During preseason and training camp, no one looked more polished and ready for the regular season than Suns swingman Jared Dudley.
Highlighted by a 33-point performance during the intra-squad scrimmage at training camp, the years of experience in the Suns’ system, his understanding of head coach Alvin Gentry’s demands and an offseason of training seemed like it was about to pay immediate dividends.
However, JD mysteriously got out of the gates slowly this season. In his first 11 games as a starter, Dudley averaged 8.5 points on 43-percent shooting from the field and 32-percent shooting from behind the arc.
Besides coming off a solid preseason and training camp, his drop in production was also coming on the heels of his best season as a pro. In 2011-12, the 6-7 swingman averaged a career high in points (12.7) for a third-straight season.
In his first full season as a starter, he was the team’s second-leading scorer and shot a career-high from the field (48.5 percent) for the second-straight season. This is on top of all of the intangibles – like hustle, positivity and leadership – that he already provides.
But without Dudley’s offense clicking and reserve shooting guard Shannon Brown providing a solid scoring punch off the bench, Gentry moved JD to the bench for nine games. With the second unit, he began to find the hot hand, shooting 50.8 percent from the field, 53.6 percent from three-point range and increasing his scoring average to 9.6 points a game.
Since returning to the starting lineup, the former Boston College Eagle has averaged 12.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, four assists, and 1.67 steals on 52-percent from the field and 36-percent shooting from three. In fact, in two of his three games since returning to the starting lineup, JD has totaled 15 or more points.
Before that, he only scored 15 or more points in two of his first 20 games this season. Now, Dudley has scored in double figures in five of his last six games and six of his last eight games overall.
On Wednesday, JD posted his best game of the season by racking up 15 points, nine rebounds (six offensive), five assists and three steals. In one of his brightest moments of the season, he came through the lane and elevated over the Grizzlies’ defense for a strong two-handed dunk.
Maybe that was his way of announcing that he’s back on track.