*Ed Note: Welcome to the first piece of the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns Season in Review. For those of you have been reading BSOTS for awhile, this year will be done a bit differently than years past. We have assembled an All-Star cast of writers to put together alternative views on the players, front office, and coaches. BSOTS thrives off of opinions, and let's face it we do not always agree with one another. So why not celebrate it? Your favorite and least favorite Suns will no doubt get plenty of attention, and the compliments or criticism they deserve. I think they call this balanced reporting.....Enjoy
Just so you all know – Jared Dudley is the future of the Phoenix Suns. You can laugh all you want but it's true.
After a 2010 season for the Suns which contained more ups and downs than a pimped out car in a Dre video, we find ourselves looking back at a season which started with so much uncertainty and excitement and ended with the team ultimately falling short of the play-offs. And heading toward the 2011 season (lockout - yawn - permitting) there are still a number of question marks surrounding the existing team and who will be around for the coming season.
Respect has to go to the Front Office as they tied Dudley up early to a four year $17 million contract which he duly signed, although it could have easily backfired. Rather than motivating players to work hard, repay the franchise for the faith they've shown and live up to the contract, the extra money appears to make it easy for players to coast through the seasons whilst sitting contently on their fat contracts safe in the knowledge that they're getting paid. But with Dudley, there was no such slacking. He went straight to work.
Endless hours of shooting jump shots, playing in summer scrimmages and working on his game helped the former chubby Dudley slim down to 225lbs and look markedly different heading into 2010. It wasn't just his body that experienced a makeover as his tireless work in the off-season also brought about an improved offensive game which now included a previously unseen off the dribble jumper – a key weapon in any NBA players arsenal. If he has shown that he's willing to work that hard immediately after signing a contract, what's to say he wont continue to improve every season from here on out? And if he does that, what's to say he couldn't challenge others at his position and be a top 15 small forward? After all, the only ceiling to his potential is the one imposed by his lack of athleticism.
Dudley started the 2010 season slowly despite all the changes to himself and his game and early on there were calls for 'chubby Dudley' to return. The man from 2009 who had captured fans hearts with his reliable spot up jump shot and all out hustle, appeared to have been replaced by a slimmer version who wasn't able to find his game. Over the first 15 games of the season, Dudley was only shooting 37.1% from the field and a dismal 25% from beyond the arc. And like a golfer who embarks on a weight loss program to help his health but finds that the flip-side of getting healthy is having the mechanics of his game changed to his detriment, Dudley appeared to be struggling in his new body. But slowly and surely it came back to him.
Defence? Check. Hustle? Check. Key rebounds? Check. Jump shot? Check. Off the dribble jumper? Check. Dudley's game grew in leaps and bounds and on the 23rd December, Dudley showed the world what he could do.
Upstaging even the mighty Lebron James, Dudley went for 33 and 12 in 42 minutes, going 11-for-16 from two point range, 4-of-6 beyond the arc and 7-for-10 from the line. It was a complete game for Dudz and the coming out party that fans had long anticipated.
Dudley was here.
Losses mounted for the Suns over the coming months though and despite some stellar performances from Dudley (21 points on 72% shooting from 2 against the Clippers, 25 and 8 against the Hornets and 26, 8 and 5 steals against the T-Wolves to name just a few) the season would end without a play-off appearance. It had been an incredible season for Dudley and one that had seen him expand his game beyond what fans thought was possible. He showed how valuable he could be to the franchise over the coming years, all whilst being only the 9th best paid player on the team. Let me quantify Dudley's worth for you...
Earning the same as Hakim Warrick at $4.25 million a year starting from next season, Dudley is a bargain. He earned half of that sum this year but even though he signed a contract which from 2011 will essentially double 2010's and triple 2009's earnings, he never stopped working. He improved his game, he gained starters minutes towards the end of the year (playing 35+ minutes a night over 7 of the last 13 games), he found his 3 point shot as the season went on, he entertained us with his all too infrequent JMZ videos and coaxed us into staying tuned until the final games of the season just to watch him tick the 'Dudley-dunk-o-meter' over to 10 against the New Orleans Hornets. He's Mr Versatile.
Year 2010 is the year Dudley showed people outside of Phoenix that he can ball and showed people inside Phoenix that he can be trusted to lead the franchise through the coming years. I'm hitching my wagon to Dudley, who's with me?