Phoenix Suns fans have had plenty of reasons to be happy this season. Ryan McDonough’s proven himself to be an intelligent general manager, something the Suns haven’t enjoyed in years. Jeff Hornacek has not only been competent, but he’s guided a team of misfits into the Western Conference playoff picture. Goran Dragic is having an All-Star season, whether he actually makes it as a replacement or not. Despite the injuries, Eric Bledsoe looks like a future star-in-the-making. Then you have even more underdog stories like Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee.
But one of the most uplifting individual stories among this inspiring group is Channing Frye‘s comeback year. After missing the 2012-13 season with a potentially dangerous heart condition that threatened to sideline him long-term, Frye is back on the court and helping the Suns in a big way. Not only has he meshed with Dragic and Bledsoe in the pick and roll game, but his ability to pop out to the perimeter and knock down open threes is an essential part of Phoenix’s dynamic offense, which is sixth in the league in points per game.
That being said, it’s only natural for shooters to go through slumps over the course of an 82-game season. Since his 30-point outburst against the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 19, Frye’s started to come back down to earth a bit. There wasn’t a significant drop off at first, but Frye is currently in the middle of a six-game slump, particularly from 3-point range, where he’s shot a superb 40 percent on the year. During that span, Frye is averaging 10.3 points per game, but he’s shot 21-for-57 from the floor (36.8 percent) and 10-for-40 from 3-point range (25 percent).
For a guy who’s shooting nearly 45 percent on the season, the slump is definitely noteworthy and it’s a big reason the Suns have lost their last two games. To be fair, the first was against a proud Chicago Bulls team that had been embarrassed the night before and the second was against the talented Houston Rockets on the road, but Dragic and the Suns have prided themselves on surprising people all season long. Even without Bledsoe, this team still has the pieces to win games.
Unfortunately, that theory doesn’t work with Frye struggling from downtown. His ability to spread defenses and bury them off of Dragic’s penetration is obviously only effective when he’s knocking down the open looks the defense is forced to concede. In three of his last six games, Frye has gone 1-for-6 from behind the arc and in another he was even worse at 2-for-11. He’s been a combined 3-for-17 from deep in the Suns’ last two losses.
There’s no need to panic, however. Not every shot from downtown is going to fall and when you think about it, there’s a reason that making just 40 percent of one’s shots from 3-point range is so impressive: it’s a difficult, impossibly long shot that the vast majority of human beings is incapable of making on a frequent basis. Frye is a versatile stretch-4 and with an effective field goal percentage of 55.9 percent, he is in the top 20 in the league in that category. He’s also in the top 20 in made and attempted 3-pointers.
All in all, Frye is still having a tremendous season. He’s been shooting the lights out for the most part, he’s one of the essential cogs in Phoenix’s devastating offensive attack and his return to the court is one of the many inspiring story lines that make the 2013-14 season so enjoyable for Suns fans. But if Phoenix is going to put a stop to this two-game losing skid and prevent themselves from falling to No. 8 in the Western Conference Saturday night, Frye is going to need to snap out of this recent shooting funk. What better way to do that than against the Splash Brothers and the Golden State Warriors?