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Rodney Stuckey still struggling to shoot at rim, even with better 3-point shooting teammates

Last year, some Rodney Stuckey supporters floated a theory that his dismal shooting percentage at the rim was due to the Pistons’ poor 3-point shooting. These Stuckey fans argued his driving lanes were tighter, because opponents could sag inside more easily.

I didn’t find their argument particularly persuasive, but I wrote a post addressing the issue. The basic conclusion: Stuckey’s field-goal percentage at the rim was poor last year, and so was Detroit’s 3-point shooting. But for as poor as the Pistons’ outside shooting was, Stuckey’s field-goal percentage at the rim was even poorer relative to other similar players.

I ended the post by saying , “Hopefully, Ben Gordon and the rest of the Pistons shoot better on 3-pointers next season. That would help us learn a lot about Stuckey. Plus, it would make Detroit better.”

Well, the Pistons climbed from last in 3-point percentage last year (31.4 percent) to fourth this year (37.7 percent). About that making Detroit better, yeah… But this should help us learn more about Stuckey.

So, I’m re-plotting the same data as last year:

I looked at each team’s leader in shots at the rim among guards and small forwards. I charted their field-goal percentage at the rim against their teammates’ 3-point percentage (which is slightly flawed because it accounts for all 3-pointers, not just when the shots-at-rim leader is on the court – but I think it still serves the point)

You might be surprised how far Stuckey’s field-goal percentage at the rim has fallen this season. After a strong start, it has quietly declined. (Stats from HoopData.)

Anyway, onto the main show:

(Three players – Carmelo Anthony, Corey Brewer and Devin Harris – were traded midseason. I used their original team’s 3-point shooting at the time of the trade.)

As you can see, Stuckey’s shooting at the rim is well below the expected value.

What’s Stuckey’s excuse now?


  • Apr 8, 20111:23 pm
    by neutes


    While I don’t come close to buying this rationale having watched Stuckey play, assuming I did buy into it wouldn’t a better case be made based off of 3-point attempts instead of 3-point percentage? It seems the willingness of a team to shoot the 3 would outweigh the efficiency of them in spacing the floor. The Pistons rank highly in 3-point percentage, but I’m sure are near the league bottom in attempts. Of course teams more likely to shoot 3′s might be higher tempo teams. And wouldn’t playing at a faster tempo help create better looks at the rim? Either way I don’t buy it. I’ve seen too much of Stuckey to attribute anything to his teammates.

  • Apr 8, 20112:14 pm
    by inigo montoya


    I have to call a foul here.
    The hypothesis that should be tested is has Stuckey’s at-the-rim percentage increased with better overall Piston’s 3-pt. shooting.  This analysis does not address this hypothesis. According to Hoopsdata, Stuckey had an at-the-rim percentage of 49.3 percent last year and 55.9 percent this year.
    The first graph does not show much, only a slight decline since the game 37-38 mark.  Is this a correlation to when Stuckey played more shooting guard?
    The second graph does not show much either, a lot of the team’s leader’s in shots-at-the rim are either shooting guards or small forwards.  Perhaps a better comparison would be comparing just point guards.  Of course Paul Pierce, Kirilenko, and Shawn Marion are going to have a higher at-the-rim percentage than point guards, although the graph shows a curious item, that Stuckey’s at-the-rim percentage is slightly better than Carmelo Anthony’s.

  • Apr 8, 20112:17 pm
    by Fennis


    No mention of the fact that Stuckey has raised his overall FG% by 3 points amidst a year of team chaos. You’re cherry picking data points and undermining your credibility in the process.
    Let me save you some time and energy and predict exactly what will happen in the next year. Joe D will keep his job. Joe D will resign Stuckey. Joe D will sign a good coach under the new ownership, which will be willing to pay for one.  Joe D will draft another young and promising starter.
    Stuckey will have another weapon (via the draft). Stuckey will benefit from competent coaching. Stuckey will thrive under these circumstances at age 25.
    In a year you will be eating crow, and I’ll bet we never hear of this blog post again.

  • Apr 8, 20112:30 pm
    by brgulker


    I predict you are right about everything expect Stuckey’s ability to “thrive.” Will you show up a year from now to admit you were wrong? Doubtful.
    But I will make a commitment to post frequently to my blog eating my own words if Stuckey does thrive next year in a Pistons uniform.

  • Apr 8, 20112:34 pm
    by brgulker


    I think there’s some strong research that suggests that most people severely overestimate the impact that a player’s teammates have on the player.
    Guys who can finish at the rim well are going to finish at the rim well, regardless of their teammates. Guys who can’t won’t when you change their teammates or the performance of those teammates.
    But we often convince ourselves that a player can become something more than he is if he just finds that right situation. “Stuckey will look better with a big man who can finish at the rim.” Well, now we have Monroe. “Stuckey will look better if he has perimeter players who can shoot.” Well, now he has a few respectable shooters around him.
    Yet, Stuckey still is who he is — a middling guard who doesn’t excel at anything. To think he’s otherwise is deceiving yourself.

    • Apr 8, 20112:50 pm
      by neutes


      I do and don’t agree here. Teammates can have an impact. Take Turkoglu for instance. He’s not great by any means but he suffered big time in Toronto and Pheonix where they had PG’s dominating the ball and he had to play off the ball almost exclusively. He gets back to Orlando and he’s allowed to get the ball in his hands where he’s more comfortable running pick and rolls and such. Or take big men that suffer from diminishing boards when paired with other good rebounders. Or in Toronto how Davis, Amir, Bosh, and Evans have all been made too look like stars by Bargnani’s non-interest in securing any rebounds.
      So teammates can have an impact, and skew some numbers, but in Stuckey’s case, with his skill set, I don’t see how that would be possible.

  • Apr 8, 20115:17 pm
    by Jeremy


    I would add that the (offensive, in the case of fg%) system the player is in and how that players’ game fits with the system is an important factor.
    I think the hope with Monroe and Stuckey, for example, was that Monroe’s passing ability would allow Stuckey to benefit as a PG by bringing the ball up the court and passing it into the paint to initiate the offense (which obviously isn’t a credit to Stuckey’s PG skills, but rather a hope for team synergy). That didn’t really happen because it wasn’t a part of Q’s system, so we don’t really know how that theory might actually play out.
    To get a little more relevant, how consistently are the Pistons best three point shooters actually squared up in the corner when Stuckey drives? What percentage of his time is even spent on the court with the Pistons better three point shooters? Furthermore (this is also not a defense of Stuckey), if Rodney doesn’t pass out of the drive to open three point shooters, there is nothing to prevent teams from collapsing on him and the increased team three point shooting percentage doesn’t matter because it’s still not a threat on his drives. Maybe?
    Personally, I’m hot and cold on Stuckey. I still like him, but I feel like I might like him more than I should.

  • Apr 10, 20111:36 am
    by 2Tough


    Good points made in the comments about who Stuckey’s on the floor with during the majority of his playing time (Hamilton and Prince, who take the ball out of his hands and are not floor spacers) and the fact that the Pistons rank as one of the lowest three point teams (in attempts) in the league.  They have a couple guys who shoot the long ball well, but it doesn’t offset the fact that the three-point shot is still not a major weapon in the Pistons’ offensive arsenal.
    And yes, this does seem to be a case of “cherry picking” a stat to prove a point that doesn’t exist.  Stuckey has raised his percentage at the rim by over 7% this year ( a HUGE improvement) and he’s improved his overall field goal % by 3% ( a very good improvement) and overall scoring efficiency (scoring the same 17.5 per 36 minutes this year as he did last year, but on 3 less shots per).

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