/off court differential in defensive rating, and right there at number three is our very own Jared Dudley.

3. Jared Dudley, Suns

On/off floor MIN DefRtg
On floor 992 101.4
Off floor 607 112.9
Diff. -11.5

Dudley’s on-off court differential has a lot to do with the Suns’ deadly (in a bad way) defensive trio of Michael Beasley, Shannon Brown and Markieff Morris. Phoenix has allowed an absolutely atrocious 126 points per 100 possessions in 223 minutes with those three guys on the floor together, and Dudley has been on the bench for all 223 of those minutes.

Alvin Gentry wisely stopped using that trio for almost a month, but then went back to it on Wednesday against the Sixers. The Suns were outscored 17-6 in less than seven minutes with them on the floor.

Dudley himself is a solid defender, and he has played most of his minutes with other solid defenders like Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat. Dudley and P.J. Tucker have made a pretty good defensive wing combo, too.

Schuhmann hit the nail right in the head here. Dudley is a very good player, but his +11.5 differential has as much or more to do with the guys coming off the bench when he takes a seat.

Michael Beasley

Michael Beasley has fallen a long way in a very short time since the Suns made him their first free agent acquisition this past summer. Beasley played 7:37 against Utah, and then rode the pine for the Suns' next two games. He returned for whatever reason against Boston and played 5:15, and during that time he was -10 and got abused by Jeff Green of the Celtics.

Some may still have faith in Beasley and want to see him play big minutes in the hopes that his season (and perhaps NBA career at this point) can be salvaged. However, I don't believe that will solve anything. A culture of losing can be an even deeper hole to dig out of than a lack of talent, and playing Beasley big minutes when he doesn't deserve it is sending the wrong message.

It is time to sit Beasley down. Gentry has tried everything he can to put Beasley in a position to succeed. He's tried starting him as a go-to scorer. He's tried bringing him off the bench against lesser competition. He's even given him minutes at power forward, and although he played better, it wasn't enough. Gentry has done what he can.

Now it is on Beasley. He needs to earn his playing time. He needs to put in more work on the practice floor. He needs to figure out how to be more effective. He needs to find a way to help this team, because if he can't he should not be playing.

If a complete benching doesn't spark anything in him and nothing changes, it may be time to use the stretch provision and cut him at the end of the year.

Markieff Morris and Shannon Brown

P.J. Tucker has finally earned a starting spot alongside Jared Dudley, which puts Shannon Brown on the bench where he belongs.

But as Schuhmann wrote, Brown, Beasley and Morris together make an absolutely horrible defensive trio. All three are bad defenders and complicate that problem by being inefficient scorers. It's no wonder that the Suns are so bad with Dudley out of the game.

However, the Suns just don't have enough good players, so they have to play some of these guys. Both Morris and Brown have had their moments and can be valuable contributors from time to time. The problem is their inconsistency, and that is an issue Alvin Gentry has to deal with.

Shortened Bench

Alvin Gentry has long been a fan of five-man second units. In 2010 with a little more talent, that strategy helped carry the team to the Western Conference Finals. However, with two key players from that 2010 bench unit now starting, doing so this year probably isn't the best idea. There just isn't enough talent. And Gentry is finally starting to come to terms with that fact, according to Valley of the Sun.

"Maybe we can’t sub in a whole second unit," Gentry said. "Maybe we’re going to have to put in a few guys here and there, and not sub in an entire unit. We’ve played that way forever, but this may be a situation where we can’t because we’ve gotten ourselves in a lot of trouble."


VotS published that on Jan. 3, and since then the Suns have played (and lost) four games. Gentry has used his five-man bench unit for at least one stretch in each of those games, and he has used it for 26:16 overall. In that 26 minutes, the Suns have been outscored by 19.

Gentry played five bench guys in the second quarter against Utah, and it didn't go so well. So Gentry didn't go back to it in the second half and didn't play Beasley at all after the break.

The Memphis game is a bit of an outlier, as the bench (with Wes Johnson replacing Beasley) held its own and was only outscored by two points in two stints totaling 11:37. It was the starters that sucked in this one.

Against Milwaukee, Gentry played the bench five (still with Johnson in for Beasley) for 5:41 in the second quarter, and they were outscored by eight. He didn't go back to them in the second half.

In Boston, Gentry only played them for 2:57, during which they were -3. But the big problem was playing Beasley again.

The Suns just don't have five good players on their bench, and the fact that the five guys they do play don't fit well together just complicates the matters.

Staggering Lineups

It's time for Gentry to completely scrap the five-man bench unit. He needs to start experimenting with ways to stagger the minutes of the starters so that there can always be at least one or (hopefully) two starters on the floor at all times.

Gentry has done a little of this in these last four games. He has cut the minutes of the bench guys and has expended the minutes of the starters. Jared Dudley in particular has played 37 or more minutes in three of the last four (with Memphis being the outlier). P.J. Tucker has also seen an uptick in minutes, which is well-deserved. This hasn't yielded great results so far, but it is the right thing to do.

Gentry likes playing the starters for almost the entire first quarter, which leads to a lot of four and five man bench units in the second. I think it's time to change that. Gentry needs to start making substitutions earlier. I'd like to see him take Dragic and Tucker out around the eight minute mark, and put Telfair and Brown in and let them play the rest of the quarter with the remaining starters.

Sub in Morris either late in the first or at the start of the second. Then bring Dragic and Tucker back in after a minute or two along with O'Neal and give Dudley, Bassy and Gortat a break. Bring Dudley and Scola back with a few minutes left in the half to (hopefully) close it out strong.

In the Second half, start the same way. Except this time, Sub in Telfair, Bron and Morris a little bit earlier. Then sit down Dudley and Gortat with a minute or two left in the quarter (replaced with Tucker and O'Neal). The same five starts the fourth quarter and plays for 2 or 3 minutes, then the starters return and play the rest of the game.

That is a nine-man rotation, an it has Dragic, Tucker and Dudley playing in the high 30s minute-wise, while the bigs play in the 30-35 range. This sort of rotation has the flexibility to give Brown more minutes when he's feeling it, or give Johnson some minutes when he's not. Dragic and Bassy could also play together a little bit if the match-ups allow it. It has the best players playing big minutes, and it makes sure there are one or two starters on the court at all times.

What do you have to say Bright Siders? What kind of rotation do you wan to see?


Brooklyn Nets 99, Phoenix Suns 79 This brutal stretch of the season continues for the Suns. Playing four road games in five nights is as bad as it gets in the NBA. Given Phoenix’s struggles both on...

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I have never been a fan of Greg Oden because he looked 52 years old. Not just in the face and his jersey number, but in his gait. The boy just didn't look right. He appeared to be an injury waiting to happen. And for $9 million a year, he was never worth the effort.

Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns points out, though, that this summer might be time to roll the dice on the 24-year old Oden who is three years removed from his last NBA basketball game.

Athletically talented seven-footers don't grow on trees, and All-NBA quality seven-footers come up about once or twice every generation. Greg Oden was one of those rare gems. He had everything you could want in a center, which is why he went #1 overall in the 2007 draft just ahead of Kevin Durant. He could score efficiently, rebound, block shots and defend at a high level.

But then his knees turned against him. He had microfracture surgery before playing his first game, missing his entire rookie season.

He returned the next season, but injured his foot on opening night and missed another two weeks. Two months later, he chipped his kneecap in a bump with a teammate and missed three more weeks. And that was his HEALTHY season.

A month into his third NBA season, Greg Oden fractured his patella in a game and missed the rest of the season. Two weeks into his fourth NBA season, Oden had another microfracture surgery and missed the rest of the season too. He has not played an NBA game since. Several setbacks and cleanups later, Greg Oden is taking a year off of basketball just to let his body heal entirely.

For his entire career, Greg Oden has played in 82 games, the equivalent of one season of play, at 21 and 22 years old. He was a highly efficient player, with a true shooting percentage of 61.3%, grabbing offensive and defensive rebounds like a vacuum, and defending the hoop. The Trailblazers were 9 points per game better than their opponents when he played versus only 3 points better when he sat (they were good in those days).

After "healing" Grant Hill from 5 years of ankle misery in Orlando (DPOY consideration), nursing Steve Nash through a career-threatening back condition that resulted in a series of strange mid-section ailments (2 MVPs, 5 All-Star games), Amare Stoudemire from career-threatening knee and retina problems (All-NBA, multiple All-Star games), Shaquille O'Neal from hip and back trouble (All-Star game) and now Jermaine O'Neal from 5 years of his own knee problems (dependable backup), could the Phoenix Suns heal Greg Oden's career?

Hill and the O'Neals were much older projects, but Nash and Stoudemire were in their athletic prime at the time of their issues and Nelson's team helped them reach multiple All-Star games after recovery.

Is it possible to rebuild Greg Oden into a healthy NBA player?

Certainly, it would be Aaron Nelson's toughest job ever.

Schwartz:

When I interviewed Aaron Nelson a few years ago for my big feature on the medical staff, I asked him for his thoughts about taking on a challenge like Oden. Although he chose to answer more generally because Oden was under contract with the Blazers at the time, it was clear that he would relish such a project.


"You always wonder, and again if you fail then it goes the other way," Nelson said. "I like challenges, and my staff likes challenges. We like to see what we can do and what we're capable of doing, and when I see injured players for other teams I feel for my peers because we're all in the same boat. The guys who are paid a lot of money and normally are playing a lot of minutes for you, when they get hurt that's a lot of pressure and a lot of stress for us and the other head athletic trainers for the other teams.


"I don't look at it and say, ‘I can do better than them.' I think we're all in the same boat. I don't look at it in that perspective, I look at it as if my GM calls me and says, ‘Hey, if we have this guy on our team,' then I think about it. But I don't think outside of that. If I'm watching SportsCenter and so and so has been out now for whatever I think that I feel bad for my peers that are having to deal with it because I have to deal with it when our guys get hurt, but again if our GM or owner says, ‘Hey, if we're looking at Player X, do you think you can help him?' Immediately I start thinking, ‘OK, yeah.'"

Portland's training staff has experienced a myriad of injuries over the years and had little success getting those guys healthy, while the Suns training staff has been remarkably effective.

Oden is just 24 years old, and would likely sign a minimum contract laden with incentives.

The more I think about it, the more I like it. It's certainly a low-risk, high-reward proposition like Hill and Jermaine O'Neal were.

While there are other great training staffs in the NBA, it's quite possible that Aaron Nelson's staff might be the only NBA training staff capable of restoring Oden to his peak.

The Phoenix Suns boast the best medical staff in the league and are in desperate need of impact players. Greg Oden was once such a blue chip prospect that he was selected over Kevin Durant, and he is...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]
The Phoenix Suns boast the best medical staff in the league and are in desperate need of impact players. Greg Oden was once such a blue chip prospect that he was selected over Kevin Durant, and he is...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]

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