One big part of the Phoenix Suns recent blockbuster trade with the Orlando Magic has been the trickle down effect on Channing Frye and the power forward position. Last season, in his breakout year with the Suns, Frye played exclusively at center. He was either the starting five next to Amare Stoudemire or was backing up Robin Lopez for key stretches of the season.
This year started the same way, with Robin starting and Channing as the backup center and then when Robin went down with injury, Frye was moved back into the starting lineup. As we saw last season, the Lopez/Frye combo at the five worked well. There was a point during the Suns late season stretch when Robin was healthy and rolling that the two of them were regularly combining for 21 points and 11 rebounds per game, but that was with Amare at the four.
The problem this season was filling the power forward position once Amare took his considerable talents to New York. The Suns tried to play Hedo Turkoglu at the four and they tried (for one game) to start Hakim Warrick. But it quickly became apparent that with those guys at the four, the Suns couldn't rebound the ball and couldn't defend the paint. The double-teams needed to protect the rim left open shooters and with the defense constantly in rotation, it was even harder to rebound the ball.
That's why Frye stayed in the lineup and slid over to the four when Lopez returned from his injury. This at least gave the Suns two guys who were at least average defenders and, with their height, could rebound the ball. It paid off, as the Suns went from -4.9 rebounding differential with Frye at the five to +.25 with Frye starting at the four next to Robin over the last four games.
Since the trade, we've already talked about how Lopez and Gortat form the "Great Wall of Phoenix," but as we've seen, Frye is an important brick in that wall, as well. With those three guys, Gentry can play entire games with a front line tandem that's 6-11 or taller. The guy that gets squeezed out is Hakim Warrick.
Warrick is available to give an offensive spark at times or when match-ups dictate a smaller lineup, but he's now a luxury off the bench and not a necessity, where his size makes him a defensive and rebounding liability. Don't be surprised if Hak's minutes get cut significantly moving forward as he becomes more of a specialist.
Frye is one of those guys who spent enough time in the league riding pine that he's not going to complain about any role the coach wants him to play, but he's going to help this team more as a power forward.
"If it's going to help us win, I'll play the one (point guard) and just back 'em down from half court. I think Alvin (Gentry) has a lot of ideas in his mind and I just have to be prepared and make sure I'm coming out with the right focus and mental attitude," Frye said.
He won't be playing the point guard position any time soon, but Gentry did say that he might play Frye at small forward and in fact, Channing got some practice time at the three in yesterday's scrimmage. The Lopez, Gortat, Frye trio would make the Suns front line as big as any in the league. I wouldn't expect to see that jumbo package together often, but it's a nice option to have.
Frye says the key to him moving over to the four is his mental and physical preparation.
"I think with the four you have to move your feet a little bit more. You're going to be out and about on the floor a little bit more, and at the five you're going to be banging, so you've got to be heavier, a little bit stronger with your base and be able to hold your ground.
"For me, it's just a matter of getting out there and making sure I do my foot work exercises and get back into being more of a quicker guy instead of more of a tree stump kind of guy ... all I want to do is help (Coach Gentry) and if he tells me what my job is, I'm going to go in the weight room and study and prepare for the game."