Now that the draft has come and gone and free agency is winding down, I thought it was a good time to resume my position by position look at the 2011-12 Phoenix Suns using MySynergySports.com. I'm breaking the roster down into positions an then examining each one on both offense and defense using the numbers from Synergy.
I've previously completed the centers on offense (Gortat and Lopez were a beast pick-and-roll one-two punch) and defense (Gortat's mobility allows him to be very effective in Elston Turner's defense), the power forwards on offense (both Frye an Morris showed versatility but were hurt by poor shooting years) and defense (Frye defended the post well, Morris didn't) and small forwards on offense (Hill and Redd both found ways to contribute despite not shooting well from the perimeter) and defense (Hill was good in several areas, while Redd was bad at them all).
Now it's time to look at the remaining wings: Jared Dudley and Shannon Brown, both of whom will be back with the team for the 2012-13 season.
Make the jump to see how these two looked on offense last year, and what we can expect from them this coming year.
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.
Jared Dudley is and always has been primarily a spot-up shooter. He certainly has improved his all-around offensive game and has diversified his skill set, but he still spots up on the wing and in the corner more than any other play. 32.7 percent of Dudley's plays were of the spot-up variety, down from roughly 40 percent in the to years prior. Dudley shot 48.4 percent overall and 42.7 percent from deep and scored 1.21 PPP, ranked 17th in the league. And this is taking his rough start where he couldn't hit a shot into account.
After spotting up, transition was Dudley's second most common play at 21.6 percent. In 2009-10, Dudley was deadly accurate from deep, converting 45.2 percent of his 3-pointers. However, in 2010-11 that dropped to 41.4 percent and it dropped even further this past season to 38.6 percent. The reason for this decline has been Dudley's transition shooting, as his spot-up numbers have been consistently very good at 42-44 percent. In 2009-10, Dudley shot 50.6 percent from 3 in transition, down to only 31.1 percent this past season on half the attempts. Dudley's overall field goal percentage also dropped below 50 percent for the first time in the last three years, and he went from very good in 2009-10 to merely average this past season with 1.1 PPP and a rank of 173.
Perhaps the area that Dudley has grown in the most is shooting off of screens. This season, Dudley was used running off screens on 16.4 percent of his plays, up from 5.9 percent in 2009-10. Dudley has really worked to make himself more than just a spot-up shooter, and that hard work is shown in the numbers here. Dudley shot 43.6 percent from the field and averaged 0.85 PPP, which earned him a rank of 70.
However, Dudley is more than just a shooter as we all know. He does all the little things you need your role players to do in order to win as well. Dudley is effective in the post with 0.84 PPP and a rank of 68, can finish as a cutter with 1.24 PPP and a rank of 72 and was a stud when he crashed the offensive glass with 1.22 PPP good for a rank of 25.
Basically, Dudley was average or better at almost every category, which is why his overall PPP was so impressive at 1.05, which ranked Dudley 17th in the NBA, even with the decline in 3-point percentage. Dudley has worked very hard on his game and has turned himself into one of the more efficient all-around offensive players in the game.
Similar to Dudley, Brown was used most often as a spot-up shooter at 25.2 percent. 110 of Brown's 164 spot-up jumpers were form behind the arc, where he only shot 32.7 percent. He averaged 0.90 PPP and was ranked 193, so spotting up probably isn't his best play.
Brown isn't exactly known for his ball-handling skills, but that didn't stop him from running plenty of pick-and-roll plays (18 percent), and surprisingly enough, he was pretty decent. Brown averaged 0.76 PPP as the pick-and-roll ball-handler, ranked 90th overall. Brown did not shoot particularly well at only 35.5 percent, but his 8-15 shooting from beyond the arc bumped up his PPP a bit.
Brown also got out in transition on 17.9 percent of his plays and was a little more effective. Where Dudley often runs to the 3-point line, Brown is looking to get to the basket. He only took 17 3-pointers in transition (making seven) but shot 57 percent from the field overall on nearly 100 shot attempts. He scored 1.13 PPP and was ranked 157th, He drew fouls on 10.5 percent of his attempts, but also turned the ball over 12.9 percent of the time.
Where Brown differs from Dudley the most is in isolation. Dudley isn't a one-on-one player at all, as he got the ball only 22 times all year in isolation. Brown, on the other hand, isolates on 15.1 percent of his possessions. Unfortunately, he's not all that good at it, as he only scored at a 31.4 percent clip in isolation and averaged 0.70 PPP (rank 163).
The two areas where Brown was mos effective are shooting off screens and cutting to the basket. Unfortunately, he only got the ball in these situations a total of 92 times. Brown shot 44.7 percent on 48 plays running off of screens and scored 0.92 PPP (rank 47), which is even better than Dudley. He was even more efficient when he was able to showcase his athleticism as a cutter. Brown shot a blistering 80.6 percent as a cutter and scored 1.48 PPP, which was 9th best among all qualifying players.
Overall, Brown averaged 0.90 PPP, good for a rank of 202, and scored 40.6 percent of the time. He's pretty good at certain things, but his poor decision-making makes him far less efficient than he could be if he focused more on his strengths.
Dudley and Brown seem to be polar opposites. Dudley is a very smart player who plays to his strengths and doesn't force things. Brown, on the other hand, tries to do far too much and takes a lot of bad shots.
Based on Dudley's career path thus far, I expect him to continue to improve his all-around game and perhaps add a new tool to his arsenal. According to Dudley's Twitter account, he's working on developing a floater so that he can finish better in the paint. Keep an eye out for that. The most important thing, however, is that Dudley work on his transition 3-point shot. If he can get that close to where it was two years ago, he should become even more efficient.
Brown began to play better basketball late in the season once he became a starter, and hopefully he continues that trend. Brown can be a very effective scorer if used correctly. He needs to focus more on cutting to the basket and shooting off of screens rather than trying to create his own shot off the dribble (which usually results in a long jump shot).
Tucker is smaller than Louis Amundson (6-foot-6 vs. 6-foot-8), stockier, doesn't block shots and has much better hands. They don't even play the same position (Lou is a PF/C while Tucker is a SF/PF). Their strengths and weaknesses are really different. But they are both scrappy, both like to make a difference down low, and both are too small to be effective for long stretches at a time.
"First and foremost," Tucker, 27, and five years removed from his first NBA stint, said to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic after signing, "I'm going to help the young guys and always be a positive voice in the locker room. I look at myself as a defensive player first but I can rebound and handle the ball."
"I love P.J.," Suns summer coach Dan Majerle, once one of the scrappiest NBA players himself, said in July. "He's right after my own heart. That guy plays extremely hard. He does everything you ask of him."
Which simply means that Suns fans, in moments of frustration with the effort level of Beasley and Johnson, will clamor repeatedly to #freepjtucker.
"I just stick my neck out and play hard," Tucker told Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. "I never let anyone outwork me."
So who is this P.J. Tucker? And if he's so good, why hasn't he played in the NBA in five years?
Tucker was drafted 35th overall in 2006 by Toronto but rarely played. Toronto's forwards were Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani (#1 overall rookie), Morris Peterson and Euro vet Jorge Garbajosa. The Raptors won 47 games that year, a year after winning only 27. Tucker just didn't get the minutes. He tells us himself what went wrong.
"It's been a long, grueling journey, but it's fulfilling," Tucker said. "I was so resentful in Toronto because I wasn't playing much. I was throwing fits. I was so young-minded. I didn't get the big picture or that it's a business. You have to understand your role on a team. You see kids come after you and do the same thing. So many never play and say they got screwed by the GM or coach. When you can be real with yourself and understand why, that's really when it comes to life."
Tucker attitude could come in handy on this youngish Suns squad that now boasts a couple of high draft picks (Beasley and Johnson) who have just not panned out yet in the NBA.
"The way I look at it now, I've grown up so much since then as a pro. It's unbelievable," Tucker told Ridiculous Upside last spring.
"I'm one of the real-est players there is with myself. So until guys can become real with themselves and look at their careers and ask, ‘where did I mess up,' it's only then that they can admit they could have handled a situation better. That way, going forward you know how the make the most out of each situation."
Will Beasley and Johnson listen to Tucker, a likely bit-player scrapping for minutes behind them on the depth chart? Only time will tell.
Tucker is a burly forward, a little short for his ideal PF position. Here's the draftexpress.com profile of Tucker in 2006.
If you can get past the fact that he is at least 2-3 inches undersized, Tucker has very good physical attributes. Unlike most players, though, he uses his to the fullest extent at all times. Tucker has an NBA ready frame and a super-hero's build, with very soft and strong hands, great upper and lower body strength, and a superb wingspan. He has a powerful first step and very solid ability to get off the ground and finish strong at the basket.
Defensively, Tucker is again tough as nails, fundamentally strong and absolutely tenacious due to his outstanding motor. He's not the most experienced perimeter defender, but will usually give his matchup hell regardless just because of the way he plays. As a rebounder is where he truly shines, going after every ball as if it was his last, and displaying superb timing and hands.
Read more at draftexpress.com
Tucker just couldn't get minutes in Toronto ahead of Bosh, Bargnani, Peterson and Garbajosa, and with a non-guaranteed contract he was one of the first out the door. As he said above, he wasn't the best locker-room guy or "team" guy back then.
But since then, Tucker has changed and figured out how to contribute to any team he joins. Hear former Sun Casey Jacobsen talk about Tucker. Sure appears that Tucker changed since being disappointed in Toronto.
"Of all my teammates that I've had, P.J. seamlessly integrated himself into the lineup and did so by doing all the little things and then eventually became the star of the team," said Jacobsen, who was a Brose Baskets Bamberg road roommate with Tucker. "Ten games into the season, it was clear that P.J. was our best player. He came to play every game or practice. The thing that I like most about him is he doesn't require you to run plays for him. He doesn't yell, 'Get me the ball.' He just found a way to be efficient and productive. Those are the kind of teammates that don't come along very often. What P.J. can do and the attitude he has is abnormal."
That's the kind of guy the Suns need.
And the kind of guy that will have Suns fans chanting "Free P.J. Tucker!"
Find lots of love for PJ Tucker on twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/search/pj%20tucker?q=pj+tucker
Choice one, from this week:
We all know about the trade and we've read all about what Wesley Johnson has (or hasn't) done and his potential. Yesterday at noon the whole situation was made official as the Phoenix Suns held yet another press conference to welcome a new face to the Valley. First it was Goran, then Beasley, Scola, Brown came back and now Wesley Johnson is happy to be back in the heat (He's from Texas) and excited for an opportunity to start anew.
The press conference was short and to the point and lasted all of about 12 minutes. Babby introduced Johnson as a great addition to the team because of his athleticism but spent some time also talking about his his character and how instead of meeting Babby for dinner upon arrival in Phoenix Monday night, he instead elected to go on a date with his (wife? Girlfriend? Baby's momma?) since they haven't been able to spend too much time together alone since the birth of their twins (Santana & Wesley) a few months ago.
Blanks took the mic and echoed Babby's thoughts and mentioned how since this transaction the Suns have stopped receiving calls from agents about beefing up their wing position.
Blanks also dropped a bit of insight as he mentioned that Wes played as a big in the front-court in high school and that he was still learning and developing as a perimeter player with regards to ball-handling and shooting. Take that for what it's worth since Johnson is now 5+ years removed from his high school playing days.
When Johnson spoke he explained that he was very excited, "When I first heard I was a Phoenix Sun, it put a huge smile on my face - bigger than what it is right now". Watching him sit there you can tell that he was truly overjoyed to be in a new place, with a new team and with a clean slate.
The floor was opened for questions and Bob Young of the Arizona Republic brought the point up that Johnson was a 'late bloomer' in college and really did well when he transferred schools from Iowa St. to Syracuse. He asked if Johnson felt like this was a similar situation. Johnson replied very quickly in agreement and said in college he felt like he was in a place that wasn't really a good fit until he went to Syracuse and felt like he was in "paradise". He also mentioned how he talks a lot with his family and his brother even brought that point up to him saying, "It's like history is rewriting it's self", Johnson then said - "I plan on having that success here".
When asked about why he feels he's a good fit in Phoenix, again without hesitation Wes gushed, "The syle of play it fits me well". I think it's every athletic player's dream to play in a Phoenix Suns style offense where the pace is up and down, fast, free flowing and where unselfishness is really a reality. I wouldn't have expected Johnson to answer the question any other way.
There were some other questions about how athletic he thought he was and what he likes most about Phoenix but nothing else of much importance. You can head over to the Suns website and catch video of the conference if you like.
His athleticism really is something I look forward to watching though. I read your comments about how much of a bust he is and how he's the worstever.com and how only his smile is good but I don't buy into that at all. Sometimes the statistics don't show the whole story.
It seems almost cliche now to compare any bad or under-performing player with potential who comes to Phoenix to Channing Frye and how his situation worked out coming from Portland (look at his stats.. prior then post arrival). Doing so makes a lot of people roll their eyes. Yet Channing Frye had the build and and the potential and that's something that both Wesley Johnson and Michael Beasley have coming to Phoenix this year. We're talking about top 5 picks in the draft. Top 5 scouted because of their talent and potential.
Don't be so quick to numb your emotions and invest nothing in the possibilities that both Johnson and Beasley could do special things here in Phoenix.
Wesley Johnson even knows what it means to be a Phoenix, he said about his opportunities playing in the Suns' sytem and with his new teammates,
"It's like a rebirth, a new beginning for me"