B: Tayshaun Prince’s offense and rebounding has really come around, and he’s defending well, too. I don’t mind him publicly disagreeing with the team’s direction, but sometimes he’s gone a little too far. –Dan Feldman.
B: Prince is still the steady, intelligent player he’s always been. I’d love it if he seemed a little more willing to share that intelligence with the team’s younger players, because at times it appears he’d rather not be bothered with them. If nothing else, Prince has shown that he’s still get a lot left to give and should earn another multi-year contract from some team next year. –Patrick Hayes
C: Rodney Stuckey’s low grade isn’t necessarily because of his play, but his words. He talked big about becoming a leader and, with his improved conditioning, taking the next step on the court this season. Despite modest improvement in several areas, he’s failed at both those major objectives. –D.F.
B: I’m probably a little too lenient here as a result of Stuckey’s efficient play since moving to shooting guard, and Dan is right that he’s certainly failed to deliver on the grandiose objectives he had in the preseason, but he’s still a young player with tremendous upside and he’s shown incremental improvement. –P.H.
D: Injuries were a valid excuse for Ben Gordon’s dismal shooting last year. But now that his 3-point and free-throw percentages are approaching his peaks, why is he still struggling? He’s relying on a bunch of two-point shots he’s not making at nearly a high enough clip –D.F.
F: I think Gordon is a genuinely likable player and potentially a very nice complimentary piece. He wasn’t signed to be those things. I realize he was thrust into a difficult situation with the incumbent shooting guard still on the roster, but Rip Hamilton has had bad seasons for two straight years. Any sustained success for Gordon would’ve made it impossible not to start him. It’s tremendously disappointing that Gordon has not played well enough to win that starting shooting guard spot. –P.H.
C: Charlie Villanueva is defending better and might have the team’s best attitude. But why has his rebounding gotten worse? Although he’s headed in the right direction, Villanueva is still too from being the player he wants to be. –D.F.
B: I’m realistic about what Villanueva is. I don’t expect him to become an exceptional rebounder or defender, as long as he’s exerting some effort in those areas, which he clearly has. His offense has been more consistent this season, and at $7ish million a year, if he’s stretching the floor and scoring off the bench, he’s living up to his contract. –P.H.
F: Richard Hamilton is overpaid and playing terribly, and he acts like he doesn’t know either. If this trade doesn’t happen, his situation will probably, somehow, get uglier. –D.F.
F: Like Gordon, it’s not that I dislike Hamilton. I actually like him quite a bit, and I don’t like seeing him ride the bench. But it was time. The Pistons’ shooting guard position is among the least productive in the league between Hamilton and Gordon, and for what they combine to make, it’s completely inexcusable. –P.H.
B-: Ben Wallace isn’t playing nearly as well as he did even last year, but he’s still been the Pistons’ best rebounder this season. I wish he were more of a leader for this team, but I think he’s content letting the next generation figure things out for themselves and directing only the players who seek his wisdom. –D.F.
B: Wallace still gives the Pistons good minutes, plays with effort and is capable of the occasional vintage performance every six weeks or so. Also, he is constantly credited by the coaching staff for working with Greg Monroe, and who can argue with those results? –P.H.
A: Greg Monroe’s improvement has been a breath of fresh air. He crashes the boards, works on defense and has gotten more comfortable with the ball in his hands. He’s a player you want to support. –D.F.
A: Last year, it was Monroe’s offense that had me impressed when he was at Georgetown. Turns out, his defense and rebounding were better than any scouts gave him credit for pre-draft. I remember the clowns on 97.1 (I see you, Valenti) calling Monroe a bust after the first week of the season. Now, he’s a sure All-Rookie First Teamer. –P.H.
A-: I like this Tracy McGrady, the one trying to re-invent himself as a point guard who makes the small plays, much more than the guy jacking up a ton of shots in Orlando and Houston. Plus, his willingness to assume a leading voice in the locker room for a team that might employ him for only a year impresses me immensely. –D.F.
A: McGrady is this year’s Wallace, a seemingly washed up veteran who has shown he still has productive basketball left in those legs. Who knows what McGrady or the team wants, but I hope he’s the transitional veteran who can help the team stay competitive while more young pieces are added over the next year. –P.H.
F: No bench player has been given as much of a chance to earn a consistent role on this team than Maxiell. He’s been underwhelming most of the last two seasons. I think Maxiell can be a useful big in the right situation, but the Pistons are clearly not the right situation anymore. –P.H.
C+: A lot of Austin Daye’s problems can be blamed on him playing out of position at power forward. But even when playing on the wing, his poor defense negates the leaps Daye has made offensively. Encouragingly, even with more playing time, there has been no indication his strong rebounding numbers a fluke. –D.F.
B-: Daye’s progression offensively has been impressive. He’s highly skilled for a man his height, he handles the ball well and he’s shown not just a great shooting stroke, but an ability to get shots off from a variety of angles. His defense needs to catch up, but he’s finally getting consistent minutes (about 20 a game in January) backing up his natural wing positions and the second half of the season is his chance to show just how much promise he has. –P.H.
D: Because of injuries and a crowded backcourt, Will Bynum hasn’t gotten rolling at all this season. Considering he recently had his best game of the year and is getting another chance in the rotation, Bynum probably has the best chance of improving his grade by the end of the season. –D.F.
C-: I’m probably too lenient on Bynum. He hasn’t been very good this season and when he’s been pulled from the rotation, it has been deserved. But at the same time, he’s signed cheaply compared to some of his overpaid counterparts and his injuries severely limited his best attribute, his quickness. The last couple weeks, that quickness seems to be coming back and with minutes, he’ll improve in the second half of the season. –P.H.
B-: I figured Chris Wilcox could have a stretch of impressive scoring and rebounding games, like the one he’s had lately. But his defense has been significantly better than what he previously showed in a Pistons uniform, and I certainly didn’t see that coming. –D.F.
B: I hate to get too excited too early about things, but Wilcox’s recent stretch as a rotation member is the best basketball he’s played since he was with the Thunder. With his size, strength and athleticism, there’s no reason Wilcox shouldn’t be a rotation big on any team in the league. Earlier this season, he looked like a guy who might not find another job post-Detroit. Instead, he’s played himself into a contract next season somewhere and helped make the Pistons frontcourt a little more formidable. –P.H.
F: The Pistons have given every other healthy player a shot in the rotation, but DaJuan Summers obviously isn’t doing enough to warrant a chance. He has the skills to turn into a competent NBA player, but every day that goes by, it appears less likely he’ll ever take advantage of them. –D.F.
Inc.: I’m not sure what the deal is with Summers. He’s a NBA-level athlete. Build-wise, he looks like the prototypical SF. He hits the three, he can put it on the floor a little bit and yet he’s never even sniffed the rotation in two seasons. I wish the Pistons used their D-League affiliate more. Summers definitely would’ve benefited from getting some extended minutes there. His contract is up after the season and I have no idea if he can play or not. Should never happen with a prospect. –P.H.
Inc.: It’s not fair to grade a player who hasn’t played at all this season, and unfortunately, I might have to use this same line for Jonas Jerebko in our year-end grades. –D.F.
Inc.: I’m torn on Jerebko. Part of me would love to see him back on the court this season, even if it’s just for minor minutes. The other part would rather he just shut it down and get ready for next season. There is no bright side to his injury, although as a free agent, it probably allows the Pistons to retain him more cheaply than if he had been healthy this season and improved on his rookie year production. –P.H.
Inc.: It’s not fair to grade a player who hasn’t played at all this season, but Terrico White will get his chance in the second half –D.F.
Inc.: White should be healthy soon. I don’t know if there will be any minutes for him, but I’m still excited by his athleticism. If the Pistons finally fall out of contention for that eight seed they’re so desperately after, it would be great to see White get an extended look at some point in the second half. –P.H.
B: This is almost certainly a higher grade than John Kuester will get anywhere else. Kuester has motivated and developed Greg Monroe, adjusted the rotation several times, given minutes to younger players and stood up to whiny veterans. Coaching this team isn’t easy, but Kuester has handled the challenge well. –D.F.
C+: This grade is trending up, too. Kuester has made the right moves as coach this season, it has just taken him longer than every fan wanted. Kuester was stuck with guys like Hamilton and Gordon. He had to do everything he could to try and make things work with them before scrapping it. Also, one of the excuses for Stuckey not playing well at PG was always, "He played in three systems in three years." Kuester gave him a season and a half in this system before pulling the plug. He’s finally assembled an entertaining rotation that plays hard, and he’s giving good minutes to the young players. No real complaints with the job he’s done anymore. –P.H.
D-: They never would have been great, but the Pistons spent way too much of this season griping, playing softly and sleepwalking through games. Overall, this hasn’t been a likable team. If it weren’t for their recent Sustained Success putting me in a good mood, I would have given them an ‘F.’ –D.F.
D+: Again, I’m probably forgetting too much of the horrible, sluggish play early in the season. Based on record, the Pistons probably deserve an ‘F.’ But I also feel like they’ve found a mix of players that will keep them competitive the rest of the way and with Monroe and Daye getting consistent minutes, along with McGrady in a primary role, they are putting guys on the court who are legitimately interesting to watch for different reasons. –P.H.
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