Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Channing Frye

Channing Frye doesn't have huge individual statistics but he's the type of player who makes everyone better and his signing with the Orlando Magic is a move that alters the balance of power in the West more than his national profile might suggest. He's not just a stretch 4 - he's an elite shooter with a quick release as well as exceptional size and length (6'10 240 with a 7'2 wingspan) whose a net positive on D. That's a very valuable skill-set and not many players have it.

Frye's shooting ability opened up driving lanes for Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic and allowed the Suns to create the max spacing alignments that helped nearly every player on their team have career seasons. In many ways, Frye was the Jeff Hornacek's system. His presence on the floor meant they always had 3 shooters around the pick and roll for 48 minutes, as he had also had the versatility to play some at the 5 with another stretch 4. There's no way to guard a team with that much shooting and athleticism.
Were it not for Bledsoe's knee injury, which kept him out for almost two months, the Suns would have been an easy playoff team, even in the gauntlet that was the Western Conference - Phoenix was 28-15 with him and 20-19 without him. That was a team well on its way to a 50+ win pace in their first season together. The Suns still have time to replace Frye but there aren't many guys left on the market with his skill-set - losing him could knock them out of playoff contention and remove some of the pressure at the bottom of the West playoff picture.

They could slide Markieff Morris into his spot, but he's not nearly the shooter that Frye is, or they could try Marcus Morris, but he doesn't have the same type of size. Breaking up the Morrii would also severely weaken their bench which was so effective against opposing second units, partly because they could keep the floor spread for the entire game. Shooting big men - Frye, Josh McRoberts, Spencer Hawes - are dropping fast in free agency, which isn't a coincidence. One guy they might consider is Marvin Williams, who shot 36% from 3 in Utah as an ersatz stretch 4/combo forward.

Frye's not going to turn Orlando into a playoff contender overnight, but he's exactly the type of player who will make Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo better, as that's a trio that certainly needs a lot of shooting around on them. One thing they might want to consider, especially in the East, is a super small-ball line-up with Frye at the 5 and Gordon at the 4. A tall, athletic player who strokes 3's fits onto any team - losing Frye makes the Suns significantly worse and the Magic better, which isn't the type of thing you can say about most mid-level free agents.

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