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Was Charlie Villanueva cursed by his 48-point game as a rookie?

Josh Hilgendorf of TrueHoop Network affiliate Bucksketball has been counting down the top 20 Milwaukee Bucks since 1991 and today he has some interesting thoughts on Charlie Villanueva. Now, the streakiness and porous defense that has plagued Villanueva in Detroit was also an issue in Milwaukee, but Hilgendorf also points out that Villanueva’s propensity to occasionally (and sometimes effortlessly) score the ball has a tendency to inflate expectations for him:

As a Buck, he was a cloud. Drifting on the offensive end, occasionally striking, and completely dissipating when it came time to play defense. To his credit, when Villanueva wanted to score, it seemed like he could.

And here is where the curse of the 48 point game comes into play. When you show that much ability as a rookie, fans, coaches and front office folk are going to expect a lot. They want to see steady improvement. They want to see consistency. They want to see a player realize the potential displayed while still green to the NBA. There is a pressure to perform. And under this pressure, Villanueva crumbled.

Villanueva has always seemed like a guy who badly wants to please everyone. He doesn’t seem like a malcontent or bad teammate. Adding to the expectations, he signed a large contract in Detroit, so not only did he have the handful of explosive scoring performances that have tantalized his teams and their fans, but he had has now been paid like a starting caliber player for two seasons.

I think most realize Villanueva’s rebounding and defense make him too much of a liability to be a starter for most teams, but something else to consider in his career: Villanueva has never been part of a good team. I would still be interested to see how he performed on a team with the accompanying talent to play him with players who make up for his defensive deficiencies when his offense is working but also the depth to not depend on him on a nightly basis in case his shot is not falling. Villanueva will probably never satisfy critics of his game by playing a prominent role on a bad team, but he has the personality and skillset to be a specialist on most good teams.


  • Sep 7, 201110:48 am
    by neutes


    The problem is inconsistency. Even if you accepted the fact he doesn’t like to rebound or defend, or just can’t do either, he’s still not consistently putting the ball through the hoop on offense either. It’s the same with Gordon, and even Stuckey. It’s inconsistency, but you end up hoping and overpaying for those good games and ignoring the bad ones. Can’t let the good ones fool you. That’s what was so refreshing about Monroe last season. After the break he was consistently putting up double-doubles and improving. He’s a guy you look at and say I can depend on him every game. Can’t say that about most of the other guys on the roster.

    • Sep 7, 201110:58 am
      by Patrick Hayes


      That’s why you can only afford to have Gordon or Villanueva on your team if you have a good team. If you have other options at their positions, you can play Gordon or Villanueva big minutes when their offense is good enough to make them worth having on the court. And when their offense is terrible, you can sit them because you have depth at their positions. Gordon was decent in Chicago because the Bulls had enough defense around him and enough depth in their backcourt to make up for his shortcomings. Villanueva has never played on a team like that, he’s only been on lousy teams his entire career. Sure, his inconsistencies and weaknesses contributed to those teams being lousy, but I think if he was on a solid team as a fourth big man who could play when he has it going or sit if his shot is not falling, he might be OK.

      • Sep 7, 201112:00 pm
        by tarsier


        Indeed, like the Pistons in their recent half decade of stomping all over the league. The only consistent player on that roster was Big Ben. And that was because he played great defense every night and was not relied on to score. Although I maintain his contribution to offense was severely underrated in that offensive rebounds are basically as valuable as taking away missed shots. And by pulling down tons of those, he raised the efficiency of the whole team. This was particularly important in the championship year when they could win a game in which they scored 70 points.
        But my point is that Prince, Billups, Hamilton, and Sheed were all inconsistent players. But on most nights, you could count on at least two of them to be very good. On a team like that, CV ideally could help by being a guy off the bench who fills in for someone who isn’t really getting it done on a particular night (but he isn’t even at that point). His problem, beyond inconsistency, is that he doesn’t play well two nights out of three. He plays well maybe two nights out of seven. Inconsistency is a manageable problem. Substandard average production is a lot harder to deal with.

  • Sep 7, 201112:12 pm
    by Murph


    I agree that that 48 point performance as a rookie was a curse, but for a different reason.  It’s not the fans’ and coaches’ expectations that have put too much pressure on CV. 

    It’s that Charlie, himself, now thinks of himself as a big-time shooter and scorer.  CV has an over-inflated opinion of himself.  He believes his own press clippings.  

    He no longer wants or thinks it’s necessary to work for post postion, or rebounds, or defensive stops…all of which he might actually be able to do, if he just put forth the effort.  CV thinks the game is easy; he thinks that all he has to do to be a star is hang out at the 3 pt line, hope someone passes him the ball, and chuck up another bomb.

    Regardless of what the reason is for CV’s poor metal approach to the game, I’m tired of watching him play.  I can’t wait for a trade or for his contract to expire.

  • Sep 7, 20111:00 pm
    by Padden


    I totally agree with this article.  I sort of see him as a Terry Mills type right now, (with a little better D though).
    I will be interested to see how the rest of his career goes and wouldn’t be surprised to see him fill some of that potential at some point soon, at least from a consistency stand point, but the Pistons frankly(no pun intended) suck right now and the opportunity to fill the role that he seems able to fit likely hasn’t presented itself.

    • Sep 7, 20111:11 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Mills was pretty bad defensively, but the dude rebounded much much better than CV.

  • Sep 7, 20111:53 pm
    by Jacob


    I honestly like CV as a person – not that I know him personally – but he’s entertaining and fan friendly, and seems like a good locker room guy. I don’t mind him being a Piston. The problem here comes from expectations. He’s getting paid quality starter’s money and the reality is that he probably will never be that. He’s a guy that can come off the bench and get you 15-20 minutes of scoring – maybe leave him in longer if his shot is wet ala a slightly better Jarvis Hayes. If we can solidify the frontcourt and put him in a role like that I think everyone might accept him more. Unfortunately there’s his contract…..

  • Sep 7, 20111:57 pm
    by Jodi Jezz


    CV gets paid like a starting caliber player??? His contract screams sixth man if you compare his contract to other sixth man in the league…Lamar Odom, Marvin Williams, and Wesley Mathews all have similar contracts…These Pistons writers are ignorant when it comes to professional basketball! All they do is put down my team with horrible nonfiction facts…

    • Sep 7, 20112:51 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      “CV gets paid like a starting caliber player???”

      Yes. He makes $7.5 million, $8 million and $8.5 million over the next three years. The average salary for a NBA starter is right around $7 million per year. This data is available. You can look it up for yourself at HoopsHype or Sham Sports.

      “His contract screams sixth man if you compare his contract to other sixth man in the league…Lamar Odom, Marvin Williams, and Wesley Mathews all have similar contracts”

      Marvin Williams started 52 of the 65 games he played last season. Wes Matthews started 69 of the 82 games he played in. They are not sixth men, they are starters. Lamar Odom was a sixth man last season. He made $8.9 million. He also averaged 14 points and 9 rebounds per game because he’s a much better player than Villanueva.

      “These Pistons writers are ignorant when it comes to professional basketball!”

      For the record, you just said that Villanueva’s contract is reasonable because he makes roughly the same amount as Wes Matthews, Marvin Williams and Lamar Odom, three players that are all superior players to Villanueva. And in the case of Odom and Matthews, those two are light years better than Villanueva. So again, you questioning my basketball intelligence is a compliment if this and other comments you’ve left are any indication of your knowledge of the game.

      “All they do is put down my team with horrible nonfiction facts…”

      I don’t know exactly what a nonfiction fact is. A fact that is also true?

      Listen man. I get what you do. You troll here. You post silly BS to get a rise. That’s fine, I understand how trolls operate. I’m just throwing this out there though … it doesn’t have to be that way. If you disagree with something, feel free to say, “Hey, that’s not right for x and y reasons.” Or if something is unclear, say “Hey, why did you arrive at that conclusion? Did you consider this?” That’s how conversations work. There are commenters who we disagree with but have perfectly reasonable conversations and dialogue with down here.

      The other option is simply to find a new site that fits your needs better. You don’t have to like what we write. But if you don’t, the best thing for you to do is move along. I certainly don’t waste much time commenting on sites where I think the writers are dumb or poorly informed. If that’s your opinion of us here, I really can’t understand why you would want to waste your time here.

      • Sep 7, 20113:09 pm
        by Ryan78


        Pat just owned you

      • Sep 8, 201112:17 am
        by PistonsFanForLife


        Patrick, I think Jodi Jezz is right. Villanueva does get paid bench player salary. Ben Gordon/Rip Hamilton gets paid starting player salary. I think Villanueva is a good fit for the pistons. He just needs to play better defense

        • Sep 8, 20119:21 am
          by Patrick Hayes


          No, he’s not right. Not even close to right in fact. As I said, the average salary of a NBA starter is over $7 million per year. So Villanueva makes about the average among NBA starters. Also, he’s the Pistons’ third highest paid player. Also, he makes more money per year than Ben Wallace or Chauncey Billups did on the 2004 title team. I don’t understand how anyone can consider his salarly to be “bench player” money.

    • Sep 7, 20113:07 pm
      by tarsier


      Ha! Horrible nonfiction facts! In other words, things that are true but that unfortunately suck. With the direction the team has taken of late, most Pistons’ writers and fans have written a lot of horrible nonfiction facts. Your best exception would be Keith Langlois. He writes a ton of wonderful fiction “facts” on how good the Pistons are and how promising their immediate future is (less of late because of lockout rules).

    • Sep 7, 20113:10 pm
      by tarsier


      Also, sixth men in the sense of players who are serious candidates for the sixth man award tend to have contracts and roles like those of starters. Because they aren’t sixth men in the sense of getting the sixth most minutes on their teams.

  • Sep 7, 20117:04 pm
    by Laser


    Personally, I think there’s an important distinction between wanting to please people and wanting people to be pleased. I’m certain Charlie wants people to be pleased, but I get the feeling he can’t be bothered to do squat to please them.

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