Jared Dudley’s season is the perfect test to the “in theory” mindset. In laments-terms, “in theory” is the fancy way to say “on paper”. A lot of things work in theory and that’s usually how we base future projections. For example, J.J. Redick was the perfect complimentary player for the Clippers… in theory. Fortunately for LA, that theory never came into fruition.
Dudley’s strengths? All critical in building the ‘perfect’ roster around Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Above-average three-point shooter (40 percent from three prior to this season)? Check. Above-average mid-range shooter (45 percent between 16 feet and the three point line prior to this season)? Check. Solid defender? No statistic perfectly paints defense well enough to source here, but the eyes said Dudley wasn’t great, but wasn’t bad, which was good enough for the Clippers. Could thrive in the fast-paced system Doc Rivers and Alvin Gentry would be implementing? Check.
Unfortunately, the ‘on paper’ Jared Dudley crumbled and burned, revealing a player no one expected to see. There were no slumps for Dudley. Slumps bring leniency. Over the course of 82 games, it’s difficult for players to remain statistically the same from beginning to end. No one is free from the slump. Lebron James. Kevin Durant. Chris Paul. They’ve all experienced it and it’s a common concept in basketball. But there were no excuses for Dudley. From beginning to end, Dudley failed to live up to the guy everyone expected him to be with the Clippers.
Offense was an issue, but with shooters, you wait it out until they begin to knock down shots on a normal basis. But the defense? It’s not often you see players get hot on defense. It’s unclear whether the bad defense had to do with Dudley’s nagging injuries coming out of training camp, but the forward couldn’t keep anyone from getting the ball into the middle of the floor. The issue was in a brighter light with Matt Barnes unavailable for play and as the season went on it became detrimental to the team.
After 42 games, Doc Rivers would insert Matt Barnes into the starting lineup, and Dudley’s bad season would become nightmarish. Want an indicator of how bad things had gotten for Dudley? Following a return from back spasms that sidelined the forward for three games, Dudley would return only to lose minutes to a 35 year old, cryptic Hedo Turkoglu. From March 12th until the end of the season, Dudley averaged 14.3 minutes per game, five of the games being DNP’s, four of the games receiving less than 5 minutes of play. Once Danny Granger arrived, Dudley became an afterthought, only appearing in garbage time games and the annual ‘these contests don’t matter, lets rest the starters’ matches.
Come playoff time, Dudley was much of an afterthought, even after Turkoglu went down with injury.
There’s no reason to beat around the bush on how bad Dudley played throughout the season. Expected to be a 3-and-D player, Dudley failed to live up to the label and that’s okay. It happens. Now is the time to hit the off-season, work harder, and return a better player than the season before because the Clippers need him to be a rotation player, whether he’s starting and playing 30 minutes a game or relieving the starting small forward for 10 to 15 minutes a night.
Optimism is the key here, but there’s a definite line between having hope one regress to the norm and one foolishly selling oneself on an inaccessible dream. Fortunately for Jared Dudley, after a season like this, there is only one place to go from here: up. The dream scenario would be Jared Dudley returning to the player he was in four years with the Phoenix Suns–an average defender whose shooting splits of 47/41/75. That would be perfect. Danny Granger has a player option, Hedo Turkoglu is an unrestricted free agent, and the Clippers are a bit short at the small forward position, with only Matt Barnes ahead of Dudley on the roster.
But if Dudley fails to return to form, this presents a problem for the future salary cap wise. Jared is owed $8.5 million over the next two seasons. At $4.25 per season, that’s a lot of space taken up by what could presumably turn into dead weight. The Clippers will openly shop him as they did this previous season, but the odds a team is fishing for a player coming off a down year? Not high. There is hope though. The Clippers would likely have to pair an asset with Dudley (Bullock, future pick), but with an Early-Termination Option in 2015-16, Dudley could be seen as an expiring deal for someone.
Either that or it’d give the Clippers more incentive to keep him around and shake loose of him following next season. If I had to guess, the Clippers would give Dudley a run to see if he’s regressed to the norm. If not, the trade deadline may become D-Day for Jared Dudley.