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Player Report: Charlie Villanueva

Role

Regardless of who starts, Villanueva is Detroit’s top power forward. He’ll play big minutes.

His backups, Jason Maxiell and Chris Wilcox, haven’t played consistently enough to prove to Pistons coach John Kuester they deserve a lot of playing time.

Scouting report

Will: score in a variety of ways.

Villanueva likes to drive to the basket, which makes sense considering he’s usually quicker than the power forward guarding him. He’s not shy about launching 3-pointers, either. He has an ugly-looking hook shot when he’s inside that’s fairly effective. And he’ll take a few mid-range jumpers, too.

Won’t: keep the ball moving.

Many have compared Villanueva to Rasheed Wallace because of their similar outside-inside offensive game and length. But passing is a key difference between the two.

Detroit could run its offense through Wallace because he was such an able and willing passer. Give him the ball in the high post, and he’d hit cutters in stride.

Villanueva hasn’t shown anywhere near that ability.

There might be some about concerns Villanueva’s willingness to pass (see Jeremy Schmidt’s “In other words” below). But I think the biggest issue is his ability to do so effectively.

Must improve: his defensive footwork.

Villanueva leads the Pistons with 3.2 fouls per game. But a lot of those are easily avoidable.

The biggest key for him has been moving his feet. Villanueva gets in stretches when he’s on heels and just reaches to help on drivers. Obviously, that ends up in a lot of fouls.

When he’s active and moving his feet, he’s actually a pretty good defender. He just needs to do it all the time.

Stock

Falling

Villanueva missed most of the preseason with an injury, and his rust showed early in the year. He got in a groove for a while. But now he’s battling plantar fasciitis, and even though he’s playing through it, he’s extremely limited.

Three predictions

1. Villanueva will have the best defensive year of his career.

Playing for Scott Skiles last season certainly set the defensive tone for Villanueva. With Kuester also emphasizing defense, I think Villanueva has bought in.

I’m not sure Villanueva has the lateral quickness to be a great defender, but he has the length to be a good one.

Playing next to Ben Wallace won’t hurt, either. Villanueva had to play center at times in Milwaukee, even guarding Dwight Howard once. But he shouldn’t have to face matchups like that with Detroit.

2. He will have a tweet that makes news.

I’m not sure if it will be intentional (like the follower contest with Chris Bosh this summer) or unintentional (like the halftime tweet). But I think Villanueva will have a news-worthy tweet this year.

Villanueva straddles the line of completely understanding Twitter’s impact and being naive about it. Just look at these quotes from before the season:

“Twitter is all fun and games. It’s a way to stay connected with the fans. I think the fans deserve that. And I have a good time doing it.”

“(On the halftime tweet:) The crazy thing is I didn’t even mean for it to get that much of attention.”

“I don’t know how it happened, but Coach Skiles called me into the office and, ‘What’s this about?’ I was like, ‘Whoa, how did he know about this?’ ”

“Some people didn’t know who Charlie Villanueva was, but they know now.”

“It’s cool. It doesn’t hurt me at all. The more attention, I guess the better. Marketing your self — you’ve got to brand who you are. So, the Twitter incident definitely helped me out.”

I’m not sure which of the line Villanueva will fall on. He might let emotions get the best of him at some point, or he might have a tweet designed to get attention. Either way, I bet he tweets something news-worthy.

3. He will start more games than he comes off the bench.

Villanueva has started 16-of-28 games so far this year, but he’s been coming off the bench lately. For a couple reasons, I think he’ll return to the starting lineup.

1. Maxiell and Wilcox just don’t offer that much. They’re not special offensively or defensively. They’re not young players who need to be force-fed minutes. Anything they do would be just as, if not more, effective off the bench.

2. With Ben Gordon and Will Bynum coming off the bench, I don’t think the second unit will lack a scoring punch.

That said, when Tayshaun Prince returns, Jonas Jerebko could be a threat to start at power forward. But I’m not convinced Prince will return soon. And I think Jerebko’s high-energy game is a good fit off the bench.

In other words

Jeremy Schmidt of Bucksketball kindly wrote about Charlie Villanueva for us. After seeing a bit of Villanueva with the Pistons, I think I mostly agree with Jeremy’s assessment.

There are a lot of things to like about Charlie Villanueva. He’s funny, his cup seem to overfloweth with offensive skills, he’s athletic, he seems to be capable of being a good passer, and he dresses well. The thing is, as many things as there are to like about Charlie Villanueva, there is one thing which offsets so many of his great basketball skills, and for some reason I didn’t realized until I saw someone else suit up in his position for the Bucks.

He’s a ball hog.

Possessions come to Charlie Villanueva to die. But I don’t blame Chuck V. for this. Last year, he was responsible for scoring points in bunches after Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut went down. He was one of the Bucks only true scoring threats left along with Richard Jefferson.

The problem is, Chuck V. isn’t excessively gifted at scoring quickly or with great ease. His primary weapon by the end of the year seemed to be trailing on a slow to develop fast break and breaking out his three point shot from near the top of the key. By season’s end, he was converting this more often than not, but that still didn’t always make it efficient offense.

Quick decisive decisions never appeared to be Villanueva’s strong suit. He seemed to frequently hold the ball for a few seconds after he got it on the wing before making his move to the basket. This bogs down offenses and makes him easier to defend.

Although his PER ranked 11th among power forwards last year, there is still light years difference between him and the best (and most complete) power forwards in the game.

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