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Jared Dudley records fourth straight DNP in Suns’ loss to Jazz

Dec 31, 2016, 8:47 PM | Updated: Jan 12, 2017, 5:56 pm

Phoenix Suns' Jared Dudley watches as the final seconds wind down during an NBA basketball game aga...

Phoenix Suns' Jared Dudley watches as the final seconds wind down during an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, in Phoenix. The Timberwolves defeated the Suns 98-85. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley was starting at power forward at the beginning of his second stint with the franchise this season.

Early in the season, rookie power forward Marquese Chriss was moved into the starting lineup in place of Dudley, a move that benefitted both players, most notably Dudley, who played his best basketball of the season after his move to the bench.

That made it a surprise when in what appears to be a move to get rookie forward Dragan Bender more playing time, Dudley has not played a minute since the Dec. 23 game against the Philadelphia 76ers. He recorded his fourth straight DNP-CD  in Phoenix’s 91-86 loss to the Utah Jazz.

Bender has averaged 21.5 minutes per game in the four-game stretch after playing only 11 minutes per game before the move, including 7 DNP’s of his own. The rookie has played well, but that doesn’t explain why Dudley is completely out of the rotation, and the move was not cleared up in the Suns’ latest visit home for their 99-91 win over the Toronto Raptors Thursday.

Head coach Earl Watson was asked if Dudley specifically will be the one moving out of the rotation to make room for Bender before the game.

“It’s the four position, he’s our only four,” Watson said before the game Thursday. “It is what it is. It’s the NBA, everyone’s alright. We all live a nice life.”

It’s unclear as to what Watson meant by the comment besides Dudley being the power forward to make way for Bender. Dudley did not speak after the game.

The 31-year-old has been one of the most consistent players on the team.

Prior to Saturday’s game, Dudley had the best assist ratio on the team outside of point guards Eric Bledsoe and Tyler Ulis, and the Suns’ worst defensive rating — the amount of points a team allows per 100 possessions — when one specific player is off the court is when Dudley is on the bench, over four points higher than the team’s defensive rating when he’s on the floor.

He’s the best three-point shooter on the team, shooting 44.4 percent on 3.4 attempts a game. The four forwards currently in the rotation ahead of Dudley — Chriss, Bender, P.J. Tucker and T.J. Warren — were shooting a combined 32 percent entering Saturday’s game.

The veteran’s positive play, however, wasn’t enough to avoid being taken out of the rotation and it remains a mystery as to why Dudley is not playing any minutes at all.

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Jared Dudley records fourth straight DNP in Suns’ loss to Jazz