Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe continues his ranking of the NBA’s top 100 players, and the Pistons’ backcourt of the future, Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo, made it in back-to-back spots:
78. Rodney Stuckey
G, restricted free agent (Detroit Pistons)
2010-11 Stats: 15.5 PPG, 43.9 FG%, 28.9 3PT%, 5.2 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.1 STL
Four years in and there is still so much we don’t know about Stuckey. We don’t know what team he’s going to be on next season, though it seems likely he’ll be in Detroit. We don’t know what position he plays, though it might be more accurate to say we don’t know what sort of personnel Stuckey needs around him for him and his team to function best. And the nuttiness of the Pistons’ 2010-11 season only added to the confusion, as Stuckey feuded with then-coach John Kuester, split point guard duties with Tracy McGrady and found himself part of a lot of goofy lineups.
But we know this: He improved his finishing at the rim, shot a career-best 44 percent from the floor, got to the line more than five times per game and increased his assist numbers. He can score in a variety of ways, and he has the potential to be a solid backcourt defender. His ceiling won’t get much higher if he doesn’t develop into a semi-reliable three-point shooter and/or reach a new level in some other key part of his game. Given all that uncertainty, you could be rightly skeptical that he even deserves this low spot in the bottom quarter of the rankings, even though he cracked the league’s overall top 50 in Player Efficiency Rating. He certainly hasn’t directed the Pistons to much success over the last few seasons.
But Stuckey’s numbers are trending in the right direction — no matter if he is a point guard, shooting guard or hybrid — and I have a feeling he could outplay this ranking if the context changes for the better in Detroit.
77. Arron Afflalo
SG, restricted free agent (Denver Nuggets)
2010-11 Stats: 12.6 PPG, 49.8 FG%, 42.3 3PT%, 2.4 APG, 3.6 RPG
I’ve already dubbed Afflalo the best wing free agent on the market, so I won’t belabor things here. Given that previous ranking, it may seem strange for Afflalo to be sitting here, at No. 77, behind a couple of the guys ranked below him on that free-agent list.
The reasoning: That previous list considered the long term, with an eye three or four years down the road. This ranking considers only the now, and Afflalo remains a guy who has never put up a league-average PER and still has to prove he is ready to be more of a focal point on offense.
The bet here is that he’ll do that, even if Afflalo is never going to be a first, second or even third option on a great team. But he is already much more than the spot-up shooter who entered the league four-plus years ago. He has worked on his off-the-dribble game and his ability to come off screens, and either shoot or attack the rim. Toss in some feisty defense, and you’ve got yourself a player who would help just about any team.
Sorry, had to antagonize the Afflalo lovers a bit. I’m a bad person.
As for Stuckey, Lowe’s analysis is spot-on. Stuckey hasn’t become the star the organization treated him as when he first arrived in Detroit. He hasn’t developed into the attacking, athletic, Russell Westbrook/Derrick Rose-style new breed point guard that Joe Dumars envisioned when he scouted him. And, although he has improved a little bit each season, it has been incremental. He probably wouldn’t be so polarizing a figure among fans if he weren’t given that future star hype by the organization pretty much as soon as he entered the league, but he’s developed into a solid NBA starter who, under the right circumstances, can give quality minutes at either guard spot.
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