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 MySynergySports.com, 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'm not exactly sure how to differentiate between small forwards and shooting guards on this year's team. A career forward started the season at shooting guard. Then when the starting small forward went down a shooting guard took his place, although he played more like a small forward. And a career shooting guard also spent most of the season backing up the starter at the three. Therefore, I'm making the executive decision to call Grant Hill, Michael Redd and Josh Childress small forwards, and Jared Dudley and Shannon Brown shooting guards.
Make the jump for breakdowns of the geriatric duo that played most of their minutes at the three for the Suns this year: Grant Hill and Michael Redd. I'll also toss in a brief word or two on Josh Childress.
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.
Grant Hill struggled this year. We all saw it. He had knee surgery during the offseason and didn't have time to fully recover before the season started and he had to suit up. He struggled mightily during the first couple months before he finally found his legs. While he really picked it up in March, averaging 12.4 ppg on .521 shooting, it wasn't enough to make up for the bad start.
As was the case with every wing on the Suns' roster, Hill was used most commonly as a spot-up shooter (30.6% of his plays). Unfortunately, he wasn't very effective in that role. His PPP was only 0.81, ranked 237th, and only scored 37.6% of the time. These poor numbers are due to his low field goal percentages, 37.3% overall and 27.5% from 3. Hill was much more effective last season, with a 1.06 PPP (rank 93) and a %Score of 45.9%. He even shot 43.6% from 3-point range.
Hill's next most common play, and the only other play type of which he has over 100 plays recorded, is in transition. The days of Seven Seconds Or Less are gone and the Suns don't run nearly as much as they used to, in no small part due to a lack of players who can get out and run. Grant Hill is not one of those players, however. He scored 1.29 PPP on the break, good for a rank of 56, and shot 66.7%. At 39 years old. On a bad knee.
Hill was also effective in his 60 post-ups with a PPP of 0.95 and a rank of 26. He shot 44.2% and factoring in the fouls he drew his %Score was 50%. Grant is great at posting up when he has a size or strength advantage over his defender an finishing the play with a bucket or a trip to the line.
This Sun roster does not have a lot of wings adept at creating their own shot off the dribble. In other words, there aren't very many isolation players on this team. However, Grant Hill is a player many see as having that capability. He was pretty decent at it in 2009-10, and adequate last season.
However, he was only has 52 iso plays recorded this year, and he was pretty terrible. 0.55 PPP, rank 206 (which shows just how inefficient iso play is), 28.8 %Score. Hill, someone normally capable of bailing his team out, just didn't have it this year.He was also ineffective as a pick-and-roll ball handler.
Surprisingly enough, Hill was very effective in his 39 plays running off screens, shooting 19-34 for a PPP of 1.03 an a rank of 16.
Overall, Hill's PPP was 0.87 and he ranked 280th. This number is heavily weighted by his poor spot-up shooting, however, and as shown above he wasn't useless offensively. It appears as if Hill's jumpshot was his problem. He was fine -- and actually very effective -- when working closer to the basket while posting up or finishing in transition. But because his isolation game consists mostly of pull-up jumpers and he was asked to spot up so often, his shooting problems tanked much of his value to the team on offense. Due to his resurgence in March and the fact that he still shot 45% from mid-range (up from 40% last season) despite his struggles, leads me to believe the knee problems were the source of his struggles. A healthy Grant Hill in 2012-13 should be just fine on offense.
Michael Redd, the best post player on the Suns roster this year?
(Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE)
Michael Redd was brought in as a low risk signing with a potentially big return. After missing most of the last two years with knee injuries, the former All-Star was just looking to get back on the court and prove he can still play. The Suns gave him that chance, an while he didn't return to his 20-point-per-game form, he did provide a valuable (if a bit inconsistent) offensive spark off the bench.
Redd was a pretty versatile scorer, but his most common play was running off screens, which he did on over one-fifth of his plays (or 95 times). Redd scored .080 PPP and ranked 80th, although his percentages aren't all that great (37.6 FG%, 25% 3FG%).
Redd also spotted up on 90 plays, where he actually shot worse overall. That is perhaps due to most of his attempts being from behind the 3-point line (26-73 from deep, 28-84 overall). Due to the high number of 3-point shots, he averaged .98 PPP and ranked 129th. Redd had a reputation as a big time shooter back in the day, but he struggled with his shot for most of the year.
However, even without a reliable jumper, the crafty veteran was able to make his presence felt offensively. He was terrific while posting up, with a 1.18 PPP on 67 attempts, which ranked him 3rd overall. He shot 53.3% and drew a shooting foul 26.9% of the time, giving him a 59.7 %Score, by far his best number.
Redd was a decent isolation player, with a 0.80 PPP, a rank of 81 and a 38.9 %Score on 54 plays. Despite his bad knees, Redd was still a viable threat in transition with a 1.32 PPP, a 43 ranking and a 55.3 %Score on 47 plays. He was ineffective as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, however, with a 0.67 PPP and a %Score of 33.3% on 42 plays.
Based on his offensive production, Redd was a pretty good signing, all things being considered. He put up a 0.95 PPP, mostly with a second unit that struggled to score at times. That ranked him 129th overall. He only shot 40% from the field and 31.3% from 3-point range, but he did manage to draw fouls 8.9% of the time, which bumped his %Score up to 42.5%.
Grant Hill was not himself this year. He struggled mightily with his jumper and the Suns' offense struggled as a result. But at 39 years old, he was still effective in the post and on the break, so the issues look to be due more to the knee problems and lack of offseason than him being too old to get it done.
Michael Redd also turned out to be a nice surprise. It took him a while to get back in shape, and he wasn't terribly consistent, but he did provide an offensive punch to a second unit that was lacking in capable scorers for much of the season.
Even Josh Childress was effective offensively, when he actually decided to take a shot. He was great in transition and as a cutter, Unfortunately, he only shot 6-29 and 4-23 from 3 as a spot-up shooter, which just isn't going to get the job done an explains why he only recorded 108 plays on offense.
Things are starting to get serious out there. Can Rondo do it again? Can LeBron James and Dwyane Wade keep up this incredible performance? Will Mickael Pietrus explode for good or ill?
The Celtics hope they can do what the Thunder did and steal a game at home against a superior opponent. It will be a tall task since Boston couldn't win a game in which Rajon Rondo scored 44 points. Who else is going to give the Celtics consistent scoring? Maybe Brandon Bass is due for another big game.
Here's the remaining schedule for the 2012 NBA Playoff Eastern Conference Finals Series (all times in ET):
Game 4: Sunday, June 3 at Boston, 8:30 p.m.
Game 5: Tuesday, June 5 at Miami, 8:30 p.m.*
Game 6: Thursday, June 7 at Boston, 8:30 p.m.*
Game 7: Saturday, June 9 at Miami, 8:30 p.m.*
With the NCAA's "one and done" rule, selecting players in the NBA draft involves a good amount of tea leaf reading and broad projections. The most talented players generally declare themselves eligible for the draft after their freshman seasons at the tender age of 19 or 20, with thin lists of accomplishments gathered facing similarly young, unproven players.
This is why the words "potential" and "upside" are so prevalent in scouting reports. Can the guy be an effective NBA player? There's a lot of educated guessing involved in answering that question about unfinished products.
A more extreme example of this is Baylor forward Perry Jones III, one of the top 10 prospects coming out of high school and now, after two years of college ball, more enigmatic than when he arrived on campus. In the current wall to wall sports news and opinion environment, Jones is already viewed as an underachiever at only 20 years of age.
What NBA scouts see is a supremely talented athlete who is still finding his way as a player and a young man, a jack of all trades who has yet to discover his niche on the court, and has been perceived as somewhat of a disappointment for his less than stellar production at Baylor.
Jones carries a high degree of risk as one of the bigger boom or bust players among the elite prospects. Should the Suns roll the dice and select Jones if he's available at #13 in June 28th's draft?
Arriving at Baylor to much fanfare and a bit of controversy, as Baylor didn't normally land high end recruits like the McDonalds HS All-American, Jones earned All-Big 12 honors in his freshman season and would likely have been a lottery pick had he entered last year's NBA draft. Instead, he opted to stay another year at Baylor because Jones realized he needed additional maturity; unfortunately, it was a season that provided more ammunition for his critics and did little to bolster his draft stock.
Despite showing flashes of his elite abilities, including athleticism and a game that features a little bit of everything, he also displayed inconsistency and uneven performance, vanishing completely for long stretches of play, and not carrying his team the way a player of his caliber is expected to do.
Closing his college career in the 2012 NCAA tournament, Jones scored only 2 points in the first round vs. South Dakota St. in a win, and then went for 17 points and 8 rebounds in an Elite Eight loss to eventual champion Kentucky. More of the inconsistency and apparent underachievement for a player with such potential led to charges of softness and a low basketball IQ.
These highlights show the wide range of skills he possesses:
In body type, Jones looks a bit like Kevin Garnett, except that he needs to bulk up and toughen up to be anything close to KG, who was an early bloomer of historic proportions. Jones will need more time to develop, and the team drafting him will be best served by taking a patient approach, working to develop him with strong coaching and veteran mentoring.
As we can see from Jones' productivity at Baylor, he's not close to a finished product and, most troubling, didn't show marked progress last year.
Jonathan Givony of Draft Express had this to say about Jones' game at Baylor:
He sees the biggest share of his possessions in the post, either with his back to the basket, or facing up from the mid-post. He doesn't really have the strength or toughness to be overly effective backing opponents down, but his excellent size, length and quickness allows him to get shots off here with relative ease. He shows nice potential with his smooth footwork and soft touch around the basket, particularly with his jump-hook, but will have to improve on his ability to draw fouls and finish through contact if he's to maximize this part of his game.
Where Jones seems to be more effective at the moment is facing up from 12-18 feet in isolation settings. His incredibly quick first step and long strides allow him to blow by opponents, and he can finish strong at the rim thanks to his terrific leaping ability or with a floater inside the paint.
These are skills in short supply on the current Suns roster and, with patient development, Jones could become a major contributor. Head coach Alvin Gentry is known as a players' coach, but the Suns' recent track record at developing young players hasn't been impressive: Goran Dragic, Robin Lopez and Earl Clark all struggled in Phoenix, with the team giving up on Dragic and Clark. It's too soon to tell on Markieff Morris, who just completed a decent but unspectacular rookie season.
Of course, patient development might be hard to come by if Steve Nash returns and the Suns will have only a 2 or 3 year window with Nash left to compete. The flip side is that having the veteran leadership and role models of work ethic and team building exemplified by Nash and Grant Hill should aid the youngster's development, as Suns President Lon Babby maintains is happening with Morris.
It's hard for me to imagine a player of Jones' uncommon gifts will be available when the Suns pick at #13. A few teams will pass on him due to questions of toughness and work ethic, but it only takes one team ahead of the Suns to fall in love with his potential and upside for him to be selected, and I'm expecting that to happen.
Should he be available at #13, it's a no-brainer: the Suns have to take him. He might not contribute much right away, but has the chance to be a star in a few years. And what would be the cost if he busts? Solid role players such as Morris or Lopez are about the best that can be expected at that slot, so it's not a bad place to take a risk for a team in need of young talent. It's easy to find solid role players, much more difficult to find potential stars.
What say you, Brightsiders?