Losing Channing Frye is a big blow to the Phoenix Suns
Those were the raw box score numbers Channing Frye averaged last season for the Phoenix Suns, production that wouldn't seem difficult to replace.
Unfortunately for the Suns, unless they are able to make a serious splash with one of the bigger names on the market, losing the former Arizona Wildcat will have a profound impact on their team this upcoming season.
Frye is the perfect example of why studying film and examining advanced analytics are an important part of building a successful roster in the NBA.
If you watched the Suns on a nightly basis with a keen eye, you know Frye was an integral part of what they did. Whether it was playing the four next to Miles Plumlee or in smaller lineups as the center, Frye helped to create space for everyone else to have offensive success. Phoenix's offense was based on dribble penetration by their two guards, Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, and without Frye's ability to pull a defender from the basket, lanes wouldn't have been nearly as open for them to attack.
Here is chart showing how the Suns performed as a team with Frye on and off the court:
The difference on offense was huge in a positive way, with only a slight drop on defense, improved shooting, more assists, fewer turnovers, better defensive rebounding and only a tiny dip on the offensive boards.
The lineups head coach Jeff Hornacek was able to roll out because of Frye's defensive versatility were a huge boon to the Suns' offense. How he impacted Markieff Morris might have been more dramatic than any other player on the team. The Suns were deadly playing five out units with the two of them manning the power forward and center positions.
With Frye playing, Markieff took 55.7 percent of his shots in the paint or in the restricted area and only 32.6 percent from mid-range compared to 44.4 percent restricted area/paint and 42.2 percent mid-range without.
This is a general overview of how Frye impacted Dragic, Bledsoe and Miles Plumlee along with Markieff using true shooting percentage (accounts for free throws and threes) in addition to the Suns' offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) with Frye playing with a certain player or not:
In every scenario the player and team was more successful when Frye was on the court.
This speaks to how the NBA game is evolving. Shooting from the forward/center position is becoming more and more important as teams continue to employ overload style defenses very similar to the one Phoenix uses.
Frye is also very highly regarded by ESPN's "Real Plus-Minus" statistic, which is basically a form of adjusted plus-minus.
He ranked fifth out of all power forwards with a 5.08 RPM only behind Dirk Nowitzki, Nick Collison, Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge. Frye finished ahead of players such as Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka and Anthony Davis.
The statistic isn't a be-all end-all, but the fact that something teams use to evaluate players has Frye valued so highly shows you what the Suns have lost.
There are free agents on the market that potentially replace part of Frye's skillset on the offensive end, with Atlanta's Mike Scott and Utah's Marvin Williams two players who fit the bill.
Phoenix's longshot chase of LeBron James with Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh is something owner Robert Sarver, general manager Ryan McDonough and president of basketball operations Lon Babby had to try. Opportunities to lift a franchise with a player like that is why you build long term flexibility. But in doing so they lost an important piece to their roster, one that will be hard to replace.
Frye had become one of the best role players in the NBA. If they strike out on all their top targets, whether it be through free agency or trade (Kevin Love, Al Horford, etc.) the Suns will have to adjust their identity next year to reach the same level of success they did this past season.
Losing Frye was more than 11 points and five rebounds. It will hamper the Suns' ability to use the style of play that made them the biggest surprise in the NBA.
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