December 16, 2012: Gentry likes Dudley at small forward, Beasley at power forward
Head coach Alvin Gentry through the first eight weeks of the season has moved his players around as if they were pieces of a puzzle: What combination would fit together the best?
He appears to have settled on one as the Suns have victories in back-to-back games for the first time since late November.
"I'm comfortable right now and this is what we're going to do for awhile because I think it's worked for us," he said of playing Jared Dudley at small forward and bringing Michael Beasley off the bench as a power forward. "We've had some success so we've got to play that way and we'll see where it takes us."
Gentry has made three changes to his starting lineup since opening night. (A fourth was necessitated by an illness to Goran Dragic.)
"I like it because I think it's really helped JD," Gentry explained in moving Dudley from shooting guard where he started the season. "That's where he had his most success last year and the last couple of years here as a 3-man. To have him be able play there and play for extended minutes, I think it's helped him."
The numbers would suggest that's true.
Dudley is averaging 15 points while shooting 58 percent (25-of-43), including 40 percent (6-of-15) from three-point range in four games since returning to the starting lineup. He's scored 60 points, including a season-high 22 against Utah, over what is his best stretch of the season.
"You usually when you're playing the two (guard) you're one of the quicker guys and you're exerting more energy so the three-position is more natural (for me)," Dudley said.
The decision by Gentry to play Beasley at power forward has netted more subtle results.
"I think Michael has played pretty good at 4. He's done some things," Gentry said. "We've been able to put him in situations where I think he can be successful."
Beasley appears more comfortable and more engaged as a 4, where he's able to take advantage of his athleticism against bigger guys.
"I just feel good because I told myself to play good, whether I'm playing the 3 or the 4," he said. "It doesn't really matter to me. I just enjoy playing the game."
His opportunities have also increased according to Beasley. He just has not been able to take advantage of those opportunities.
Beasley admitted his shooting is at an "all-time low," which is accurate. His 37 percent field goal percentage is the worst of his five NBA seasons. He made three of his first four shots against Utah but then missed his last five attempts.
"My (left pinkie) finger is still kind of messed up but I'm tired of using that as an excuse," he said. "I'm going to just keep shooting. They're going to drop eventually."
Beasley's shooting, or lack thereof, is limiting his court time (three straight games playing fewer than 20 minutes) for the moment.
"He's smarter than us all," he said of Gentry. "Whoever he plays is definitely the right choice, for however long and at whatever position. All I can say is just be ready. When your name is called, be ready. Even if you only play five, ten games, just be ready because he's definitely got a plan.
"As long as it equals a ‘W'," Beasley added, "I'm definitely fine with it."