HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — When the Los Angeles Clippers engaged in a three-team trade that netted J.J. Redick from Milwaukee and Jared Dudley from Phoenix, it seemed like a great idea. The Clippers needed floor-spacers and accurate 3-point shooters around Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Then it became clear that Redick and Dudley, both mostly career backups, would be starters for a team with title aspirations. The 6-foot-4 Redick is essentially a one-trick pony, a sharpshooter, who was hitting just 35.9 percent of his long balls before fracturing his right hand. He played in 17 of the Clippers’ first 32 games and is expected to miss another two to four weeks.
Dudley has never averaged more than 12.7 ppg and his best statistical seasons from beyond the arc came as a 26-minute-or-less bench player with the Suns. So far as the Clippers’ starting small forward — he replaced the aging Caron Butler — he’s slogging through the worst shooting of his career — 43.6 percent overall and 34.1 percent from beyond the arc. He’s averaging 8.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg and 1.5 apg, numbers that rank near the bottom in every category for a starter at his position.
While the league’s general managers voted both Redick and Dudley as two of the most underrated moves during the offseason, Dudley also finished in a tie for third in the category: Which player makes the most of limited natural ability. If Dudley’s long ball isn’t falling, then his contribution to the team is going to be limited.
In the last five games, Dudley has logged more than 28 minutes once and is 4-for-19 from 3-point territory. The Clippers rank 26th in 3-point percentage (33.2) despite ranking seventh in the 3-point attempts per game (23.6).
“I don’t know why he’s not playing well, but we need him to play well,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers told the Los Angeles Times. “That [small forward] spot right now, it’s been hurting us a little bit. But Jared is still not healthy. He’s getting healthy. We’ve got to get him in better shape.”
Dudley is playing through tendinitis in his right knee, although it hasn’t caused him to miss any games. He told the Times that he’s playing at about 85 percent, but that he’s markedly better than the first 15 to 20 games.
He also knows he just hasn’t been playing well. A rough shooting stretch during the middle of the month, Dudley, a active and fan-friendly user on Twitter, actually apologized to Clippers fans:
During four consecutive wins from Dec. 16-22, Dudley knocked down 22 shots on 39 attempts and was 13-for-23 from downtown. In the last four games he’s just 9-for-26 from the floor. He has just eight points in the last three games, including being shut out at Portland.
The Clippers’ offensive efficiency is the same with Dudley off the floor as it is with him on the floor.
“When you’re a role guy, there are games when you’re not going to shoot that much,” Dudley told the Times. “One game I shot eight 3s. Some games you’re not going to shoot a 3, depending on the defense. You’ve got to be ready.”
As the starting small forward, and especially with Redick shelved for a few more weeks, Dudley’s point production from beyond the arc is critical for a team in a dead heat with Houston for the all-important fourth seed in the West.