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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.

Should they?

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
  • Ty Lawson
  • 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.

Devin Harris:


Jameer Nelson:


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.

Conclusion

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:

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.

16 Comments

  • Mar 29, 201110:41 am
    by Rodman4Life

    Reply

    Great article, well done!  I think the only “lose” situation is if we are baited into overpaying for Stuckey.  For all the drama he brings, Larry Brown would be good for this team in the short-run.  Stuckey would learn a lot, the veterans would be kept in check, and defense would return to Detroit.  Who cares if he left town, that’s no different than our current coaching carousel.  I think one of the priorities in the offseason should be to get a cheap veteran point guard.  We need at least one on the team.

  • Mar 29, 201110:57 am
    by Tim Thielke

    Reply

    Agreed. Stuckey is a likable enough player. He’s pretty good. But he’s unspectacular and very expendable. However, he does do two things better than average. He’s a good defender and he gets to the free throw line a lot. Those are the two main reasons I’d like the Pistons to keep him–although only on a reasonable deal.
    Getting to the free throw line is just a very good skill to have and the Pistons are particularly in need of it. As the league is being increasingly dominated by great point guards (I would say it is far and away the most stacked position right now), if the Pistons can’t get a great one themselves, it will be worthwhile to have a strong defender at the point. I’d take that skill over long range shooting, Stuckey’s most glaring deficiency.
    But this is a big chance for Joe D to prove himself. Restricted free agency gives a team a lot of leverage. This summer’s uncertainty will probably only give the team more. It is key for Dumars to take advantage and sign Stuckey not to a contract about equal to his value, but to a cheap deal since it may be hard for Stuckey to find better. I don’t think $5M/yr is out of the question.

  • Mar 29, 201111:21 am
    by Jason

    Reply

    Stuckey’s recent play has shown that he has much more ability at the PG position then most Pistons fans have given him credit for.
     
    Nice write up, Dan – You clearly spent a good amount of time on this one, and it shows.
     
    I’ve been very negative on Stuckey for most of the season, even though I was a supporter for his first 3. I was one who prior to this season would argue that Stuck has had multiple coaches, he’s young, he doesn’t have a great supporting cast, etc. This season, after watching him continue the shoot first attitude, i’ve began to criticize Stuckey on a number of PP posts.
     
    I mention this because i’m again starting to open up to the fact that Stuck just might be be able to develop into a formidable PG one day. Just a hunch, but if you take a look at Kuester’s offensive mindset, he seems to be an ISO heavy guy. Think about his last year as the Offensive coordinator for Cleveland. I can’t harp too much there, because of course if I had Lebron James on my squad, i’d call a good amount of ISO plays for him as well.
     
    THE PROBLEM: Kuester has attempted to run the same plays for Stuckey, that he would for Lebron James. It seems like as of late, Stuck has made it a point to show the world that he can pass the ball as well, and I wonder just how much the “Coaches Game Plan” has held Stuck back. Of course this is speculation, but you have to wonder just how much control Stuck has had over his first few seasons here, is he able to run the show? Or has he just been following the game plan required of him?
     
    If that’s the case, it makes sense why we haven’t seen huge assist numbers. Stuck is known for driving to the lane, and drawing fouls. If the coaches are demanding that he continue this game plan, there’s not a whole lot he can do to increase his assist count.
     
    And whether or not we like to admit it, Stuck hasn’t had the best supporting cast to help those assist numbers, either. With aging veterans, and inexperienced bench players, combined with arguably one of the smallest front court’s in the league – Stuck hasn’t really been set up for much success as a PG. Because he’s such a dynamic, all around player, he’s been forced to take over on the scoring end, when others weren’t able to contribute.
     
    I’m not suggesting Stuck will be a top 5 PG, and i’m not saying i’m 100% sold that he WILL improve. But, I am suggesting that i’ve started to regain hope that it’s possible, and believe that if we can bring in a true X & O’s guy to coach, and even our the front/back court disparity in the offseason – Stuck could surely develop into a much better passer.

  • Mar 29, 201112:35 pm
    by Fennis

    Reply

    The common strand among the “aberrations” that were on Stuckey’s trajectory is that they moved up to elite status under strong coaching. None of them had average or below average coaches when they turned the corner after 25 (as far as I can tell from your write up). Coaching impacts the PG position more than any other on the floor.
     
    What’s the more prudent approach in the march to contender status? Bringing in an average to below-average coach and a new PG at a “reasonable” price, or bringing in an elite or at least above-average coach and letting Stuckey play in the context of organizational stability and coaching competence for the first time in his career? It’s fun and easy to think, oh life would be sunnier without Stuckey when you can fill in that fantasy with a fantasy point guard. Well, this isn’t X-box. You have to find a replacement.
     
    A credible analysis should present Stuckey alternatives. Who should the Pistons get to replace this guy in the event that they can’t sign him for $5 (which they can’t by the way)? And don’t take the easy way out and hope for Kyrie Irving and Knight. You can’t bank on that when letting Stuckey go. They’ll probably be picked above before 7,8,9 as Hayes mentioned yesterday. Do we start Bynum and wait to draft our point guard of the future next year when we draft 9-13. Is that where we’ll get our championship pg? Who, by the way, will take another 3 -4 years to develop after the 2012 draft. That means we’re waiting 4 to 5 years for strong, championship level point guard play. Or maybe we should go to free agency. Well, who is out there at 24 that shows more promise than Stuckey?
     
    My point is not to say that your analysis is weak. It isn’t. But do think it’s incomplete. A critical part of the analysis has to be whether the Pistons have more attractive alternatives at the point guard position. *That* is the tough question. I haven’t heard any alternatives on this board that are better than locking up a 24-year old pg who is quick, gets to the line, always plays hard, and has the ability to be a stud defender at both guard positions. Obviously, there’s risk involved in a 7M Stuckey signing, but the alternatives are not attractive at all.

    • Mar 29, 201112:50 pm
      by Jason

      Reply

      - Ramon Sessions -

    • Mar 30, 201112:57 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      Fennis, you raise some good points. If the Pistons were a title contender, I’d agree fully. But they’re obviously a long way from that.

      If they re-sign Stuckey to an overpriced contract, it limits their ability to add helpful players. At a certain point, the unknown is better than locking up Stuckey.

      What difference does it make if they don’t have a better alternative for next season? I’d argue they’re better off leaving their options open for 2012 than tying up Stuckey to a big contract.

  • Mar 29, 20111:04 pm
    by BIG MARV

    Reply

    All imma say it comes down to the money factor… Right now im going for the fools gold meatphor because its contract season. but stuckey will be signed in with the new cba coming which will stop overpaying under acheving players. but on stuckeys end he’s gonna want to get Starting PG Money and the question is, is he worth that price? My opinion ill try to keep him for a reasonable price but if he wants more let him go cause they need a star and they might have to find him in the draft. we tried that star thing with stuckey and I think he didnt accomplish the job and in my opinion its time to move on.

  • Mar 29, 20114:47 pm
    by Marvin Jones

    Reply

    Jason, Sessions is under contract with Clev and he’s a score first PG just like Stuckey only he’s smaller and plays no defense, I don’t see him as a great upgrade. I don’t think we tried the “star thing” with Stuckey, he was actually the first piece of the rebuilding project. I think with Billups gone as his mentor and playing most of his career under bad coaches his game has stagnated. I acutally think playing with Tmac as the PG has helped Stuckey become a better PG himself. In the East you have Augustine, D Williams, Caulderon, Wall, Rondo, Rose, Chalmers, Nelson, Henrich, Holliday, Billups, Collison, Jennings and B Davis/Sessions and only about 4 or 5 of those guys I would take over Stuckey. We have our PG we just need to get the proper mentoring and a good coach and I think we’ll begin to see it. 

    • Mar 29, 20115:04 pm
      by Tim Thielke

      Reply

      But Sessions is undoubtedly a better playmaker. He’s not quite as good overall as Stuckey. But odds are that he also comes with a lower price tag.

  • Mar 29, 20116:15 pm
    by swish22

    Reply

    I had a flashback of playing photoelectric football watching those graphs my friend!!
    I just don’t see Stuckey making players around him better or being any kind of leader.  HE was disobeying orders early this season if memory serves me correctly, and anytime hes heading to the hole hes like Stephon Marbury and we know what kind of team player he was! 

  • Mar 29, 20117:16 pm
    by Marvin Jones

    Reply

    Sessions is also under contract to Clev for 2 more yrs which means you have to give up something to get him and I don’t think it’s worth it when we have the better player in Stuckey already. Stuckey wants to run and Kuester wants to walk, that is their fundamental fued. If  Rip and Tay are gone then Stuckey can become the leader Joe wants, it can never be his team as long as the 2004 holdovers are still here. Q’s problem is he’s catering to the vets as far as style of play,  with him gone also hopefully the pace will quicken and I think you will see a different Stuckey. Marbury he’s not

  • Mar 30, 20111:04 am
    by khandor

    Reply

    re: “It’s naïve to believe Stuckey will emulate Billups’ mid-20s passing.”

    It is simply a negative assumption to believe that Stuckey will not be able to emulate Billups’ mid-20′s passing, etc. … if Stuckey is fortunate enough to also play for a coach like Larry Brown and with other teammates who fit together like the comrades-in-arms that were such a terrific fit with “Mr. Big Shot”.

    • Mar 30, 20111:02 pm
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      Khandor, good coaching and the right teammates helped Billups. But those weren’t the only factors. Billups had an aptitude for learning how to play point guard that either he hadn’t taken advantage of previously or hadn’t existed previously. Most players at age 26 have either taken advantage of that aptitude or don’t have it. He’s the exception to the rule.

  • Mar 30, 201112:58 pm
    by Dan Feldman

    Reply

    Fennis, you raise some good points. If the Pistons were a title contender, I’d agree fully. But they’re obviously a long way from that.

    If they re-sign Stuckey to an overpriced contract, it limits their ability to add helpful players. At a certain point, the unknown is better than locking up Stuckey.

    What difference does it make if they don’t have a better alternative for next season? I’d argue they’re better off leaving their options open for 2012 than tying up Stuckey to a big contract (big being subjective, obviously).

  • Mar 30, 20116:04 pm
    by OneBadMutha

    Reply

    Point guard is much less of an exact science.  Real similar to QBs in the NFL.  Assist numbers also can be misleading.  Marburry was a 10 assist a night guy who never made any team he played on win any more games.  Rose takes over 20 shots while only getting 8 assists but makes his team much, much better.

    I still think the argument of whether or not the point guard is “making everyone better” is grossly over-played.  There are very few players in the NBA that make everyone better.  Those that do are Superstars.  For example, Collison is a “true point guard” that many Detroit fans wanted.  Who’s getting better now that he’s running their show? 

    Who are the best true point guards with Championship rings?  Parker looks the part but he certainly wasn’t a true point guard through most of the Spurs Championships.  His best asset was his efficient scoring. 

    Derek Fisher?

    Ron Harper?

    My point exactly.  Superstars win Championship and make everyone better.  Whether they be point guards (Zeke and Magic), small forwards (Bird), bigs (Shaq, Hakeem, Duncan), or shooting guards (Jordan, Kobe). 

    Pistons bucked the trend.  Ironically they did it before Chauncy became a “true point guard”.  Chauncy learned how to be efficient, not turn over the ball, not take stupid shots in transition, shot less, and played better defense under LB in 2004.  Pistons ran a paint by numbers offense under LB in 2004 and LB loosened it up for Chauncy later in 2005 which carried over and he became a coach on the floor under Flip.

    Which goes to my point.  Stuckey’s issue hasn’t been lack of being a true point guard.  It’s been lack of efficiency.  Taking ill advised shots.  Being inefficient shooting.  Not giving effort on defense (show some pride and at least try while Sessions is scoring 40 on you).  Add to that the offense just felt discombobulated and like Stuckey didn’t fit in with the other guys and I was resolved to the fact that he just wasn’t a good starter…never-mind play point guard.  Not good enough to start in the NBA at any position period.

    But something happened.  When Tay, Rip, T-Mac, and Ben Wallace were all or mostly out, he was efficient.  He got easy baskets for his bigs like Monroe and Wilcox (that unlike Maxiell and Ben could finish layups and dunks).  Daye had his career game.  BG was getting his looks.  Guys were getting good looks in transition.  Stuckey’s shooting percentage and assist/turnover ratio were not only better, they were really good by any standards. 

    Now he’s coming off the bench again along with Maxiell while deferring to Tay and T-Mac to run their isos. 

    I’ve seen enough to believe that under a good coach and playing with guys who fit, he can be efficient.  If he’s the primary ball handler and isn’t turning the ball over, is pushing the ball for easy baskets in transition, is defending the position, is shooting efficiently, and isn’t dominating the ball in the half court, then he’s an answer at the 1 whether he’s a “true point guard” or not. 

    I wonder if Stuckey’s development has been similar to NFL teams who draft running QBs and try to turn them into pocket QBs.  He was a square peg in a round hole…not due to position but due to pace, system, and role with those vets who were not going to accept him as a leader after playing with Chauncy.

  • Mar 30, 201111:58 pm
    by rick

    Reply

    PPL seem to be ignoring the fact that Stuckey is now a BENCH PLAYER. He has come off the bench for like the last 10 games now, and will probably finish the year off the bench.

    So my question is, if this guy isnt good enough to start on a 20-some win lottery team, how can Joe possibly justfy re-signing him for starters money?

    On the Chauncey comparison, the biggest thing ppl forget about Chauncey is that he went through 5 losing teams, just like the teams Stuckey has been on, before finding the right fit for himself. Stuckey may well grow into the next Chauncey, but it wont be here if he does, imo.

    Like most good players on bad teams, it takes leaving and going to a winner with a new change of scenary and cuture to fully blossom. I personally dont think he will become that anywhere, but its certainly not happening here, imo. Nothing has changed in his first 4 yrs. I dont see any reason for any change the next 4 yrs.

    If they re-sign him with the MLE ot be the 6th man combo guard off the bench, I’m OK with that, as long as its not for starters money, because if he proves not to be a starter, we cant afford to add him to the list of bench players making starters money, along with BG, CV, and Maxiell.

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