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Charlie Villanueva is turning into a bargain for the Pistons

Charlie Villanueva‘s first year in Detroit was not a smooth one. He didn’t exactly fit the profile of the surly, brawny power forwards Detroit fans are accustomed to with his easy-breazy personality, and many people mistook the fact that Villanueva is a laid back, nice guy for him being a ‘soft’ player.

As his offseason spent in Detroit working out and his first 11 games this season have proven, Villanueva is far from soft. In fact, his presence on the team might be the single most exciting thing in a season filled with in-fighting, up and down play and an inability to close out games that should’ve been wins. He’s been so impressive that I’m about to write something that even I, eternally a Villanueva fan and optimist, never thought I’d write.

Villanueva might be a franchise cornerstone right now.

It doesn’t mean there aren’t other ones in place — Austin Daye, Jonas Jerebko, Greg Monroe, Ben Gordon and maybe even Rodney Stuckey (his free agency clouds things a bit) are all very important components to the future successes or failures of the Pistons.

The key has been Villanueva’s attitude as much as his improved game (and his game has improved, but more on that in a minute). He’s fun to watch. He has an odd style on the court and is very comfortable making unorthodox-looking moves with the ball, getting off shots from a variety of different angles and positions and, of course, firing that slingshot three-pointer, giving him the ability to go on personal scoring runs and pile up points in a relatively quick amount of time. He shows emotion, he annoys Kevin Garnett and he’s the only Piston who has really seamlessly fit into his role this season.

As for his actual performance, he’s on pace for the best season of his career. Here are some key stats through 11 games:

  • .580 true shooting percentage (previous high was .547)
  • .540 effective field goal percentage (previous high was .508)
  • 19.2 PER (previous high was 18.6 in his contract year in Milwaukee)
  • 115 offensive rating (previous high was 108)
  • 42 percent 3-point shooting (previous high was 35 percent)
  • 108 defensive rating is not great, but would be only the second time in his career he’s finished below a 110, so it does represent that he’s trying harder on that end of the floor.

Villanueva isn’t going to be a defensive stopper, he’s not going to be a traditional PF who is glued to the paint and he’s not going to be a great rebounder. But if he provides the offense he’s been giving through 11 games over the course of a season, he’s worth his contract. Villanueva, for that production, makes just over $7 million this year, $7.5 next year and then $8 million and $8.5 million the final two years of his deal. Compare him to some other stretch fours around the league:

Rashard Lewis

  • True Shooting Percentage: .447
  • Effective FG Percentage: .423
  • Offensive Rating: 95
  • 3-Point Percentage: .306
  • PER: 9.6
  • Average Salary: About $22 million a year over the next three years

Al Harrington

  • True Shooting Percentage: .503
  • Effective FG Percentage: .480
  • Offensive Rating: 104
  • 3-Point Percentage: .360
  • PER: 14.5
  • Average Salary: About $7 million a year over the next five years

Antawn Jamison

  • True Shooting Percentage: .517
  • Effective FG Percentage: .517
  • Offensive Rating: 104
  • 3-Point Percentage: .381
  • PER: 16.2
  • Average Salary: About $14 million a year over the next two years

Villanueva is out-producing all of those guys pretty significantly, he’s cheaper than all of them except for Harrington and he’s much younger than all of them. So although last season was disappointing because of his injuries and falling in and out of the rotation towards the end of the season, if Villanueva remains healthy and can come close to maintaining his levels of production, it’s pretty clear that his contract, while pricey, is pretty reasonable considering his skillset and age.

More importantly, he’s one of only a few Pistons who seems legitimately happy to be playing in Detroit right now.

From Vince Ellis of the Free Press:

Charlie Villanueva has been striking a pose after nailing a long-distance triple, or running to the bench to do a flying chest-bump with a teammate. He has let out howls of joy after a good play and has played with confidence and swagger.

“When you’re losing, people look to point the finger,” Villanueva said after scoring 11 points and grabbing three rebounds against the Kings. “But what’s important, and people sometimes forget, is having fun. You go back to when you was a little kid when you used to play basketball just for fun. … You can still have passion, and you can still have some fun.”

And Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News had this story:

The Pistons started 0-5, punctuated by a listless performance against the Celtics that featured his (Villanueva’s) tête-à-tête with Kevin Garnett and the drama that ensued from Kuester calling the team out.

Tayshaun Prince took exception, and it looked like the ship was sinking again — and the second-year guys, Villanueva, Ben Gordon and Austin Daye were center stage.

But the trio went out to dinner, cleared the air and vowed no matter what happened, they weren’t going to be the problem.

Who would you rather have your young players around right now: Villanueva or Tayshaun Prince? The answer is obviously Villanueva, and that statement would’ve sounded insane three months ago. Prince is the veteran, the champion, the consumate steady professional. Villanueva was the oddball signee who loved to Tweet. Villanueva’s transformation this season is remarkable.


  • Nov 16, 20101:31 pm
    by detroitpcb


    as long as we do not expect rebounds from CV (and he is a power forward on a team that desperately needs defensive rebounding) he is having a great start and i agree with your premise that his contract is a reasonable one. So is Ben Gordon’s. Even Max has a reasonable contract. The only big mistake Joe has made was the Rip extension. And maybe Bynum. I cannot believe how bad he looks. And Laser wants him to start??????????? And makes excuses for him that he was injured and is getting inconsistent minutes??? the laser who says injuries are no excuse??? and i note bynum has been coming in at his normal time in the rotation. if he is getting yanked in favor of T-Mac or Stuck it is because of his play – not Q’s rotation.

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  • Nov 16, 20102:17 pm
    by nuetes


    Charlie V is growing on me, but like the other scrubs you compared him to, I’m just not a fan of the role. Comparing him to notoriously overpaid dudes is a stretch. But seeing as how he’s the least overpaid of the overpaid dudes maybe that’s a good thing. I can’t help but watch him on the court and demand more. Maybe that’s the problem.
    All the stats you pointed to are tied primarily to his shooting, and his shooting efficiencies, which are more or less unsustainable. He’s having a great year from an efficiency standpoint and that’s been because of his 3-point shooting. He’s posting a career high in PER and Win Share, but he’s right around his average in Wins Produced, because his rebounding has been poor to say the least. 4 rebounds per game isn’t going to cut it, and that’s a stat tied to effort and not to luck so much. For a team in need of rebounding you’d think Charlie would make a concerted effort to get on the glass. To me it shows that he’s coasting at times. He does his work on the offensive end, and he’s been better defensively, but it’s like he thinks his job is done on defense after the shot goes up. He’s ready to get back to the offense without caring that the team needs the possession of the ball for that to happen. Argh. Box out and give me 7 rebounds per game CV and I will become one or your biggest fans.

  • Nov 16, 20102:42 pm
    by Laser


    cornerstone? all that really says is about how bad the team is. yes, he’s having a good season and seems not only to actually have a pulse, but be a very good offensive player. but he’s not playing like a cornerstone. he just happens to be one of the bright spots on a very bad team. plus he’s a streaky shooter and it’s 11 games. still, no doubt about it, if he can keep this up his contract looks good.
    so how many games is villa going to have to consistently outplay daye before he gets to start? i don’t care if he wants to come off the bench, he should be starting right now. he’s paid like a starter, he’s decisively outperforming his counterpart, it’s got to happen. having daye and maxiell SHARE a spot (i mean, look at how different these guys are) is insane. for the good of this team villa needs to start.

  • Nov 16, 20103:04 pm
    by nuetes


    Well to be fair CV is 4th on the team in minutes played. In fact the top 5 players on the team in minutes played are Stuckey, Gordon, Prince, CV, and Wallace. Looks like what our starting lineup should look like.

  • Nov 16, 20103:09 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    “so how many games is villa going to have to consistently outplay daye before he gets to start?”
    Why mess with him? He’s playing better off the bench than he’s ever played before. He’s not going to help the first unit by rebounding. What’s the point of starting him?

  • Nov 16, 20104:09 pm
    by Laser


    “why mess with him?” because the team STINKS, and their triumphs so far this season have been narrowly scraping by against the worst the NBA has to offer. look how they’ve fared against consensus playoff teams. i don’t look at charlie and say, “wow he’s so good off the bench, let’s leave him there!”
    the bottom line is that he’s been better than austin daye so far. by a wide margin. the point of starting him is that he has the chance to impact games in a different and more significant way as a starter. if he’s hot and pouring in the points, you have the luxury of playing him as long as you like. as a sub, there are a certain number of minutes that are off-limits to him. if you want to get 35 minutes out of him, you can’t allow him a moment’s rest once he’s been inserted into each half. if you think he’s a cornerstone, why not start him? we’ve been riding him VERY hard at the end of games, and he’s consistently been closing them out. if he’s good enough to do that, expand his role. afford yourself more flexibility with him.
    similar story with ben gordon. he’s outplaying rip and will continue to do so on a regular basis, but i don’t point to his bench role as the REASON for his success. and who would?? charlie and gordon are paid like starters, they should start. we’re not winning games. we shouldn’t feel good about a single game we’ve played so far, win or lose. so any configuration of this team that persists with a sub-par starting backcourt and wafer-thin “power” forward while their subs wildly outperform them deserves to lose.
    face it: starters have the opportunity for expanded roles that bench players just don’t have. he’s paid like a starter, he’s performing well, expand his role. plus, austin daye might actually compare favorably to a lot of reserve power forwards in the league, where he presents a lot of problems against starters.

  • Nov 16, 20104:17 pm
    by Laser


    and this “bench points” fascination has to die. have we got the highest paid active bench in the league?? our two highest paid players are rip and tayshaun. our next FOUR highest paid come off the bench. add to that he fact that we are CONSTANTLY in close games. so if our bench is outscoring the other bench by 50, what does that say about the starters??? let’s kill this meaningless stat. it’s only remotely significant if your starters are canceling theirs out, which ours almost never will. not to mention that i think we only have the 4th highest scoring bench in the league. with the distribution of talent on this team, the defensive liabilities of our bench, and the fact that our bench could probably play our starters to a standstill, it’s pathetic that they’re not the #1 bench. and even that would be a “blah” stat if we’re always in close games.

  • Nov 16, 20104:24 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    Ugh. What doesn’t ‘have to stop’ in your mind? It sounds like it’s all too much for you to watch. So don’t watch. There’s a reason Villanueva comes off the bench: because he has one true skill — scoring. I mean, Jason Terry was significantly better and more talented than JJ Barea on some of the other bozos Dallas was starting at shooting guard over the past few seasons. But Terry came off the bench, because his skill, scoring like a madman, is best suited to the bench. Same thing with Villanueva. He’s not going to rebound, he’s not going to defend and he’s going to be significantly better offensively than any second unit big. It’s no coincidence that his best season in Milwaukee came when he was used in the EXACT SAME ROLE he’s being used in now. As for Gordon, yeah, he should start. But he’s just not going to start until Hamilton or Prince is moved, so for the forseeable future, he’s a bench player, and that’s fine.

  • Nov 16, 20104:52 pm
    by Glenn


    If you’re paid like a scorer you should start?  So our starting lineup should be:
    Gordon 10.8 mil
    Hamilton 12.6  mil
    Prince 11.1 mil
    Villanueva 7 mil
    Maxiell 5 mil
    I don’t think that logic holds out either.

  • Nov 16, 20106:06 pm
    by bball4224


    finally my man CV31′s gettin some respect, i just wish we wouldn’t consistently start the same horrible starting lineup, our bench has to get us back in the games in the 2nd and 4th quarters almost every game. Rip sucks so far, get him out, Daye isn’t anything special get him out, Prince needs an attitude adjustment get him out! I’ve always hated Stuckey but Bynum isn’t doin well so i tihnk our starters should be
    PG: Stuck
    SG: BG
    SF: TMac or Daye
    PF: CV31
    C: Ben Wallace
    Make Prince and Rip earn their minutes, quit letting them do whatever just because of senority. i’d also rather see Wilcox play than Maxy right now (he’s uninjured idk why no minutes if he was doin so well during training)
    Get rid of Tay and his horrible attitude (bein a ballhog lately too)
    Get rid of Max so he can play somewhere else
    I’d kinda like us to get rid of Rip and Stuckey but i’d rather have Tay gone.
    and if Zach rly wants to play for us, go out and get him Joey, or Josh Smith, or Kaman… somebody please!

  • Nov 16, 20106:25 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    I don’t believe the hype about Wilcox having a great camp. I don’t believe Wilcox has ever had a great camp in his life.

  • Nov 16, 20106:30 pm
    by Laser


    give me a break, glen. i’m not saying you only start the highest paid players, but you went out and got this guy (along with gordon) as your major free agent prizes, the great reward for having smashed the old team to bits. you handed him almost $40 million over five years, and this was so he could come off the bench behind the worst power forward in the league? it doesn’t make sense.
    and don’t ask me to explain the logic of paying gordon and hamilton $10 and $12.65 million each for the foreseeable future, and obviously you can’t start them both (or satisfy both with minutes and shots). so god knows what joe was thinking. but i can’t imagine you destroy an elite veteran team and completely dismantle the starting lineup in order to lock up two bench players without addressing the starting lineup ONE BIT.
    @hayes: the only thing that absolutely must stop now is the glowing praise of this bench. it’s incredibly expensive, defensively challenged, and “bench points” is a pretty sad thing to hang your hat on when you’ve got one of the worst starting lineups in the business. if your starters put up adequate numbers, bench points might have some meaning. but it’s a hollow stat. any chance you’d put together a compelling piece on why bench points have some importance that counter-weighs overall points? i’d love to be convinced. but when you destroy a team in order to blow all your cap space on two defensively-challenged bench scorers, you should be expected to have absolutely the highest scoring bench in the league. there’s no excuse not to.

  • Nov 16, 20107:02 pm
    by Laser


    this is not like allen iverson, where someone else decided to pay him $20 million and we traded for him for various purposes, it’s not like saying “hey, you’re paying him the most money, he should be your featured player.” WE picked these guys and decided how much money to pay them, how much of our future we wanted to commit to them. so it’s hard to be satisfied when it amounts to almost $100 million for two bench players. nobody should be happy with both (either?) of these guys coming off the bench. that’s all. they were the EXTENT of our rebuilding effort. so forgive me if i don’t pat the pistons on the back for routinely outscoring opposing benches in close games.

  • Nov 16, 20107:40 pm
    by detroitpcb


    austin daye has been playing great given what is being asked of him. He boxes his man out, plays effort defense although he can be outmuscled and makes some mental mistakes, runs the floor, and is hitting his shot – both the stationary three and the one dribble. He has yet to look comfortable driving into the lane or posting up (he has turnovers when he tries those things but otherwise moves the ball well and is turnover free) but he did both of those things in the preseason when he was getting time at the 2 or 3 positions and he looked very effective. This kid is playing well and might be the best shooter on the team, which is saying something when you have Rip, and Ben G, and CV on the team. In two years he will be better than Prince ever dreamed of being.

  • Nov 16, 20109:30 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    “austin daye has been playing great given what is being asked of him.”
    Just stop man. He has a nice stroke. But this is the NBA. You don’t get points for trying really hard to be good. He’s overmatched at the four and that’s not his fault. But there’s absolutely no way to say he’s been playing “good” let alone “great” at that spot. He’s been well below average. And again, not his fault, he didn’t ask to play that spot, but that doesn’t skirt the fact that he shouldn’t be playing that position and he hasn’t done anything to really prove he should be starting there. By all means, get him on the court as much as possible in a way that he has a chance at succeeding at. But don’t say he’s “played great under the circumstances.” That’s just not how results are evaluated in the NBA or any pro sport.

  • Nov 16, 20109:33 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    ” so forgive me if i don’t pat the pistons on the back for routinely outscoring opposing benches in close games.”
    Did I pat them on the back for it? I wrote a post that Villanueva is excelling in his role, and that it makes sense to keep him where he is while he’s being that productive offensively. Some guys are just better off the bench than starting and I think Villanueva is one of those guys.
    I don’t think Gordon should be on the bench. I don’t think he was paid to be a bench player. But I think, since he’s humble and able to produce in that role, that it makes sense to keep him there since they are stuck with Hamilton and Prince for the foreseeable future.

  • Nov 16, 20109:40 pm
    by Laser


    i’m not just targeting you, hayes. everyone keeps beaming about this damn bench. and we’ll never know if it’s a bench role or his bitchin’ offseason, but we’re not good enough to just slot players into roles and leave them there while we plummet in the standings. if villa struggles mightily as a starter we might have a good indication that he should come off the bench, but he’s been outproducing daye consistently for 11 meaningful games. plus, i think daye would be better off the bench, where he creates intriguing matchups rather than bad ones. just my 2 cents.

  • Nov 17, 20104:38 am
    by Kaneda


    I try to watch as many Pistons games as possible over here in Greece, but because of the time difference sometimes it is hard to stay up so late especially mid week.
    I think the main problem with not benching Rip and Tay is the message being sent to other players on the team. Q should man up and take control of the team.
    I would love to see the following line up start at some point PG: Stuckey, SG: Gordon, SF: Daye, PF: Monroe, C: Ben. It seems that CV has found his rhythm and should keep his role as 6th man… with Bynum, Rip, Tay, Maxiell and McGrady grabbing minutes at the 1, 2 and 3 that would also make a strong second unit.
    Cheers from Athens. :)

  • Nov 17, 20108:29 am
    by Patrick Hayes



    It would make a strong (but still expensive) second unit in theory. Personally, I feel like Prince and Hamilton’s production/effort would be a zero if they get benched.

  • Nov 17, 20108:34 am
    by detroitpcb



    lets be real. when that first team has needed a basket when the other team makes a run – Daye has been the player that delivers.

  • Nov 17, 20109:29 am
    by Patrick Hayes


    Like I said, he’s a good shooter. That’s the only skill he’s bringing to the starting lineup. And you know what? He’s only shooting 44 percent, and that includes four straight games where he’s been 70 percent or better, so yeah, he hasn’t even been that good shooting the ball over the course of the first 11 games. He’s been good lately, but overall? You kidding? What’s your excuse for his 15-for-51 shooting in the first five games of the season?

  • Nov 17, 201010:13 am
    by MIke Payne


    So totally agree with this.  If you haven’t checked the Synergy stats for Charlie yet, take a look.  So far in 2010-11, his offensive production is ranked 35th in the league across all positions, led by some pretty remarkable post-up and spot-up play.
    But what’s really remarkable about Charlie is his defense this time around.  He’s ranked as the 44th best defender in the league (again, across all positions), holding his man to 36.7% shooting across 66 defensive plays.  He’s doing really well on isolation and pick-and-roll defense, which holds the most weight of the average above.
    While Charlie started last season with a fiery offense, he’s become a completely different player on the other end of the court.  This is absolutely reason to be excited, and yes– he is absolutely turning out to be a bargain.

  • Nov 17, 201011:31 am
    by Patrick Hayes


    Yeah, I’ve loved his defense this year. He’s never going to have the key counting stats — blocks, rebounds, steals — that the guys with reputations as great big man defenders have. But man has he played hard. What I’ve been most impressed with is the fact that he’s unafraid of contact. Throughout his career, he’s avoided contact on defense, often going great lengths to avoid contact. He’s not always in the right position, his footwork and instincts are still a work in progress and he does have an occasional late reaction while helping, but he’s been really good as a one-on-one defender.

  • Nov 17, 20103:27 pm
    by Laser


    hey why don’t the lakers bring kobe and gasol off the bench???? they’d have one of the best benches OF ALL TIME!
    or boston could bring rondo, ray allen, paul “the truth” pierce and KG off the bench together! imagine the fear they’d strike in other benches!! they’d break every bench record ever! why has nobody thought of this?? it’s almost as if they think bench stats don’t matter.
    what about dwight howard or lebron james? we’re talking sixth man of the year material right there!!

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