Archive → March, 2011
It remains to be seen whether the Cavaliers will revisit their attempt to take on Rip Hamilton’s contract for a first-round pick around the draft, though multiple sources are skeptical such an arrangement would be palatable to the Pistons given the lockout concerns. Through a combination of games lost to a work stoppage and possible salary rollbacks, Detroit may wind up owing Hamilton far less than the $21.5 million Hamilton is guaranteed over the next two seasons. This is why, perhaps, Hamilton shouldn’t have been so averse to accepting a low-percentage buyout from the Cavs; his refusal ultimately killed the trade that would’ve sent him to Cleveland for a future first-rounder. For the record, the Bulls would’ve had interest in exploring a Hamilton signing after he was bought out by Cleveland, though the scenario never got to the point of conversations between Chicago, Cleveland, and Hamilton’s agent, Leon Rose.
Word in league circles is that negotiations to sell the Pistons to billionaire Tom Gores are far enough along to expect the matter to come to a vote by the Board of Governors April 14-15 in New York.
Ah, the elusive sale. I’m not getting my hopes up. If I understand correctly, every detail must be worked out between Gores and Karen Davidson before the Board of Governors votes. April 14 is coming up quickly.
Possible? Sure. Likely? I have reservations.
As an Oakland alum, I freely admit I’m hoping Keith Benson jumps into the first round of the NBA Draft, but most mocks have him going in the early second, so he could be available when the Pistons make their first second round choice.
Measurables: 6-foot-11, 230 pounds, senior C from Oakland
Key stats: 17.9 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.6 blocks per game while shooting 55 percent from the field
Projected: Second round
How would he help the Pistons?
There are many things to like about Benson, even if you are an unapologetic Oakland fan like I am. The main thing that he’s done over the course of his college career is work his tail off. Benson arrived on campus as a gangly freshman, still working on growing into his length. He wasn’t a particularly highly regarded prospect out of high school. In five years (he redshirted his freshman season), he has turned himself into a legitimate NBA prospect.
Benson would help the Pistons or any team as a shot blocker. He was second in the country in blocked shots. His offensive game has also improved each season, adding more and more tools to his repertoire. This season, he even extended his range out to the 3-point line, shooting a respectable (for a big man) 9-of-23 from deep. If Benson can develop into a rim protecting presence in the NBA, he’s exactly the type of big who would compliment Greg Monroe, since Monroe is not a shot blocker. Benson also runs the floor as well as any big man in the country.
How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?
There are two concerns with Benson. First, he’s still on the light side, listed at only 230 pounds this season. For comparison’s sake, Monroe, who the Pistons have said needs to add some heft, came into the league weighing 250 pounds. Benson, like Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson, would be an unquestioned first round pick if had a little more weight on his frame, but sometimes it’s hard for seven-footers who have always been slim to gain weight.
The second area of concern is the fact that Benson has played in a small conference his entire career. Now, Oakland always plays a tough schedule, and Benson has had some very good games against teams like Kansas, Purdue and Pitt that boasted strong frontcourts, but going from playing a lot of smallish Summit League big men to playing NBA bigs every night will be an adjustment. I’m not saying Benson can’t handle it, it’s just a question that teams and scouts are asking about him pre-draft.
What are others saying?
The biggest challenges the Detroit Country Day product faces in legitimizing his NBA stock and maximizing his potential value is his lack of grit and physical strength. He has exceptional size, great fluidity, good mobility, and a terrific wingspan for a potential NBA big, but lacks the type of lower body strength that would give him the ability to prevent stronger NBA big men from backing him down in the post and the polish to get by on his skill-level alone.
Scouts have wanted to write him off for two seasons, but Benson has been too good to ignore. Oakland has played a number of tough opponents, and Benson has produced. If he can do it on the biggest stage, he could easily move into the first round. There just aren’t many big men in this draft.
“It’s not about numbers in the draft, they want to know if you can win,” (Oakland coach Greg) Kampe said. “He’s bought into that and that’s all he cares about. Our record and where we go and what we do will be a determining factor for him (in the draft).”
I probably don’t need to tell you Ben Gordon has played terribly lately, but I’m going to show you just how bad his last eight game have been.
Children, avert your eyes. These numbers are gruesome.
All charts show Gordon’s totals for the worst eight-game stretches of his career, and the dates mark the end the eight-game periods. The most recent stint is red. All other runs with the Pistons are blue. Stretches with the Bulls are black.
In his last eight games, Gordon has scored 46 points. That’s the lowest-scoring eight-game stretch of his career – by a wide margin.
He scored 55 points in his next-lowest-scoring stretch, and that involves seven of his last eight games. He scored 57 points in his lowest-scoring stretch before that, and that involves six of the last eight games.
Finally, in a stint that didn’t overlap with his current one, Gordon scored 62 points in a run of eight games that ended in March 2010.
In Gordon’s lowest-scoring eight-game stretch with the Bulls, he scored 70 points – 24 more than in his current stint.
Part of the reason Gordon earned a reputation as a top-end scorer with the Bulls was his ability to get to the free-throw line. That hasn’t happened lately.
Sure, Gordon is still shooting a high percentage from the charity stripe – 1-for-1! – if you want to be extremely generous.
Of course, making one free-throw in eight games is a career-worst for Gordon.
So is attempting only one.
Points per 36 minutes
I know many of you think it’s unfair to criticize Gordon when he gets reduced playing time. I say to that, the way he’s played lately, he doesn’t deserve big minutes. But I’ll play along.
In his last eight games, Gordon is averaging 11.91 points per 36 minutes. That’s actually only his seventh-worst eight-game stretch. Bad, but it could be worse.
All six of Gordon’s worse points-per-36-minutes stretches occurred in overlapping stints in December.
After leaving the Bulls for the Pistons, Ben Gordon has lowered the standard for his minimum production. Somehow, he’s lowering it even further now.
Troy Hudson, not Chauncey Billups, provides more likely model for Rodney Stuckey’s passing progression
When you examine Rodney Stuckey’s game in broad stokes, he doesn’t do anything poorly. He’s a totally fine, albeit unspectacular, player.
- His scoring average (14.8) ranks between Devin Harris’ and Mo Williams’.
- His assist percentage (26.2) ranks between Goran Dragic’s and Kirk Hinrich’s.
- His rebounding percentage (6.0) ranks between Rasual Butler’s and Baron Davis’.
- His turnover percentage (13.2) ranks between Mike Bibby’s and Jarrett Jack’s.
- His true shooting percentage (53.4) ranks between Gerald Wallace’s and Marcus Thornton’s.
What do all those players have in common? They were all traded during this season. Well, all off them but Stuckey.
Players like Stuckey are expendable. They’re nice pieces, but teams can live without them.
So, why are the did Pistons keep Stuckey past the trade deadline with the intention of re-signing him this summer? When explaining his plan to retain Stuckey, Joe Dumars provided a clue.
KL: With Rodney, as I said, a restricted free agent at the end of the season. As we know, the history of restricted free agency is it’s been pretty restrictive. There hasn’t been a lot of movement there, but we don’t know what the new collective bargaining agreement will look like. The CBA aside, do you go into this off-season still intent of bringing Rodney back?
JD: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. There’s no question about that. Rodney is maybe 24 now and he’s a good, young player. We like him. He’ll be a part of our core going forward and we have every intention of re-signing him and going forward with him.
Look at the first reason Dumars gave” “Rodney is maybe 24 now.” The Pistons are banking on Stuckey improving. They see a young player who will get better.
Determining Rodney Stuckey’s position
Fewer than two years ago, Dumars declared:
Stuckey is the point guard here. He’s the point guard and he’s going to go forward as the point guard.
Since then, Stuckey has bounced between the guard positions a couple times, but he plays primarily point guard now. By every indication I can see, Detroit views him as a point guard first and shooting guard second.
If the Pistons viewed Stuckey solely as a shooting guard, I can’t image they’d be so resolute about keeping him. With Richard Hamilton and Ben Gordon already signed long-term, Stuckey would be more expendable.
The Pistons (hopefully) must believe he can play point guard, if not full time, a significant amount of time.
Again, should they?
Measuring point-guard ability
Assessing a player’s passing ability in a single statistic is impossible. But for simplicity’s sake, that’s what I’m going to try to do.
I created a stat called adjusted assists per 36 minutes, or aAST/36. It’s the number of assists per 36 minutes a players made each season, adjusted by pace. I set it to a pace of 91.2, the approximate average pace during the last 15 years.
Rodney Stuckey’s passing peers
In the last 15 years (including the current one), 72 players have post an aAST/36 between Stuckey’s career low (5.17 last season) and his career high (5.82 in his second year) in a season while they were between 21 and 24 years old (Stuckey’s ages during his career):
- Darren Collison
- Patrick Mills
Jeff Teague Jonny Flynn Eric Bledsoe Brandon Jennings Shaun Livingston Goran Dragic Mike Conley Derrick Rose Stephen Curry Acie Law Brandon Roy Mario Chalmers Delonte West Jarrett Jack Aaron Brooks Marcus Williams Taurean Green Chris Duhon Boris Diaw Jameer Nelson Chris Quinn Devin Harris LeBron James Marcus Banks Mo Williams Deron Williams Frank Williams Keith McLeod Jannero Pargo Luke Walton Steve Blake Luke Ridnour Zoran Planinic Speedy Claxton Mike Bibby Tito Maddox Steve Francis Mateen Cleaves Jason Terry Erick Barkley Larry Hughes Dean Oliver Jeff Trepagnier Damon Jones Troy Hudson Vonteego Cummings Chauncey Billups Lari Ketner Laron Profit Eddie Gill William Avery Khalid El-Amin Randy Livingston Antonio Daniels Shammond Williams Derek Anderson Jason Williams Jacque Vaughn Earl Boykins Bobby Jackson Steve Nash Anthony Johnson Allen Iverson Chris Garner Travis Best Khalid Reeves Ruben Nembhard Reggie Geary Jeff McInnis
Collison, Lawson, Mills, Teague, Flynn, Bledsoe, Jennings, Dragic, Conley, Rose, Curry, Chalmers, Marcus Williams, Green and Oliver haven’t played a season at age 25, so they can’t help us predict how Stuckey will pass going forward. I’ve excluded them from Stuckey’s passing peers for the rest of this post.
Here’s how the rest of the players’ aAST/36 progressed through their careers. I marked Stuckey in red and everyone else in blue.
Confusing and difficult to read? That’s the idea. As much as using the performances of similar players can help us project Stuckey’s passing future, his progression is far from certain.
Optimistic outlook for Rodney Stuckey’s passing
Let’s isolate a few players. If you skimmed that list, you probably noticed Stuckey resembles some pretty impressive passers when they were his age.
You could even make the case Steve Nash wasn’t that far ahead of Stuckey before his passing shot into the stratosphere:
But I think if there’s any player on the list the Pistons are considering when evaluating Stuckey, it’s Chauncey Billups:
Billups grew up as a passer with the Pistons. He went from a generic scoring guard to one of the game’s best point guards.
It wouldn’t be difficult to look at Stuckey, whose aAPG/36 is actually higher than Billups’ was at the same age, and think he’ll develop into the Pistons’ next point guard.
Stuckey played at a small college. He played under Michael Curry. He probably hasn’t gotten the best coaching. Maybe he just needs more time to develop and will turn out to be a late bloomer, like Billups.
But Billups is the exception to the rule, and he benefited from the best teacher for point guards in the world, Larry Brown. It’s naïve to believe Stuckey will emulate Billups’ mid-20s passing.
The simple comparison says they’re both big point guards who play for the Pistons, but it gives little reason to think Stuckey will learn to pass like Billups did. By that logic, NFL teams should trade all their first- and second-day draft picks for sixth rounders, so they can pick the next Tom Brady.
Predicting Stuckey will follow in Billups’ footsteps takes fool’s logic
Pessimistic outlook for Rodney Stuckey’s passing
Why is Stuckey more likely to resemble Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris, Steve Nash or Chauncey Billups rather than Derek Anderson?
Or Chris Quinn?
Or Acie Law?
Realistic outlook for Rodney Stuckey’s passing
Instead of arbitrarily picking players for comparison, let’s examine how Stuckey compares with his entire peer group.
Stuckey still appears in red.
Blue represents the average, minimum and maximum aAPG/36 of his peers by age. The thickness of the line indicates how many of his peers were the league at the time. The thicker the line, the more reliable the sample.
I also added former Timberwolves guard Troy Hudson in green, because he fits along the average line fairly well.
How much is Troy Hudson’s passing ability worth?
In 2004, the Timberwolves signed Troy Hudson to a six-year, $37 million contract. Stuckey is a better all-around player than Hudson was, but their abilities don’t differ significantly.
Based on the average salary in 2004 and 2010, Hudson’s contract called for him to earn the equivalent of $7,255,272 in 2010 NBA dollars per year. Before the end of the deal, he was considered overpaid. Minnesota bought out the final two years of his contract.
Let’s say – because Stuckey is a slightly better all-around player than Hudson was and because Hudson faced some injury troubles – Stuckey is actually worth the same amount per year Hudson received. That might mean trouble.
Mike Conley – who received a five-year, $40 million contract from the Grizzlies last summer that often serves as a model for Stuckey’s next contract – makes more per season (year adjusted) than Hudson did.
I hope the Pistons’ scouts see something Stuckey’s passing ability that I don’t. To me, he doesn’t look any better or worse than his numbers suggest.
The way I see it, the Pistons should do at least one of the following by the end of the summer:
- Sign Rodney Stuckey to a reasonably priced contract
- Trade/waive Richard Hamilton
- Trade Ben Gordon
- Hire Larry Brown
Unless Dumars has a change of heart or was bluffing, the first option is probably out.Who knows whether Detroit can execute the second and third options. As crazy at it seems – and it seems downright crazy – I won’t rule out the fourth option.
If the Pistons don’t do one of those, of course it’s still possible Stuckey will blossoms into a successful starting point guard.
But they’ll be battling the odds. Again.March 28th, 2011
Measurables: 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, freshman G from Kentucky
Key stats: 17.2 points, 4.2 assists per game while shooting 43 percent from the field and 38 percent from three
How would he help the Pistons?
After an up and down regular season, Knight, should he choose to enter the draft, seems to have helped his draft stock as much as anyone. He was always considered a first round talent, but the way he’s asserted himself on Kentucky’s run to the Final Four has him looking like a legit lead guard/playmaker. He’s probably not as advanced as former John Calipari products Derrick Rose and John Wall, but even if Knight could have an Eric Bledsoe-like impact as a rookie, the team that drafted him would be very happy.
The Pistons’ need for a playmaker is an obvious one. There isn’t a guy on the roster who can consistently create his own shot under any circumstance when things break down. Knight potentially has that ability, and the best part is most mocks have him available in the 7-10 range where Detroit is most likely to be drafting. Knight is quick off the dribble, he’s big (and will get bigger as he fills out) and he might be a better perimeter shooter already than Rose/Wall were at his age.
How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?
Knight’s measurables are fantastic. He’s in the mold of the new wave NBA PG both in size and athleticism, although he’s not the explosive athlete that Rose or Wall or Russell Westbrook are. He’s a shoot-first PG, but what his season didn’t provide a clear answer to is if he’s a shoot-first PG like Rose or Wall, who still sets up good opportunities for others even if he’s the primary scoring option, or is he more Tyreke Evans, a phenomenal talent with scoring ability who doesn’t have the court vision or awareness of the others. Knight has also had problems with turnovers this season at Kentucky.
What are others saying?
Knight is obviously a great talent who has the chance to succeed as either a point guard or combo guard depending on his development, but he’ll need to develop a much more mature approach to the game to reach his full potential. Putting more focus on his shot selection, creating for others, and his defensive effort are all critical things he needs to address, and he still has plenty of time to do so. His potential as a starting point guard obviously greatly trumps his potential as a combo guard coming off the bench, so getting back to showing more of a pass-first mentality would likely help his draft stock considerably.
But Knight got better — a lot better — as the season progressed, much like two other former Calipari guards, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans. Knight is more comfortable running the offense (especially since Calipari has him using more ball screens) and has been Kentucky’s steadiest player this season.
Very creative passer … Quick decision maker … A fierce competitor, really steps his level of play up in big situations … High motor guy. Plays with a high level of intensity and passion … Strong work ethic, constantly looking to improve both his body and game … His body has seen an impressive transformation from his sophomore to senior year of high school … Has an excellent jumpshot with range out to 3 point … Good shooter off the dribble … An excellent defender who uses his length and quickness to stay in front of his man … Drew 2 changes per game as a senior in high school … Very smart, engaging young man with a bright future
PreviouslyMarch 28th, 2011
The Pistons are retiring Dennis Rodman’s number when they play the Bulls on Friday. It’s probably Detroit’s biggest game of the season, and thanks to StubHub, you could win four tickets.
To be eligible, follow these three easy steps:
1. Follow PistonPowered on Twitter.
2. Tweet the following:
RT @PistonPowered Want to win four tickets to Dennis Rodman jersey retirement game? RT and follow instructions here http://bit.ly/f5UF7k
3. E-mail PistonPoweredContests@gmail.com with your Twitter handle and mailing address.March 28th, 2011
I read a few notes on Twitter the other night from people covering Saturday’s game who suggested that John Salley was looking for a job with the Pistons. I thought they were jokes, but apparently, he has a very specific role in mind. From Terry Foster of the Detroit News:
He’s even got his job title — Player Development, Strength and Conditioning Assistant.
He sees the injuries and all the mental breakdowns of the Pistons players and coaches, and believes he can solve some of the problems. Salley lives a vegan lifestyle and recently did a video on reversing diabetes.
Salley’s long been an advocate of veganism and healthier diets. I’ve always been interested to know how much NBA teams try and impose healthy eating habits on their players. My guess is there’s little they can do to motivate athletes who aren’t already self-motivated to eat healthy. It would be interesting to see Salley in a role like that though. He’s certainly passionate about it.