The Season in Review: Channing Frye

Today we shine the roster spotlight on Channing Frye.

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Channing Frye's 2008-09 stats...

Statistic

2008-2009

2007-2008

Net Change

Games Played

63

78

-15

Games Started

1

20

-19

Minutes per Game

11.8

17.2

-5.4

Points per Game

4.2

6.8

-2.6

FG ATT per Game

4.2

5.8

-1.6

Field Goal%

42.3%

48.8%

-6.5%

3PT ATT per Game

0.5

0.1

+0.4

Three-Point%

33.3%

30.0%

+3.3%

FT ATT per Game

0.6

1.4

-0.8

Free Throw%

72.2%

78.0%

-5.8%

Off Rebs per Game

0.7

1.4

-0.7

Def Rebs per Game

1.6

3.2

-1.6

TOT Rebs per Game

2.2

4.5

-2.3

Assists

0.4

0.7

-0.3

Steals

0.3

0.4

-0.1

Blocks

0.3

0.3

---

Turnovers

0.5

0.7

-0.2

Personal Fouls

1.7

2.7

-1.0

Effective FG%

44.4%

49.1%

-4.7%

True Shooting%

46.5%

52.9%

-6.4%

PER

10.0

14.8

-4.8

Plus-Minus

-1.92

+0.55

-2.47

In a perfect world Channing Frye would always be a Portland Trail Blazer.  Most media members I've heard from have a near-unnatural fondness for the guy.  He's described as the perfect fit for Portland's culture, a guy who brings jocularity to the locker room, a guy who handles his business like a pro, a guy who can take interviews that other players shy away from and turn them into a positive.  If this were a personality contest or we were engaged in culture wars, Channing would be an All-Star on his way to getting his jersey raised.

The problem is, none of that is translating onto the court right now.

You'd have to be obtuse to pin that solely on Frye.  He's a forward-center.  LaMarcus Aldridge is this team's present and future at power forward.  He's only leaving scraps of playing time in his wake.  Joel Przybilla was the team's irreplaceable stalwart at center this year and Greg Oden is not only the heir apparent, he's the Emperor in waiting.  There are no center minutes to be had.  Channing Frye is 25 years old and talented.  This isn't the right roster fit for him.  From his perspective, career-wise, he pretty much wasted a year here.  He could be at peak performance and it wouldn't matter much.

Of course that's a moot point as he's not at peak performance.  His rookie year in New York was memorable, his second year forgettable.  The same pattern has held for his two seasons in Portland.  Every stat declined this year, save a modest bump in three-point attempts and percentage (which for a guy who's supposed to be a power forward could be as much of a critique as a blessing).  Many of his stats declined at a faster rate than his decreasing minutes.  Particularly disturbing were his declines in all aspects of field goal percentage:  normal, effective, true, inverted, double-dutched, triple-filtered...you name it, it sunk into oblivion.  Channing's promise is primarily offensive.  This is the toll of doom for him.  He drifted farther and farther outside and became less and less productive as his role continued to decline.

Channing's secondary benefit is rebounding.  His production was cut in half there.  Ring that bell again.

The team did far, far better offensively when Channing was on the bench.  Like many of Portland's reserves he didn't get a chance to play with consistent scorers.  However that difference was -12 points per 100 possessions which is awfully large to explain away.  The defense also allowed 6 more points per 100 possessions when he was playing than it did when he was on the bench, another huge gap.  Rebounding and free throws also declined when he was in.

Nor did Channing survive the PER gap test we've been applying to most of the players.  He trended negative in almost every category versus his counterparts at power forward and center, particularly so at the 5-spot.

The real telling moments came in the playoffs, however.  With Przybilla and Oden in foul trouble and LaMarcus frustrated and worn thin the Blazers were desperate for big-man help.  Channing got 20 minutes in Game 1, 10 in Game 3, and barely played after that.  He ended the series 5-14 with 12 points and 3 rebounds.  Not in a game, mind you...for the series.  It's not so much that you expect him to produce better than that in 36 total minutes spread over 6 games.  It's that you expect the Blazers to rely on him more than that.  The fact that they didn't shows you quite a bit about Channing's current status, if not his future.

If Channing does remain with the Blazers he'll have a hard time carving out playing time unless somebody gets injured.  He'll need to re-assert himself on the boards first and foremost.  He also needs to round out his offensive game more.  He'll never be an interior post player but he does need to show more than just the face-up 20-footer.

Even with the down season, Channing still has plenty of potential and a nice career ahead of him.  You could easily see him in a Joe Smith role.  In the right situation he'd be productive again immediately.  He could start for some teams and play a major role off the bench for more.

The Blazers are going to have multiple options with Channing as he's entering the fourth year of his rookie-scale contract.  One of the cardinal rules of good roster management is never lose something for nothing.  Even if the Blazers decide they don't have use for Channing's services they may not release him outright.  You may see an offer made and rescinded if a better option comes along during the summer.  You may see an offer made, accepted, and then a trade happen.  You may see an offer made and accepted for a single year of service after which Channing will be unrestricted.  It's almost certain, though, that even if the Blazers make a qualifying offer that Frye will want to test the waters of restricted free agency.  This situation is hardly ideal for him.  He'll at least want to look at what's out there.  Were I his agent I'd insist on it even if Channing had his heart set on staying in Portland for some reason.  I cannot imagine the Blazers matching any significant offer for him if one is made.

What's your take on the Frye situation?  Is being a really, really good guy with talent enough for you to want to keep him even if there's no room?  How much does it pain you to see him not play?  To consider him playing somewhere else?  What's his value to you and to the team?

See more stats at 82games.com and BasketballReference.com.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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