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3-on-3: The Pistons development of Rodney Stuckey

Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, Dan and I will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic.

For each 3-on-3, we’ll be joined by a guest contributor. Today, that’s Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press and Sports Illustrated.

Could Rodney Stuckey be a top two player on a contending team?

Dan Feldman: No. I’m not convinced he has the talent to do it, but he definitely hasn’t shown the mental fortitude. At minimum, championship teams play 16 playoffs games, since the NBA adopted the best-of-seven first round, they’ve all played at least 20. When has Stuckey been engaged, focused and active for 16-20 straight games? That’s what it takes to win in the playoffs.

Patrick Hayes: Maybe, if the top player on that team was really good and the 3-7 or so players in that rotation are pretty close to as good as Stuckey. He certainly has skills that are valuable — a guard who gets to the line like he does is a nice luxury for sure, as is his ability to play both backcourt spots. He’s still improving some, as evidenced by his 3-point shooting this season. And although he’s never shown it consistently, he still has the physical tools to be a top defensive player. He’s versatile and he’d certainly help any good team, but it’s a stretch to see him as the second best player on a contender unless the top player is one of the handful of legit franchise guys in the league.

Michael Rosenberg: No. There was a time when I would have said yes without hesitation. The Pistons saw him that way and his teammates gushed about his talent. But it has become clear that a) Stuckey is not a point guard, which decreases the impact of his 6-foot-5 frame, and b) Stuckey does not have the killer mentality that a top-two player on a contending team needs. He coasts, he complains, he has a misguided sense of what he has actually accomplished. He can still start for a contending team if he becomes more consistent, but he can’t lead one.

Could Rodney Stuckey be a top 10 player at either shooting guard or point guard?

Dan Feldman: He’s more likely to make it at point guard, but I don’t see him reaching that level at either position. He passes very well for a shooting guard, but his subpar outside shooting hinders him and clogs the court because defenders can sag off him. Plus, he’s an average athlete at shooting guard. His physical skills stand out more at point guard, and he takes care of the ball well, but he hasn’t shown a feel for the position. Stuckey is a better shooting guard right now, but he has more potential at point guard.

Patrick Hayes: No, but he’s not far off at either position. His problem at point guard is he’s not all that adept at creating for others, except when he petulantly (but hilariously) refuses to shoot in order to show up the coaching staff. His problem at shooting guard is that he doesn’t shoot from 3-point range or finish at the rim well enough to be among the best at that spot. He’s a really nice player to have who can fill in ably at both spots, but he’s also most likely never going to be considered an elite player at either position.

Michael Rosenberg: Not at point guard. Potentially at shooting guard. But he has to improve his outside shot and, as I mentioned, his consistency. Shooting guard is a high-energy position — a player has to want to free himself open on almost every offensive possession and guard somebody trying to do the same thing on every defensive possession. Stuckey has the ability, but he needs to show that energy.

If the Pistons had not made the Chauncey Billups trade, thus not opening a spot for Stuckey to start immediately, would Stuckey be a better player right now as a result of getting more time to develop in the sixth man role he looked to be excelling in during the 2008 NBA Playoffs?

Dan Feldman: Probably not. I think playing behind Billups would have helped Stuckey in the long term. At this point, though, the increased minutes were probably just as valuable. But now what? Stuckey has already been handed a starting job. He’s already been handed an $8 million-per-year contract. He’s already been handed carte blanche to disrespect a coach without serious repercussions. What motivates Stuckey to get better from here? Earning minutes from Billups would have given Stuckey a challenge he desperately needs.

Patrick Hayes: Yes. Playing behind Billups for at least another year would’ve kept the expectations on Stuckey from ratcheting up so quickly. He would’ve excelled as a third guard backing up Billups and Rip Hamilton. He would’ve been able to develop and learn the position at a more natural pace and he would’ve had a willing teacher in Billups (see: the work Billups did with Ty Lawson in Denver). On top of that, that Pistons team probably would’ve had at least one more deep playoff run in it, giving Stuckey even more postseason experience.

Michael Rosenberg: Interesting question. One could argue that Billups would have mentored him and forced him to earn his position. I don’t know that I buy that, though. Stuckey sat on the bench as a rookie. Most great players, and even most really good players, get significant minutes by their second season. So I don’t think the Billups trade either stunted or spurred Stuckey’s growth. I think the Pistons hurt him with two bad coaching hires: Michael Curry and John Kuester. With a great coach the last three years, Stuckey would be a better player now.


  • Feb 9, 20122:12 pm
    by neutes


    I don’t buy that he would have been better. Plenty of young players get playing time given to them. The motivation to get better should coincide with a motivation to win. Maybe he doesn’t have that.

    • Feb 9, 20122:15 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      I don’t think he should have sat or anything. But he would’ve been able to play a more optimal role for him, backing up both guard spots, and learning a new position slowly rather than just “surprise, you’re a starting point guard for the first time in your life on a team that still fancies itself a contender.” I think they needed more time to evaluate whether or not he could play that position full-time, and giving him another season as a backup, while still playing him 25-30 minutes backing up multiple positions, could’ve done that.

      • Feb 9, 20123:33 pm
        by neutes


        but, we’re talking about Stuckey’s development as a player and not whether Dumars committed to him before he had a proper opportunity to assess his skill level.

        • Feb 9, 20123:40 pm
          by neutes


          The organization would have been better off, but I’m not so sure that Stuckey would have been better off.

  • Feb 9, 20122:25 pm
    by tarsier


    Stuckey has a much better shot at becoming a top 10 SG than a top 10 PG just because there are so many fantastic PGs in the league right now. And SGs? There’s Wade, Kobe, Gordon, Harden, Martin, Allen, then what? And who knows how much longer Kobe and Allen will be good.

    • Feb 15, 20123:04 am
      by Dan Feldman


      That’s a good point, but assuming Stuckey is at least a couple years from reaching the top 10 (if he’ll ever make it), the league-wide strength of those positions could switch by then. There are no highly rated point guards in the next draft, but there are a couple shooting guards.

  • Feb 9, 20122:27 pm
    by Laser


    Unequivocally, he will never be a top two player on a contending team or a top ten player at either position. He’s physically capable of being a top ten shooting guard (I’m of a mind that it’s more reasonable to expect a poor shooter to develop that skill than a pure scorer to suddenly learn how to facilitate for others), but not a shred of evidence exists that anyone should ever expect it to happen. In all likelihood, what you see is what you get.

    As far as his development goes, the main problem I had with the Chauncey trade was that Stuckey was not ready to take over and could really use another season under Chauncey’s wing. I think that fear has been more than validated. I don’t think the extra minutes he played due to Chauncey’s absence meant squat. The kid only has one move, and it’s not like those minutes made him any better at finishing at the rim.

  • Feb 9, 20124:32 pm
    by richard


    He could take some lessons from Jeremy Lin….

  • Feb 9, 20124:36 pm
    by frankie d


    laser is pretty much right on target.
    no way, no how was stuckey ready to play the point guard spot for a contending team when joe made the trade.
    if he’d been playing on a team where he could play and make mistakes and not worry about wins and losses, then maybe.   he could just play and maybe benefit from the minutes, as hopefully is happening with brandon knight.   but on a team that had just been to the finals for 6 straight years and had aspirations of doing the same again…no way.
    and unfortunately, while he’s improved in some ways, he is still basically the same player he was back when the chauncey trade was made.  it is almost like his development as a point guard got stuck – no pun intended – right at that point in time.
    now, he may never have been capable of learning how to play the PG spot – he just  doesn’t seem to have the mentality and the vision – but if that possibility ever existed, it disappeared when he was tossed into that fire.
    patrick hayes makes the same essential point, and the specific alternatives he mentions would have been optimal.
    imho, stuckey is another “seattle guard” one of those hybrid PG/SGs like jason terry, nate robinson, aaron brooks, isiah thomas, jamal crawford, brandon roy…guys out of the seattle area who are really shooting guards even though they have point guard skills.
    it is weird that one city has produced a certain type of player, but for whatever reason, that type of player seems to almost grow in seattle.
    and all of those guys are best suited to being 6th men.  (even though roy was a great shooting guard, he would have been a 6th man of the year and i still think he might ultimately come back and play that role after healing for a couple of years.)   they can come in and play both positions, and they are also more focused on their own offense than is good for a competent point guard. 
    i’ve always thought that stuckey as a jason terry-type guard off the bench would be best for both player and team.

    • Feb 9, 20124:41 pm
      by Jacob


      Do you mean Isaiah Thomas? Because Isiah Thomas was from Chicago and was about as pure a point guard as there was.

    • Feb 10, 20122:13 pm
      by sebastian


      frankie d. and you can add Terrance Williams to that “Seattle Guard” group, players who are shooting guards with some point guard tendencies.

  • Feb 9, 20124:38 pm
    by Jacob


    1. No. I think he could be a starting SG on a contending team, but that team would need a great PG and a good Center. At best he would be the 3rd or 4th best player. I could also see him as a good 6th man on a contending team and coming in at either PG or SG depending on matchups on the game.
    2. No. I could see him being in the top 15 at SG, but as a PG I think he would be ranked between 15-20 in the league at best. He was a scorer in college, probably in high school too,  and we’ve seen that transitioning to a facilitator has not been real smooth for him. Currently on a struggling team he’s behind 2 rookies, one of them a 29 yr old rookie, in PG responsibilities. I think the top 10 PG in the league ship has sailed. It didn’t have to but….
    3. I definitely think he would have benefited from another year or 2 under Chauncey Billups. He missed a big portion of his rookie year and then the trade happened 2 games into the following year giving him a total of about 2/3 of a season under a really good point guard. Then as a 2nd year player he was under the backcourt tutelage of AI and Rip? Wow. I love Rip, but he’s never really been the kind of guy to take someone under his wing and show him the ropes. If he was going to be a SG his growth was stunted from there. If he was going to be a PG his growth was stunted 10-fold from there. Taking Chauncey away from him that soon only hurt his development at either position, regardless of the minutes he got.

  • Feb 9, 20124:45 pm
    by gordbrown


    Actually when are we going to have a followup on Michael’s comment. If you are going to criticize Dumars for anything (other than of course the ability to defy gravity or more to the point the effect of gravity over time), it’s the three year coaching clusterfuck. In fact, I think that there’s a good argument to be made that there has been a carryover effect of last year’s problems on this year’s performance (exaggerated of course by the effects of the lockout/wonky schedule). Just a thought.

    • Feb 9, 20125:47 pm
      by Laser


      Natutrally a Ben Gordon booster won’t criticize the 2009 free agent signings that instantly guaranteed a half decade of misery.

  • Feb 9, 20125:12 pm
    by frankie d


    yes. sactown’s rookie. never certain how to spell either!

    • Feb 9, 20127:20 pm
      by Jacob


      Don’t you ever, ever make that mistake on a Pistons blog ever again……ever! :)

      • Feb 10, 201211:16 am
        by frankie d


        i promise you…i will make that mistake again.
        for whatever reason, i always forget the correct spelling of both names!
        it’s weird.

  • Feb 9, 20127:20 pm
    by Max


    A few things.
    1. I think Stuckey would have benefited from Billups staying at least another year and at the ages Billups and Hamilton were. I don’t why they couldn’t have played a fairly even split of the 96 minutes there are at guard which split three ways equals 32 minutes each.
    2. The question about whether Stuckey will ever be a top 10 guard at either position obviously hinges on him making some improvement and his three point shooting this year suggests that he can, but the more relevant factor might actually be that there are very few good shooting guards in the league and while there are a lot of good point guards, a lot them are aging and I heard Larry Bird say yesterday that he doesn’t think there will be a good point guard coming out of the next TWO drafts–good thing the Pistons drafted Knight.   This all means that 2-4 years from now when Stuckey is 27-30 and should be at his apex regarding being both a veteran and still in his physical prime that he could move up the ranks significantly due to other players dropping off and retiring.  By that time, he may be bigger and stronger as well which would make him even more of a matchup nightmare for certain guards.

  • Feb 9, 20128:13 pm
    by Max


    Bill Simmons interviewed Larry Bird on his podcast: http://espn.go.com/espnradio/play?id=7548026
    It’s a great interview and hits on far ranging topics including the Pistons and especially Bill Laimbeer.
    More interestingly perhaps, Bird is incredibly candid regarding at one end, some of his first days of practice in the league and on the other, his current philosophies as a GM which are somewhat Pistons relevant because of his framing of the Pacers as a small market team that is trying to win.
    They also spend a lot time discussing an issue we talk about here in regards to when is the right time to break up a great team.
    BTW: Is there a better forum or place for off topic issues?

  • Feb 9, 20128:46 pm
    by Stuckey and whoever


    I think Stuck can be a top ten point/shooting guard and be a number 2 option on a contender.  Now that being said the team will have to buy in as well as the coaches on how the team is ran.  And the Pistons have done that half heartingly.  Stuckey can run of screens, not just pick and rolls and the iso.  Most 2 guards can’t keep up with his speed and first step, most point guards can’t match his strength so take him to the post or go right at the little guard.  Passing is better than most 2 guards if you don’t utilize all these things your not going to see what he has to offer.  I think the Pistons main 1-2 punch should be Monroe/Stuckey, no question.  The fact that it isn’t well you point the fingers at who you will on that one.  It could work well here in Detroit but adjustments will need to continue in order for us to see them pan out.

  • Feb 10, 201212:53 am
    by Max


    On Stuck
    Another point in Stuck’s favor regarding where he’d rank at both positions is that he would start in more situations than the majority of his nearest pears at both positions because he can play either position at both ends–however you grade him.  The same logic applies to why he might offer a team a more valuable player as a 6th man than many another guard.
    I’m listening to some conversation about Westbrook and they made the point that he would start for any team in the league at one spot or the other; and they are probably right although there are a few places of interest in my mind, they didn’t bring up, where the matter could carry some controversy like the Celtics where he could arguably offer more value as a sixth man.
    Leaving that, and I’m not with Stuck if he thinks he compares to Russell,I’m pretty sure Stuck would start for more teams than say Afflalo, who looked good tonight and who a lot of people here seem to think is much better.
    This is valuable.

    On Dumars and Stuck
    There has been some opinion that the Pistons should not go big if they lose out on the top two picks, which I disagree with, but if they do draft a 2 guard. which many are promoting, Stuck will probably have to somehow bring the big in a trade.  Some have said here that he is overpaid but I encountered many a national pundit who said he was at least a little underpaid.  In any case, most teams are carrying at least two ,if not more, larger contracts, and many of them will enter next season as it stands with a hole at one or the other position at guard.
    There has been some sentiment that Dumars is tied to Stuckey, that he would be unwilling to admit he was wrong about Stuckey, would not trade him and is even attached to how Stuckey offers him a redemption for picking Darko and I say this is all hogwash.
    Did not Dumars once admit he was wrong and trade Darko for Orlando’s first round pick and wouldn’t trading Stuck for the player he needs offer him the redemption he needs if indeed he needs it?  Bottom line, I’d like to know who really thinks he wouldn’t trade Stuck if another GM picked up the phone and mentioned a player he likes better with everything else being equal?
    To be clear, I want a big and I don’t want Stuck traded.   I’m just saying he is valuable and that I think Dumars is more tied to him, at this point, for his value than for his legacy.   The past is past.

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