Archive → August, 2010
After signing as a free agent last season, Charlie Villanueva had an up and down season to say the least. Painful injuries (broken nose and plantar fasciitis) severely limited his production in February and March, but it’s not like Villanueva’s season was without highlights:
- In a five game stretch in November, Villanueva averaged 27 points and 6 rebounds per game while shooting 60 percent from the field and 43 percent from three.
- In a six game stretch in December, he averaged 19 points and 6 rebounds per game while shooting 55 percent from the field and 41 percent from three.
- In a five game stretch in January, he averaged 18 points and 7 rebounds per game while shooting 54 percent from the field and 43 percent from three.
- In a six game stretch in April, he averaged 15 points and 5 rebounds per game while shooting 52 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.
Those 22 games (of the 78 he played in) represent more than a quarter of his season. The story with Villanueva has always been inconsistency, and last season was the perfect example — those above highlighted stretches of great offensive play were offset by 29 games in which Villanueva shot less than 30 percent, so despite those stretches of really good production, he still finished with either career lows or near career lows in points per game, rebounds per game, shooting percentage and minutes played.
Many Pistons fans grew frustrated with the inconsistency, particularly while he was struggling in February and March, and spent the offseason questioning the signing, so those fans ready to close the book on Villanueva probably weren’t super excited by this post by Keith Langlois entitled ‘Rarin’ to Go’ (brief sidebar: Seriously, someone needs to teach Pistons.com some Search Engine Optimization):
“That’s my mentality – to be a starter,” Villanueva said after a heavy workout Monday following a weekend spent celebrating his 26th birthday with friends and family. “But at the same time, I don’t want it to be given to me. I want to earn it. I believe I can be a starter in this league. I’ve done it before. When we get closer to training camp, I would like to sit down with (Kuester) and just share thoughts, expectations for my role, and just take it from there.”
At the risk of becoming the ‘lineup changes the Pistons will never consider‘ guy, I agree 100 percent that Villanueva should be the starting power forward next season.
From a skills standpoint, I love the diversity and unorthodox nature of Villanueva’s game. But him joining the starting lineup has less to do with what he can bring to the table (after all, he’ll have big scoring games whether he starts or comes of the bench) and more to do with what Ben Wallace brings to the lineup. A Villanueva-Wallace duo in the starting lineup offers much more balance than Wallace paired with incumbent starter Jonas Jerebko.
I’ve long believed that the two would compliment each other well. Here’s what I wrote last season on Full-Court Press:
Maybe if he’s (Villanueva) playing next to a guy (Wallace) with really good defensive instincts, he won’t have to worry as much about defense. If his guy gets inside him, Wallace is always there with help. It’s subtle, but it could take some pressure off.
That post was written when Villanueva was struggling and coach John Kuester had a quick hook for him, but the theory still holds true: Wallace’s greatest strengths are his defense, energy, his passing ability, offensive rebounding and ability to make cuts to the basket on offense. His greatest weaknesses are the ability to create his own shot and score. Villanueva’s greatest strength is his ability to score with a really diverse offensive repertoire. He struggles on defense with reaction time on help defense and holding his position against strong post players.
But it’s not just my OCD and weird need for pairing things up that make me crave a Villanueva/Wallace combo. When they were on the court together last season, the Pistons were actually a bit better offensively and defensively.
Here are some numbers with both on the floor (thanks to Dan Feldman and Basketball Value for compiling):
- Minutes: 810.34
- Pace: 88.4
- Offensive Rating (points scored per 100 possessions): 108.5
- Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions): 109.5
Now compare to the overall numbers for the team for the season:
- Pace: 88.5 (basically the same)
- Offensive Rating: 105.6 (worse)
- Defensive Rating: 111.4 (worse)
Playing Wallace big minutes with Jerebko seems redundant — they both do similar things (albeit Jerebko is not the rebounder, shot-blocker, defender or passer that Wallace is) by making hustle plays, bringing energy, getting on the offensive glass, etc. Also, neither is good at creating their own shot, so if Jerebko starts, the Pistons are starting two guys in the frontcourt who will not be a threat to score, allowing other teams to focus more attention on the team’s scoring options.
By all accounts, Villanueva has worked extremely hard to get in better shape this offseason. It remains to be seen whether that leads to a change in the all-or-nothing inconsistency he showed last season, but at the very least, even if his shot isn’t falling, teams have to guard him out to the three-point line and he will be able to take advantage of many defenders with his ability to post up.
Jerebko absolutely earned a key role on this year’s team after a productive rookie season, but moving him to the second unit allows him to play a Wallace-like role for however that group shakes out. He’d probably be paired in the frontcourt with a better offensive player (Greg Monroe), he’d have the advantage of going against second unit bigs who he could stand a better chance at guarding effectively than some of the starting caliber post players who are too strong for him and he’d be playing with a collection of guys who like to shoot but can also pass (Will Bynum, Ben Gordon and Tracy McGrady), giving him ample opportunity to crash the offensive glass and move without the ball for easy buckets.
As I’ve written numerous times, I haven’t given up on this collection of Pistons talent turning into a semi-decent outfit. There are legitimate question marks when it comes to health and rotation. I also have serious questions about whether or not John Kuester can mold his very traditional offensive system to fit guys like Villanueva, Gordon, Rodney Stuckey, Bynum and Monroe who all have non-traditional skills that don’t neatly fit into typical historical positional definitions.
Villanueva is paid like a starting player. He’s shown flashes of great productivity and versatility on offense. If he does the right things — and if this summer is any indication, he is doing the right things — and has a good camp, pairing him with Wallace in the starting lineup could simultaneously strengthen the first and second units.
"I loved working in the front office, where I was in charge of issuing fines, among other things. This was during the Pistons and all the Bad Boy stuff. They gave me no choice; I had to fine them a few times. One day the Pistons were in New York to play the Knicks, and the NBA offices are located in Midtown. I was out to lunch when Ricky Mahorn and Bill Laimbeer came by the office. They had a very professional-looking sign with them, and they super-glued it to my door. And the sign said: ‘This office was furnished through fines paid for by the Detroit Pistons.’ Well, we couldn’t get the sign off. We tried almost everything, but that thing was super-glued tight. Finally we got it off, and it made a big hole in the door.
"While I worked in the league office, I’d gone to a game in Detroit; I used to play for the Pistons back in the 1960s. I’m sitting near the court, and during the game on the overhead scoreboard they had a question — such-and-such played for Detroit at a certain time. I really wasn’t paying attention. All of a sudden, I hear the crowd booing and I said to myself, what the heck is that all about? Well, they were booing me. I was the answer to the question. I wasn’t too popular there.
"Another time in Detroit, I was sitting a few rows up, and with about a minute left in the game, a guy walks by and says, ‘You’re a [bleep].’ I don’t say anything, I just let him keep walking. And then this older lady, who’s sitting in front of me, turns around and says, ‘That guy is right. You are a [bleep].’
"I was with Horace Balmer, the director of security, and he says, ‘I’m never sitting here with you again.’"
I don’t care who wrote it. The Free Press should be embarrassed to have published it.
Baseless prediction: Will Bynum is going to be the Detroit Pistons’ starting point guard by season’s end
A lot of people are going to read that headline and assume this is a rant about Rodney Stuckey. It isn’t (Laser will handle that in the comments).
Stuckey is a fine NBA player who I think is perfectly suited to backup both guard spots and get about 30ish combined minutes per game off the bench for virtually any team. If the Pistons cleared a guard (preferably Rip Hamilton, but whoever is more movable between he and Ben Gordon) out of the equation, I’d love for him to fill that role in Detroit. Stuckey plays hard, he’s tough, he has the tools to be a great perimeter defender, he’s very good at getting to the basket (even if his finishing needs work), he improved at drawing contact and getting to the line last year and while he’s not a pure point guard, he can competently man the position for a good team in limited minutes. I would never be ashamed to have Rodney Stuckey on my favorite team.
But I think the Stuckey-as-full-time point guard experiment has run its course. Perhaps in a different system or with different players, Stuckey could excel as a starting point guard playing big minutes. But as the roster is constructed, with the coaching philosophy that’s in place, Stuckey isn’t going to find that situation in Detroit.
Thankfully, the Pistons have an in-house solution: Will Bynum.
This isn’t the first time I’ve broached the topic of Bynum as the team’s better option as a starting PG. The genesis of that belief lies in Bynum’s background: he’s a Joe Dumars-kind-of-guy.
Let’s face it … even for a guy like myself who’s a pretty regular supporter of Dumars, I can face some basic facts: Dumars has made some moves lately that haven’t worked out spectacularly, and he seems to be in a bit of a slump, lacking a clear vision. It happens to the best of us. Human nature is to stagnate, to lose focus, to need something to help make you remember what made you successful in the first place. I believe Bynum is that memory-jarrer for Dumars.
The Pistons 2004 title team, and quasi-dynasty in the 2000s, was built upon picking up under-the-radar talents, castaways, guys with talent who were misunderstood or didn’t fit elsewhere, and most importantly, guys who felt they had something to prove or were openly hostile about teams giving up on them early in their careers. Check out his quote from Bynum:
“I don’t think for one second that the money I’m making makes me a reserve. I just want to clear that up from the beginning. I think that the money that I’m making gives me the opportunity to excel, and I’m trying to do it.”
That sounds like a guy who has something to prove. Bynum was undrafted while luminaries like Travis Diener, Alex Acker, Roko Ukic and Orien Green managed to get picked. He had to play overseas before getting a NBA shot. He had to flee a night club in Tel Aviv because his brother got stabbed. The man knows adversity.
Dan Feldman has already chronicled some of Bynum’s defensive limitations, but this is another reason it makes some sense for him to play with the first unit. With Ben Wallace in the middle, that will make opposing guys less likely to penetrate, so having a weaker perimeter defender paired with Wallace won’t be as big a factor as it would be if Bynum were on the second unit with Charlie Villanueva and Chris Wilcox protecting the rim.
Offensively, Bynum is far from a perfect point guard, but he does two things better than Stuckey: he’s much better at passing out of traffic than Stuckey and, despite being shorter, is a more explosive and craftier finisher. If the roster stays as-is, it’s a good bet that Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince will be starting, along with Wallace. Several players could vie for the PF spot, but I’d wager that based on his contract, if Villanueva comes into camp aggressive and in shape, he’ll be given every opportunity to seize that spot.
A common argument in Pistons land is that Hamilton plays better next to a pure point. Bynum isn’t what I’d call a pure point, but he’s a little purer than Stuckey.
Prince, for all of the criticisms he receives (pipe down Laser), actually had good numbers the last quarter of last season, particularly from three-point range. From Ball Don’t Lie’s Kelly Dwyer:
This could be a huge stretch for Prince, but a good part of this ranking is spurred on by the way he finished the season. Prince averaged well over 15 points per game in the season’s last three months, shooting a good percentage and bringing the usual stout D. He also hit around 40 percent of his 3-pointers during that run …
If Prince continues to shoot the three near that clip, if Villanueva and his long-range threat are in the lineup, and if Hamilton is more in line with his 35 percent career three-point shooting than the 29 percent mark he put up last year, those guys should provide sufficient space for Bynum to operate and get inside, while taking advantage of his ability to drive and kick by knocking down open looks.
Stuckey, meanwhile, gets to play on the second unit with some combo of Ben Gordon, Austin Daye, Tracy McGrady, Jonas Jerebko and Greg Monroe (and occasionally Jason Maxiell and Wilcox). He’s also surrounded by shooters (Gordon, Daye and McGrady), but more importantly, has several guys who will want to get out and run with him.
The other advantage to viewing Bynum as a long-term piece and potential starter is cost. Bynum’s extension is really reasonable for a starter. Financial bargains were a common theme of Dumars’ early Pistons teams. Chauncey Billups and Ben Wallace, the two best players on the 2004 title team, made about $10 million combined. With Dumars’ recent contracts to Gordon, Hamilton and Villanueva, he’s gotten away from that bargain shopper, search-for-hidden-value philosophy that made him so great in the first place. Bynum could be a return to that thinking, both in cost and attitude.
If Bynum stays healthy and is as productive in 25-30 minutes a game as his per-minute numbers suggest he could be, he’d be a great asset as a reliable starter. The Pistons don’t have much financial flexibility in the quest to get better. They have serious deficiencies at center and point guard. The best hope for the Pistons to take a big leap and contend would be Bynum winning the job and supplanting Stuckey as a starter. That becomes one less position Dumars needs to worry about upgrading immediately, and if Bynum can prove to be a reliable starter for the next three years at his cost, it means the Pistons don’t have to extend Stuckey should he prove to be too pricey and the savings on the PG position can be invested in shoring up other weaknesses.
I like a good portion of the talent on the Pistons roster while at the same time having serious reservations about how it all fits together. With the contractual obligations and the difficulty the team could encounter trying to move some of those pricey deals, solutions have to come from within, and with his work ethic, it’s not hard to envision Bynum becoming at least a reliable full-time player. If he can do that, it will make sorting out who stays and who goes much easier for Dumars.
When the Pistons traded Chauncey Billups to the Nuggets, the rumor was they asked for Carmelo Anthony before settling on Allen Iverson. With ESPN’s Ric Bucher reporting a Melo-Nuggets split is inevitable, my guess is Joe Dumars will make a play for Melo.
Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company solicited offers for Melo and ranked them. On behalf of the Pistons, Patrick and I offered Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stuckey, Austin Daye and a lottery-protected first-round pick.
The Pistons offer didn’t entice Wagner, as he put it in the win-later category and wrote:
Prince is a decent player, but I am not sure how Stuckey would fit in Denver and Daye is a long way from contributing. If the first round pick was not lottery protected this trade would be more appealing, but it is difficult to fault Dan for not making a better offer when there is no chance Carmelo stays in Detroit after this season.
I didn’t expect Wagner to love that offer, but we couldn’t justify the Pistons giving up more because it’s likely Melo would leave Detroit after the season.
Is there a reasonable offer for Melo you think the Pistons could make?
First of all, and most importantly, that’s pretty cool and nothing but a good sign about Terrico White’s chances of NBA success. But before anyone gets too excited, I think it’s an appropriate time to point out recent Slam Dunk Contest winners include Gerald Green and Fred Jones.
Stuckey is what Stuckey is. He’s yet to find a balance between acting as a scoring point guard or passing point man, and the unfortunate truth behind those two aspects of his game is that he’s not particularly adept at either. Hardly the return Joe Dumars had in mind when he staved off rebuilding, re-signed Richard Hamilton(notes), and brought in Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.
That blurb was part of Ball Don’t Lie‘s positional rankings, which has Stuckey 29th on the list of the league’s top 30 point guards. I actually agree partially with Dwyer’s assessment — Stuckey basically is what he is at this point. I just happen to think what he is is not worse than what Mike Conley (27th), Jarrett Jack (24th) or Ramon Sessions (22nd) are.
I’ve been a bit like a teenage girl in my coverage of Stuckey over the last couple years. I hate him. I love him. I hate him. I’m so confused. Now I’m at the point where I’ve matured more in my view of things. He’s not a perfect point guard by any stretch. He gets in the lane at will, but is a poor finisher. He’s only an adequate passer when he plays slower, but playing slower limits his best offensive trait, his quickness. He doesn’t have a reliable jump shot past 15 feet. Those are all things that I think the Pistons were banking on him improving when he was drafted, and he hasn’t really improved any of those things much.
But focusing on what he hasn’t become better at does overlook one area where he has shown improvement: defense. Stuckey is a strong and quick defender, and although as a unit the Pistons were terrible defensively last season, Stuckey did show the potential to become a potential lockdown guy on the perimeter if they can foster a belief in defense among other guys on the roster not named Jerebko or Wallace.
I also think his offensive numbers would’ve been better had the team been healthy. Often, Stuckey shot too much because he found himself on the court with three or four guys at a time who couldn’t really score. If you have one guy on the court who can get his own shot, the defense is going to figure that out and cheat, which often resulted in some terrible shooting efforts. A more talented lineup on the court will mean a more efficient Stuckey.
While he’s not the Chauncey Billups-in-the-making Joe Dumars may have been convinced he was getting, Stuckey is not completely devoid of PG skills. He’s not an unwilling passer. His court vision and decision-making often leave something to be desired, but he’s also not a ‘get-mine’ type of player. If he can make a play for someone else, he will.
The fact is, whether you believe Stuckey is teeming with potential or hopelessly miscast as a starting caliber player, the criticisms like those above are going to be out in force this season until he begins to shoot a better percentage and make smarter plays with the ball. Point guard or not, he’s the only option the Pistons have for the position. He can do enough PG-like things to show that he’s better than the 29th best player at his position, it’s just a matter of proving it for an entire season.
The Pistons might become a fashionable pick, even if Tracy McGrady isn’t a factor. Detroit has talented players — it just needs some of them to step up and stop underperforming (looking at you, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva). The Pistons are a bit young. But if point guards Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum perform well, their defense gives effort and if Joe Dumars can resolve the Tayshaun Prince situation, they could find themselves in the playoff picture.
So, that’s the good news. The bad news – unless you’re like LeBron James and keeping a list of everyone who slights you – is the Pistons didn’t get any actual votes for Team Turnaround. (But they got one for Team Turmoil.)
Two more potential Detroit Pistons buyers with Michigan ties emerge: Tom Gores and some guy named Earvin
Mike Illitch announcing his interest in owning the Detroit Pistons might make him the sentimental favorite among fans, but it looks like he won’t be the only one making a run at buying the team.
The good news? A couple rumored suitors today both have Michigan ties, meaning it’s looking more and more likely an owner will emerge who won’t want to move the team.
First up, Tom Gores, a businessman who lives in California but once called Genesee, Michigan, (just outside of Flint) home. From the Flint Journal’s me (after I shamelessly ripped it from the Detroit News):
Gores replied to inquiries from The Detroit News through a spokesperson, stating, "We don’t discuss whether or not we’re considering potential transactions and we don’t comment on market rumors, even when they’re incorrect."
Some background on Gores: he’s worth $2.2 billion according to Forbes, he coaches youth soccer, and he’s a self-made man who grew up in a working class family.
Johnson’s potential interest seems a bit more tepid, but it’s interest none the less. From NBA.com:
"Somebody back there has to be the majority owner," Johnson told NBA.com. "That wouldn’t be me. But if Ilitch or somebody — you’ve got a good guy back there already in Joe Dumars. If somebody said, ‘Hey, can you come and think about helping Joe Dumars?’ then I would think about it."
Well, Dumars, it seems wouldn’t object to such a move. But that has it’s own complications — Johnson owns a minority share of the L.A. Lakers, which he’d first have to sell. And with all of his other business interests, along with the above comment, it seems that Johnson isn’t too interested in having a big role in the day-to-day grind.
My take with Magic: he’s not that serious. Not that he’s dishonest, he’s just an affable guy who loves to talk, and "sure, why not, I’d love to help buy the Pistons." He’s from Michigan, but he’s a L.A. guy now. It would be really hard for me to believe he’d give up his ownership stake in the Lakers, not that I’d complain if he really did.