Outside of their three draft picks, this summers biggest addition for the Orlando Magic was arguably Channing Frye. Frye, who has spent the last five seasons with the Phoenix Suns, is arguably the most prototypical stretch power forward in the league. He should fit exceptionally well with the Magic’s current roster, and give a nice boost to a team who was in the bottom half in three-point shooting last season.
Q: With the Suns, he was able to play with two guards who could use their penetration to break down a defense. In Orlando, he’ll be able to do the same thing with Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo. How important will this be to his success in the offense?
A: Very important. It’s a symbiotic relationship between a stretch four like Frye and penetrating guards like Payton and Oladipo, and one that has been very productive for Phoenix. All the numbers show the Suns were better with Channing Frye on the court, and that’s less about what he does individually and more about the effect his presence has on a defense.
Everybody in the NBA knows that Frye is one of the best 3-point shooting big men in the NBA, and defenses have to respect the threat he provides. At nearly seven feet tall with a high and quick release, Frye doesn’t need much space to get his shot off. Help off him, and it’s 3 points more often than not. This makes him very difficult for opposing big men, whose natural instincts are to stay in the paint and protect the rim.
However, if defenders do stay out on Frye, there’s one less big man to help in the paint, and guards as talented in the paint as Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe can basically do whatever they want. Spacing is so key in today’s NBA, and Frye is on of the best in the NBA at providing that.
Adding Frye is a great move for an Orlando team that is looking to give its young backcourt (Elfrid Payton especially) the best possible chance of having success in the NBA.
Q: The numbers show that he’s a much more prolific shooter from above the break. Was this just a matter of schemes in Phoenix, or something that he does rather than hangout in the corners like some stretch fours do?
A: Frye is at his best in the high pick-and-roll, so it’s no surprise he’s so effective above the break. He and Goran Dragic formed one of the best pick-and-roll tandems in the NBA thanks to Frye’s ability to roll to the 3-point line instead of the paint. Either the defense jumped at Dragic to stop the penetration and Frye was wide open for a three, or the opposing big stuck to Frye and Dragic took it to the rim for an easy lay-up.
I’d imagine he plays the same way in Orlando, giving Tobias Harris room to work in the corners and around the basket while Elfrid Payton runs the pick-and-roll.
Q: The Magic were a middle of the pack defensive team last season. With the additions of Payton and Aaron Gordon, it would seem they’re focusing on improving on that end of the floor. How can Frye help on that end, and is he a positive or a negative defensively?
A: Frye has the size to defend either the four or the five and he holds his own in the post quite well. Frye’s problem on the defensive end is his slow feet. He has problems stepping out on the perimeter to contest shooters or defend mobile bigs. He’s certainly not an all-defensive type of player, but he’s not a guy that’s going to kill you on that end either.
I think a frontcourt of he and Aaron Gordon would work together quite well on both ends. They cover for each other’s weaknesses very well, with Frye being able to defend posts and Gordon defending shooters and mobile bigs. A pairing of Frye and Vucevic might not work out so well depending on the opponent, though.
Q: How big of a loss will this be for the Suns? And do you think the Magic gave him a deal that warrants what he’ll bring to the table?
A: I’ll be brief here (go read this if you want an extended look at Frye’s importance to the team), but I personally think it will be a big loss for the Suns. The plan right now is to roll with Markieff Morris (who had a great year last year but is a very different kind of player) as the big-minute power forward, with his twin brother Marcus and Anthony Tolliver competing for the rest of the minutes. I’m a Creighton fan and the Tolliver signing thrilled me, and while he does bring some of what Frye did, to expect the team to not miss a beat is unrealistic. The team will have to adjust, but I have faith that Goran Dragic and Jeff Horncek will be able to do so.