Because the last thing the Suns need is another wing...Right?
Or just maybe we really do.
Consider this. Although the Suns seemingly had an over-abundance of wings last season that created incongruity and instability due to an ever-changing rotation, we may still have a need here. Vince Carter and his $18 million dollar contract will be leaving us this season in exchange for a $4 million buyout. That's one less SG, and one less headache for Gentry to justify giving unearned playing time to. But this actually leaves us a little thin at two-guard with only Dudley (who's actually more of a three) and Pietrus left at that position. Perhaps the real problem was never too many wings, but too many wings who weren't consistent or the right fit for our team?
Is it possible that there's a young un-drafted free agent who could instantly provide us with quality minutes at the two without hardly adding to our payroll? Could that same player also possess the exact skill-set we have been desperately seeking in the other wings we have either traded for or signed in free agency? It may sound too good to be true...but I believe the answer is yes.
Introducing...The Curious Case for David Lighty.
For those of you who don't follow college basketball, David Lighty played for five seasons at Ohio State including the 08/09 year where received a medical red-shirt due to a broken foot. He played very sparingly in his freshman year, but was promoted to the starting lineup his sophomore season where he made an instant impact, especially on the defensive end. After recovering from his injury that kept him from playing all but seven games the following season, Lighty returned to the starting lineup for his junior year playing over 36 minutes a night and again providing "shut-down" quality defense against players ranging from PGs to PFs. Along with his defensive prowess, Lighty also began to exhibit an improved offensive game as well with an improved shooting % both on and off the dribble and from both within and beyond the arc. Along with Evan Turner, Lighty was an integral part of the 09/10 Ohio State team that earned a second seed before being upset by Tennessee in the "Sweet 16" round of the NCAA tournament.
During his fifth and final season at Ohio State in 10/11, Lighty again made substantial improvements to his game offensively and became one of the best all-around players for the team. Although once again overshadowed by a marquee player, this time Jared Sullinger, Lighty was both effective and efficient in every aspect of his game. Along with his defensive abilities which were again top-tier, he again made improvements in his offensive game averaging 12pts while shooting 46% from the field and a very respectable 43% from beyond the arc. Lighty played a big part in helping Ohio St. achieve a record of 34-3; receiving a number one seed entering into the NCAA tournament, although once again falling short of their expectations when they were eliminated by Kentucky in the "Elite Eight".
Below are his season averages for the seasons he played at Ohio State
Season Averages SEASON TEAM MIN PTS REB AST TO A/T STL BLK PF FG% FT% 3P% PPS 2006-2007 OSU 16.3 3.7 2.3 1.0 1.2 .89 .5 .2 1.4 .374 .685 .200 1.09 2007-2008 OSU 32.0 9.0 3.6 2.4 2.2 1.07 1.3 .2 2.0 .445 .623 .327 1.18 2008-2009 OSU 32.9 9.7 5.7 1.9 1.9 1.00 1.4 .3 2.0 .471 .536 .263 1.33 2009-2010 OSU 36.3 12.6 4.5 3.0 2.3 1.29 1.6 .5 2.4 .492 .632 .383 1.41 2010-2011 OSU 32.1 12.1 4.0 3.3 1.6 2.10 1.5 .5 1.9 .468 .627 .429 1.36
Source - ESPN http://espn.go.com/ncb/player/profile?playerId=31546
*Note - 08/09 season he was injured and played only seven games.
What makes him special
Lighty's skills have seemingly improved nearly every season of his college career. He had a major setback before he began playing in college when he suffered a torn ACL in his junior year of high school. Since his recovery, he has gained back more of his explosiveness and quickness each year. His compromised speed, quickness, and agility may have initially hurt his reputation early in his college career, but his play of late gives every indication that he will continue to play with his improved physical attributes as a professional.
Lighty is known first and foremost for his defense. He is a very active and smart defender with very good technique; he plays low and wide using his body and wingspan to stay in front of his man and contest shots without drawing fouls.
Check out some of these defensive highlights below...
In addition to being a very good defender, Lighty has also become a consistent jump shooter from both within and beyond the arc over the last couple of seasons. He has the ability to be a spot-up shooter, but has also greatly improved his ability to create his own shot. His offensive game has improved in nearly every way with each passing season at Ohio State, and his work ethic should help him to continue this trend.
Another underrated aspect of David Lighty's game is his blue-collar attitude and extremely high b-ball I.Q. He's a very hard worker who has a great feel for the game, and understands his role on the team. He's not a guy who expects to be in the spotlight, but rather embraces being a hard-working role player who plays effectively and efficiently in nearly every aspect of the game. Still, he's managed to have some impressive highlights during his time at OSU as well...Here is one particular game vs. Illinois where he showed dominance on both ends of the court:
If he's so good, why wasn't he drafted?
Going into the 2011 draft, Lighty was largely considered a talented SG prospect that would be drafted somewhere in the mid to late second round. Even with Lighty's level of talent, it was hard to gauge when or where he would be drafted due to the large pool of talented players and the needs of the teams selecting them. Although this year's draft wasn't considered especially strong with top-level talent, it was widely regarded as being deep with NBA-ready prospects who could contribute immediately as role players for their respective teams.
Lighty was considered a top 30ish talent by most of the analysts and experts covering the draft. However, in an unexpected twist of fate, Lighty was passed on by team after team in favor of other questionable picks and ended up going un-drafted. As for why many players that most analysts had rated below David Lighty were drafted and he wasn't (including his teammate Jon Diebler), I wish I knew. Maybe GM's were looking for specific attributes that certain players specialized in, and David simply slipped through the cracks. But whatever the reason, I'm willing to bet that he will be on an NBA roster before the start of next season (whenever that may be). I also believe he will be an immediate contributor being that he is NBA ready, and his defensive ability will help him stay on the court.
David Lighty is exactly the kind of player the Suns need. He gives us the perimeter defense we have searched for and have yet to find through our acquisitions of players like Childress and Pietrus. On offense, he will both space the floor as a spot-up perimeter shooter and drive the lane and/or create his own shot off the dribble as well. We may well be looking for a more proven player to add to our roster for the SG position through free agency or even a trade, but Lighty would be an excellent option as a role player who can come off the bench and make an impact on both ends of the court. He would be a very inexpensive pick up adding little to our payroll being that he is an undrafted free-agent, and could very well be a gamble that pays off in spades for us when it's all said and done.