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Rodney Stuckey is the NBA’s 78th best player, according to Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe

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)
Age: 25
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)
Age: 25
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.

16 Comments

  • Aug 4, 20112:40 pm
    by brgulker

    Reply

    I would take Afflalo over Stuckey 8 days a week.

    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.

    If you’re building around Stuckey, you’re doing it wrong.  Suckey’s a complementary player and always will be. He’s the piece a Playoff team adds, not a piece a rebuilding team rebuilds around.

    If you think otherwise (khandor), you’re either a fanboy in denial of reality, or just in denial of reality.

    /troll’d

  • Aug 4, 20113:04 pm
    by gordbrown

    Reply

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Yes Stuckey was called upon to replace Billups and that was perhaps an unfair position to put him in. And most of the ire that rains down on his head is because of that. But the plan was never to build a team around Stuckey. The plan was to build a team around Hamilton and Prince. The problem with that, as has been hashed and rehashed repeatedly, is that Hamilton and Prince are also complementary players. The completion of that thought is that Hamilton least of all has not realized that he is a complementary player and thinks the team not only has been built around him but ought to have been built around him and he deserves to be treated accordingly — whether he deserves to be or not. You can argue about whether the decline in his game is because of his crappy attitude or natural aging (it’s probably a bit of both) but he has never in the history of the NBA demonstrated that he can carry a team consistently. I’d rather use Stuckey and Gordon, at least you have a better chance of winning (am working on quantifying that but its a long project).

  • Aug 4, 20117:40 pm
    by RyanK

    Reply

    I’d take Stuckey from a talent standpoint over Afflalo.  Everyone might point out that Afflalo has a reputation of being a good defender…well if you think Stuckey doesn’t play good D then you’re blind.
     
    Afflalo had his career year.  He had Billups and Melo on the other side of the floor leaving him wide open to shot.  He’s a quality player, but doesn’t have the upside Stuckey does.

    • Aug 4, 201110:40 pm
      by Mike Payne

      Reply

      “well if you think Stuckey doesn’t play good D then you’re blind.”
       
      My eyes work just fine, and I saw a poor defender this year, confounded further by his time at the 2, where he was worse than poor on defense.  But what my eyes saw shouldn’t hold up in court, and if someone saw something different than I did I wouldn’t call them blind.  I’d rely on stats.  A good individual advanced stat set for defensive performances is the data (and video) Synergy has available.  Funny enough, Synergy agrees with my eyes.  Synergy isn’t blind either.
       
      Stuckey was pretty good at D in 2009-10, and that was pretty much is only saving grace that season.  This last year, yeah, he was the bad.

      • Aug 5, 20119:16 am
        by Patrick Hayes

        Reply

        Yep. Mike is exactly right. Stuckey is not a good defender. Stuckey has phenomenal tools to be a good defensive player with his size, speed and strength. He has never consistently put them together and become a good defensive player, though. Afflalo, on the other hand, is consistently good defensively.

        There’s a huge difference between being capable and actually doing something.

        • Aug 5, 201110:17 am
          by RyanK

          Reply

          Afflalo is a solid player who I wish would be here as a back up guy.  But the fact he had Melo and Billups opening up things on his wing explains his great shooting last season.  I really like Afflalo, but he’s notch down from Stuckey.  If Stuckey would ever be coached to be more patient and pick his spots more he’d be an allstar.  I don’t know if that ever will happen, but Afflalo doesn’t have the type of ceiling.
           
          Stuckey and the rest slacked off big time last year!  No one played hard defense consistently except Bynum and Monroe (second half/third of the season).  You admit he defended well in previous years…well Afflalo only shot well for one season…does that tell you all you need to know about him.  Should we offer him a huge deal because there’s no risk it’s a one time performance?
           
          If you put a couple allstars on the perimeter with Stuckey you’d see a fair comparison.  But Stuckey with the ball in his hands and trying to create everything for himself is a total different than Afflalo taking outside shots that are wide open.
           
          Again, I’d take Afflalo 8 days a week on our team.  He’s a tough defender and that means a lot in my book.  He just doesn’t have the ceiling Stuckey has.

  • Aug 5, 20118:31 am
    by neutes

    Reply

    I can’t read any more of Lowe’s rankings I just disagree too much with them. He has 4 players in the 71-80 range I wouldn’t put anywhere near the top 100 players. Although I do mostly agree with his Stuckey and Afflalo rankings, weird.

  • Aug 5, 201110:00 am
    by Jason

    Reply

    Afflalo deserves to be above Stuckey when you look at last year.  Stuckey is explosive and has way more potential for the future than afflalo. Hopefully we see that soon.

    Regarding stats though I am not convinced Afflalo is as good as his stats.  It may be part of the system ran in Denver.  Cause if you look at the the game log for the games he was injured late in the season Denver played just as good and probably better. 

    • Aug 5, 201110:26 am
      by neutes

      Reply

      Stats don’t say Afflalo is a star or anything, he’s just better than any guard we have on our roster. Denver was loaded and could easily absorb an injury to a guard. They had Lawson, Felton, Chandler, and Smith who is just as good as Afflalo, not defensively, but as a player.

      • Aug 5, 201110:43 am
        by Jason

        Reply

        Lets not overrate Afflalo cause you are mad we traded him.

        • Aug 5, 201110:46 am
          by neutes

          Reply

          You just said Afflalo deserves to be ahead of Stuckey, and I would have to imagine you would think Stuckey is the best guard on our roster, hence, Afflalo is better than any guard on our roster.

          • Aug 5, 201110:53 am
            by Jason

            I would rank Gordon and Hamilton above both of them right now.   Stuckey and Afflalo basically the same. And I said Afflalo should be ranked above Stuckey according to LAST year.

            Just because some article ranks Afflalo higher doesn’t mean I have to.

            If the Pistons were fighting in the playoffs right now there would be no way I would put Stuckey and Afflalo ahead of Gordon and Hamilton.  Would you even have to think about it?

            But if you put contracts and future potential than things may change.

          • Aug 5, 20111:12 pm
            by neutes

            So according to you the Pistons have 3 guards that would be considered top 100 players? Shouldn’t we be like winning games or something?

          • Aug 5, 20112:14 pm
            by Jason

            I will never sit down and analyze and rank my top 100 players.  that is stupid.  I am just saying what I said above.

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