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In defense of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva

I admit, I was pretty excited when the Pistons signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva last summer. They were talented and young – an enticing combination. Sure, they had flaws, but they would at least upgrade Detroit’s aging core.

Instead, they turned the Pistons into a laughing stock – at least that’s the common perception.

I can’t remember one Daily Dime Live chat where I wasn’t asked about Gordon and Villanueva disappointing. “Do the Pistons regret signing Gordon and Villanueva?” Over and over and over.

My common response: “Probably a little, but mostly because of injuries – which is based on hindsight. I’m willing to call this year a wash and evaluate them next year.” I want to explain that thinking with a little more depth.

Whether Gordon and Villanueva will work out in Detroit is a complex question, and I plan to analyze the nuances throughout the summer. But here’s a simple case for why both players are better than performed this year, based on just six numbers for Gordon and five for Villanueva.

Ben Gordon

  • 40.5
  • 43.5
  • 41.3
  • 41.0
  • 41.0
  • 32.1

That’s Gordon’s 3-point percentage each year of his career.

The only other players to make at least 40 percent of their 3-pointers each season between 2004-05 and 2008-09: Raja Bell and Steve Nash. It’s a pretty exclusive club.

I really doubt Gordon forgot how to shoot 3s this year. I think this year, not the previous five, was the aberration.

It’s clear his injuries messed with his head. Gordon missed twice as many games this year as his previous high. He didn’t look comfortable on the court post-injury and showed no confidence in his shot.

Hopefully, a summer off will clear his head. Judging by Gordon’s strong play the last four games (26.5 points per game and making 44.8 percent of his 3s), he’s on the right track.

Charlie Villanueva

  • 13.5
  • 13.6
  • 15.0
  • 14.7
  • 12.0

Those are Villanueva’s rebounding percentages each year he’s been the league.

A knock on Villanueva has been he doesn’t do anything but shoot. He certainly has room to improve his all-around game, but he’s a pretty good rebounder.

I really think his plantar fasciitis prevented him from showing it this year. He just didn’t have the same lift or ability to move in the paint he showed early in the season.

Rebounding percentage usually doesn’t vary much for a player. For example, Andray Blatche has a career rebounding percentage of 13.8 in five seasons, same as Villanueva. His career low was a 12.6 as a rookie.

So, as with Gordon’s 3-point shooting, I think this year – not the previous four – is the aberration. Let Villanueva’s foot heal, then evaluate his rebounding.

Conclusion

Gordon and Villanueva are young and have plenty of room to grow. But Gordon is a good 3-point shooter and Villanueva can rebound – even if they didn’t show it this year. Add those major pieces to each of their game’s, and the signing won’t look so bad.

12 Comments

  • Apr 20, 201011:21 am
    by Chabvis

    Reply

    I definitely have not given up on Gordon, and I still have some hope for Charlie V as well. Originally I was not completely thrilled with the signings, but I was really excited about having Ben Gordon coming here because I have always been a big fan of his. At the time I had not seen Charlie V play a whole lot so I tried to reserve my judgment on him.
    As the season is now completed I have my doubts about Villanueva, but I think that Gordon will return to his old self next season. He played very well at the start of the year and everyone seems to have forgotten about it and he finished the year strongly too. Unfortunately I do not think that it is a coincidence that Gordon had his best parts of the season at the same time that Rip was out injured. I like Rip a lot and love what he did for the franchise, but if it means moving Rip this summer to get Gordon to play his best basketball then I would not think twice about doing it. It will obviously be pretty difficult to move Rip because of his contract, but if we can I think that it should be done to try and get Gordon back to his best.

    • Apr 21, 20102:39 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      I think starting late in the season was what Gordon needed to get back on track. But once his mind is right (not sure if it’s there yet), I think he’ll be OK coming off the bench.

  • Apr 20, 201011:42 am
    by brgulker

    Reply

    One thing that I try to keep in mind when evaluating Gordon is this: in spite of the drop in his 3PT%, his overall shooting (and hence scoring) efficiency is well within the range we’d expect if we look at the bigger picture of his career.
    Specifically, excluding this season, Ben Gordon has scored 1.24 points per shot attempt (career prior to this season, TS% .552, eFG% .500). This season, he scored 1.22 points per shot attempt (TS% .524, eFG% .470).  Yes, his shooting percentages dropped, but when compared with his complete body of work, it’s within what we might expect.
    There’s an upside and a downside there that can be argued, I think. Upside: He found to score points when his 3 wasn’t falling. Downside: If he  returns to form, the level of offensive efficiency we saw last season isn’t going to a dramatic departure from career norms (think in terms of law of averages).
    Every other statistical category is almost unchanged if you compare this season with previous season.
    The conclusion (which I view as a major, major problem going forward): Ben Gordon is what he is. Give him minutes and shot attempts, and you’re gonna get about 1.2 points for every shot he takes — which is good, not great — and very little else (not much D, not much creation for teammates, few assists and steals, about average TO’s).
     
    I understand the reluctance to evaluate after this disaster of a season. But honestly, when you look closely at the body of work and compare it to this season, you can see a drop in totals (fewer PPGs as a result of fewer shot attempts, e.g.), but you don’t see a radical drop in overall efficiency. I don’t see much reason to be hesitant about stating that.
     
    P.S.
    Some random comparables in terms of shooting efficiency, SGs who shoot 3′s and are highly paid — Rip, 1.19 pts/shot, Joe Johson, 1.15, Manu, 1.41, Jamal Crawford, 1.16, Vince Carter, 1.22

    • Apr 21, 20102:43 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      BRGulker, I think that’s a lot of great analysis. I didn’t realize Gordon had shot so much inside this year than he had done previously. But a majority of his shots still come from the outside, so I think it shows something isn’t right.

      This year was introverted from his usual production (more efficient inside than out, as opposed to vice versa).  I think that’s a sign you can’t say, “he is what he is.”

      If his 3-point shooting returns to his career average next year, I don’t necessarily think his inside shooting will remain as strong as it was this year. But it certainly could. That’ll be interesting to see how it plays out.

       

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  • Apr 22, 20101:31 pm
    by Kyle

    Reply

    i’m not going to give them a pass because they have one stat that they might live up to again at a later date. their deficiencies are far greater than just a down year for each in a specific category. and considering the lack of success with their previous clubs i might argue that simply being pressured to cover up some of their own glaring and inexcusable  inadequacies has taken it’s toll on things they previously put all of their focus. it’s easier to drain threes or get rebounds when that is the only part of the game you pay attention to.

  • Apr 25, 20108:08 am
    by Todd

    Reply

    ri
    W
     

  • Jul 8, 201012:36 am
    by joyce

    Reply

    Ben Gordon and Charlie V  are a good combination. I bet next year they will light it up. Maybe get a little better on defense but they are ok in my book and like both of them. We  need to keep Will Bynum for a backup point guard. But with the ridiculous signing of players BG  and CV was a steal. They were hurt so don’t count last season. Our team will be good. I expect them to be in the playoffs this season. Go Pistons.

  • Jul 8, 20106:12 pm
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Joyce, I’m not sure how much better Gordon can get on defense. He tries, he’s just not adept. Villanueva is a completely different story. He has potential to be much, much better.

  • […] expect to see: Nightmare on Helm Street commends Versus for a job well done (so far), and Piston Powered defends Charlie Villanueva and Ben […]

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