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.
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