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Rodney Stuckey rarely dunks when he goes inside and other thoughts on the point guard’s future with the Detroit Pistons

A lot of interesting points were brought up in the comments for last week’s post on Rodney Stuckey’s free-throw attempts, and I want to flesh out some of them. Consider this a continuation to that post.

Stuckey is the best chance

Do I think Stuckey can be the player on a championship contender? Yes. Do I think he will be? No.

But if the Pistons are going to become a championship contender at some point, somebody will have to be the best player on that team. And I think Stuckey is the best chance in sight.

I don’t anyone on the team now is more likely to fill that role.

I don’t think any realistic free agents are more likely to fill that role.

And unless Detroit moves up in the lottery, I don’t think anyone available with the seventh pick will be more likely to fill that role. (I believe John Wall, Evan Turner, DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, Wesley Johnson and Greg Monroe will be off the board.)

Stuckey doesn’t dunk much

Rodney Stuckey dunked just five times last year, according to CBSSports.com. That ranks him 242nd of 442 players.

DaJuan Summers dunked more. Thirty-seven-year-old Juwan Howard dunked more. Chris Richard, who made as many shots this season as Stuckey’s single-game career high, dunked more.

What’s most perplexing (troubling?) is Stuckey went inside so often. He led the Pistons in shots at the rim (408) and ranked 25th in the league and fifth among point guards.

Stuckey dunked on 1.2 percent of his shots at the rim. The average player makes a dunk on 13.5 percent of his shots at the rim.

Who deserves blame?

Maybe Stuckey’s lack of dunks and low field-goal percentage at the rim (.493) can be attributed to the Pistons’ poor 3-point shooting. Detroit’s lack of perimeter threats allows opposing defenses to pack the lane and defend Stuckey.

Or does Stuckey’s inability to drive to the rim effectively allow teams to defend the perimeter better?

I think it’s a combination of both, with more blame lying with Detroit’s poor outside shooting.

I looked at each team’s leader in shots at the rim among guards and small forwards. I charted their field-goal percentage at the rim against their teammates’ 3-point percentage (which is slightly flawed because it accounts for all 3-pointers, not just when the shots-at-rim leader is on the court – but I think it still serves the point).image

Stuckey’s teammates shot worse from beyond the arc than any other player plotted. But he still didn’t shoot as well at the rim as would be expected.

Hopefully, Ben Gordon and the rest of the Pistons shoot better on 3-pointers next season. That would help us learn a lot about Stuckey. Plus, it would make Detroit better.


  • May 12, 20108:50 am
    by brgulker


    VERY interesting analysis. Thanks for doing this. Given the huge number of minutes Stuck played this season, I would doubt the results are skewed too much, even though you’re tracking all 3 point attempts. Nice job.

    • May 13, 20103:24 am
      by Dan Feldman


      Thanks. That was the hope, that since these guys played enough to lead their teams in shots at the rim, they were on the floor for most 3-point attempts.

  • May 12, 20101:08 pm
    by Jubilee



    i appreciate the work and thought that went into this, but i think you’re confused as to the causation here. the reason stuckey is utterly impotent when he makes it to the rim is that once he penetrates he always does the same thing: tries to finish soft at the right side. no dunks, no drop-offs to a big man, and certainly no kick-outs. everybody on the floor, in the arena, at home knows what this kid’s going to do when he’s penetrating. no matter how good out three-point shooting is, it’s no use if he never ever kicks out after penetrating. it’s easy to guard someone when you know exactly what they’re going to do every single time they get in the lane. every time. without exception. one of the many instances of bad decision making on the part of the guy we’re letting run our offense. why does anyone think he’s a PG?


    • May 12, 20101:14 pm
      by Jubilee


      should say “our” three-point shooting up there. also, have you considered that our three-point shooting would be higher if stuckey actually tried passing for once after he penetrated and drew five defenders. this kid could get his teammates so many open looks if he had a fraction of the instincts it takes to run an offense. but he doesn’t.

      • May 13, 20103:27 am
        by Dan Feldman


        You’re definitely right. That’s part of the equation. Detroit’s 3-point shooting affected Stuckey at the rim, and Stuckey at the rim affected Detroit’s 3-point shooting.

        Until one improves independently, it will be tough to tell which plays a bigger role.

  • May 12, 20102:18 pm
    by nuetes


    I agree that the bad 3-point shooting percentage does correlate, but it maybe explains about a 10th of it. I mean wouldn’t the team shoot better if they were getting wide open looks, aka Stuckey dishing the ball on drives. Or wouldn’t Stuckey’s rim percentage be better if the defense didn’t know exactly what he was going to do when he drives? He doesn’t dish – so they don’t respect it – so they pack the paint without hesitation. They don’t have to worry about getting burnt on a pass out by Stuckey because its so rare. Then he goes to the paint strong, but doesn’t go up to the rim strong. It makes no sense.
    Still if Stuckey is our best hope, as you say, then we have no hope. I mean yeah its obvious we don’t have a player good enough to even come close to remotely leading this team to the championship, heck maybe not even to the playoffs. Just not a talented team. We need to find that player. Somehow. Anyhow. And that should be the only goal right now. Maybe the lotto will be good to us, it needs to be.

    • May 13, 20103:30 am
      by Dan Feldman


      I think that’s why it makes sense to push forward with Stuckey (barring a lopsided trade that’s probably not possible or moving up in the lottery). If Stuckey is the answer, you have the answer. If he’s not, you’ll be in the lottery again, and that’s the easiest and quickest way to land an impact player.

  • May 12, 20106:31 pm
    by DaveG


    Chauncey Billups rarely dunked in 2004, give Stuck a break. Dunking is overrated.

    • May 12, 20107:53 pm
      by nuetes


      the lack of dunking isn’t the problem. its just part of the equation that goes into the fact stuckey shoots 49% on layups. thats the concern. not necessarily the lack of dunks – its the lack of strong finishes period. i’m not sure the league average on layups but it has to be around 60% or better. if stuckey was average think how much better his 40% field goal percentage would look. seeing as how stuckey was top 15 in shots at the rim this year though that 49% holds quite a bit of weight. you can’t say its a small sample size or just an anomaly. it has to be a real concern.

    • May 13, 20103:31 am
      by Dan Feldman


      Billups had a completely different skill set. For someone who attacks the rim as aggressively as Stuckey and has Stuckey’s athleticism, it’s a little troubling.

  • May 13, 20108:31 am
    by Travis


    Some players just don’t dunk as much, even if it seems they can.  I’ve seen him do some amazing dunks and then I’ve see him settle for lay ups when he has an opening.  Maybe a few years ago when Shaq put him on the floor when Stuckey tried to dunk is in the back of his mind. — The game where Shaq was ejected and kind of pushed Terry Porter.
    Playing Point Guard for Stuckey might be too restraining for him, his mental focus isn’t on scoring (or dunking) and he seems like he tries to do things that he feels like he must do in order to play PG.  And I think he played best his rookie year when he had no pressure at Shooting Guard, with Billups setting him up.
    I have a question… Since the general consensus is that the Pistons most likely wont get a PG in the draft, Do you think it is possible that (crazy thought) the Pistons could trade back for Billups?  The chance that Denver would do the same the Pistons did and trade him because they have Lawson, the seemingly future Point Guard. Denver’s coaching staff in question (hopefully not) and Alvin Gentry may not mesh well with Billups.  But I think the perfect sitiuation would be giving up, Rip or Tay or heck Charlie V or Ben Gordon….I would give up any of those players for him, maybe just one of them however… Do you think it is at all plausible?

    • May 13, 20101:47 pm
      by Dan Feldman


      I think Stuckey played his best last year as a shooting guard next to Chucky Atkins. Funny thing was he actually distributed well from that spot. I think you’re right. His

      And that’s a very intriguing about trading for Billups. I’d say the most likely way Billups returns is as a free agent after next season if the Nuggets commit to Lawson.

      As far as a trade, I imagine Prince’s expiring contract would likely be involved. And I think Stuckey’s height, strength and ability to drive would complement Lawson perfectly. (If only Detroit had drafted Lawson last year…) It would take more to get Denver to bite, but those two would probably be the centerpieces.

      • May 14, 20102:12 pm
        by Travis


        Yeah too bad they didn’t draft Lawson.  Or too bad they didn’t do that trade in the offseason: Tay, Rip, Stuckey for Ray Allen, Big Baby and Rondo… I was opposed of it at the time, but in hindsight it would have been one of the greatest trades in Piston history.

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