In the summer of 2010, the Phoenix Suns negotiated a sign-and-trade for former Atlanta Hawks swingman Josh Childress, who was just returning to the NBA from a two-year stint overseas. Childress had earned a reputation as a quality sixth man during his years in Atlanta and many saw the acquisition of the 6-foot-8 wing as a great move. He was expected to provide slashing, rebounding and some lock-down defense on opposing guards and small forwards.
Unfortunately, that isn't exactly how it turned out. Two years into the five-year $33.50 million contract, Childress has only played in 88 of a possible 154 games, averaging just 15.7 minutes per game. Chills has spent more time sitting on the bench (perhaps playing checkers?) than he has on the court.
So what happened?
Childress and his fit on this team has been discussed to death on this blog. At this point, we all know that his inability to knock down the 3-ball, or even the mid-range two, means he has no place playing alongside Nash. The pick-and-roll needs shooters to space the floor for Steve and the big to work in the paint, and even Grant Hill with his reliable,17-footer was pushing it. So Chilly in the starting five was not something we were ever going to see without multiple injuries.
But why could he never crack the rotation as a bench player? Let's dive into the numbers to find out.
Career Per Game Stats:
Looking at his Atlanta numbers, the first thing that jumps out to me is his defensive rating. We were expecting a defensive dynamo when we signed Childress, but even his numbers in Atlanta show that that simply isn't the case. Add in the fact that he spent two years in Greece playing a completely different style of basketball and defending different kinds of players, and it's no wonder he's been a disappointment on that end. So that's strike one.
The second thing that I noticed were his offensive numbers. Chill has never been a go-to guy offensively, but his Atlanta stats show that he used to be a viable threat to score. He was a double-digit scorer in each of his four years with the Hawks, and his shooting percentages and offensive rating are pretty darn good. So why didn't we see that Chilldress? I have two possible reasons.
First, and this one most of you know already, he was not put in a position to maximize his strengths. MySynergySports.com says that 29.6% of Childress' offensive possessions (at least those ending in a FGA, a TO, or FTA) came in spot-up situations, by far the most of any play type. That doesn't seem wise for a player without a reliable jumpshot. Second and third on the list are what were perceived to be Chilly's strengths, cuts to the basket and plays in transition, and he was pretty effective in these situations. However, those two categories accounted for roughly 34 percent of his plays, or a total of 37 out of 108. So why didn't we see more of him in these situations? I'm not really sure.
Second, and my only explanation for why we haven't seen the old Chilly is that he doesn't exist any more, at least for the time being. When I watch him play, I just don't see the same guy that was so effective off the bench for the Hawks. He seems to have lost confidence. He was not aggressive at all offensively on the rare occasions that he got on the court. He just seemed lost out there for the most part.
But there have been flashes of the old Chills. Every now and then, he showcased a little bit of the athleticism and craftiness that made him effective in Atlanta. He certainly plays with energy, as evidenced by his 7.2 offensive rebound percentage, good for third on the team behind the two centers. His ORtg and DRtg were both decent this year at 114 and 107, and he was sixth on the team with 0.92 win shares per 48 minutes (beware small sample size).
Childress also deserves credit for accepting his role. He has racked up plenty of DNP-CDs in his two years in Phoenix, yet we haven't heard any complaints from him. He's also kept himself ready just in case the team needed him, and he responded as well as can be expected when his name was finally called upon.
However, as much as I like Childress, if he can't find a way to get on the court it means he can't produce. With as much as he is being paid, we can't afford him not to produce. Josh has 3 years remaining on his contract, and he is set to make $6.5 million next season with his salary escalating over the following years. The Suns still have the ability to use the amnesty clause, and with the way things have turned out, Childress is a prime candidate to use it on.
So what do you all think? Is there still hope for Chilly in a Suns uniform? Or is this ill-fated union about to come to an end?