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Internal Improvement: Charlie Villanueva

Tom Gores said it better happen. Jonas Jerebko guaranteed it. Rodney Stuckey agreed.

The Detroit Pistons can certainly make the playoffs this season, but given how similar the team is to last year’s, it won’t be easy. It appears the Pistons are mostly relying on internal improvement in order to exceed expectations and reach the postseason.

For our 2012 preview series, Patrick and I will each examine one area where we see realistic room for improvement from each Piston. Today, we look at Charlie Villanueva.

Defense or rebounding or anything but scoring

Villanueva has been such a colossal disappointment in  Detroit that I’d be pleased if he improves in any way this season other than scoring. He has proven himself a talented scorer who can make shots inside and out, even if he’s ridiculously streaky.

But there can be value in that. When the Pistons trail by double digits, Villanueva could enter the game in the hope he provides a spark. He might fail miserably. He might score 15 points on eight shots in 10 minutes. Regardless, when down big, increasing variance is a good plan.

Except Villanueva been so bad at everything else he’s become virtually unplayable. If he could improve just a bit as a rebounder or defender, Villanueva could have value as an occasional change of pace off the bench in dire situations. — D.F.


I don’t dislike Villanueva. He seems like a decently nice human being. But I’m beyond over watching him play basketball for my favorite team. As Dan mentioned above, if Villanueva could improve just about any aspect of his game, he’d easily become a legitimate rotation player again. There’s certainly a case that Villanueva could build some semblance of value or entice a team to gamble on him in a trade if he plays reasonably better than he has in previous seasons in Detroit.

I’d prefer that doesn’t happen, though. The most efficient way to get rid of Villanueva is to use the amnesty on him in the offseason. That way, his salary doesn’t count against the Pistons cap. Even if they swung a trade for him, chances are a team is not giving up an expiring deal to take on the remaining money owed to Villanueva (unless the Pistons give up another first rounder to do that, which I don’t even want to think about that scenario). I’d rather just see him glued to the bench all season, amnestied in the offseason and then the Pistons have more money to spend in free agency and Villanueva can choose a better situation for himself to try to revive his NBA career. — P.H.



  • Oct 31, 201211:08 am
    by ryan


    I’d like to see him amnestied as well. I wish we’d already done it. I knew he and Ben Gordon were mistakes from the very start and I really look forward to being able to move on.

  • Oct 31, 201211:47 am
    by Keith


    I guess I can see the reason not to Amnesty him. We’ll be below the salary floor next year, and there’s no guarantee we’ll find enough players worth the money that will be willing to play here. Paying CV to leave is only valuable if there’s something worthwhile to use that money on, it saves nothing else as we won’t be over the luxury tax or cap anyway.
    If someone like Josh Smith or Andre Iguodola is up for joining us, I’d be all for the amnesty to make it work. If we’re only drawing the interest of third and fourth tier free agents, it serves no purpose to open up that extra bit of cap space. Moreover, CV will at least be an expiring contract next year. He’s still useless, but we could use him as contract fodder if a trade became available. Amnestying him just because we hate him doesn’t help.

  • Oct 31, 20121:47 pm
    by Tom Y.


    If we’d amnestied him last summer, we could have used that roster spot to bring Big Ben back. Though it looked like an overkill then to amnesty a 7$ mil guy just to clear a roster spot, now I’m wishing we’d done it. Or cut Daye.
    Another reason it would be great to have Ben back now (beyond his mentoring which we’ve discussed a lot) is that would make for about 15 more minutes of competent center play, making it possible to move Moose to PF right away and have Drummond playing major minutes next to him.

    • Oct 31, 20122:49 pm
      by Keith


      The last thing I want right now is to give Frank any other reason to keep Drummond on the bench. Big Ben is old, and not nearly the player he once was. The primary reason he still had strong defensive numbers is because of how terrible the rest of our frontcourt is defensively. I’m glad we didn’t bring him back now, he would have taken minutes from more important players.
      I totally agree with cutting Daye if we need the roster spot, but we don’t right now. We do not need or want Big Ben anymore. All of our future now rests on the internal improvement of the young guys (and agree with below, it’s silly to expect improvement from a 28 year old nobody) and possibly the cap space this summer. We can still amnesty Charlie then, but doing it earlier when there was no chance of landing a free agent has no utility.

  • Oct 31, 20122:00 pm
    by Otis


    I don’t want to come off as Mister Negativity here, but in my opinion the Pistons “can certainly make the playoffs” just like all 29 other teams who aren’t already mathematically eliminated can certainly do so, but I have their odds hovering somewhere around the zero percent range.

    And the difference between them and other “question marks” (if they can so be called) is that we’ve got a pretty hefty sample size of very similar rosters that have produced 30-some win seasons. Meanwhile the East has gotten stronger across the board, and we’re just adding a draft pick at a time to a bad team. And I know you’ve got an entry for everyone on the roster, but the fact that a blog entry exists that hangs a shred of hope on Charlie V’s corpse to offer any internal improvement whatsoever says it all.

    Maybe this isn’t the place to make this point, and I’m sure I’ll repeat it elsewhere, but perhaps the biggest problem with this team has been that it never once took a good honest look in the mirror at itself and determined where it stood, so that it could take the necessary steps towards getting good again. They spent so much time making excuses while scratching and clawing to convincingly miss the playoffs year after year. Most bad teams face the facts that they aren’t competitive and have a player or two that they can flip for future building blocks, but this team has nothing at all to show for the embarrassment of riches it enjoyed last decade. That’s the surest way to be awful for a long, long time. And it’s too late to correct the mistakes and missed opportunities.

    Also, if anything, the management has done the complete opposite by giving away a precious draft pick in order to dump Ben Gordon. Notionally they’re “accelerating” the rebuilding process (that’s a laugh), but Keith makes a relevant point about the Pistons potentially being unable to spend that money in a helpful way and electing not to amnesty Villanueva because it would put them below the salary floor. If that’s the case (and I’m on record as believing that the flexibility trading Gordon afforded us had everything to do with the GM keeping his job and nothing to do with a game plan) then what did that trade really accomplish? This is all sort of maddening. Sorry for the rant, but I suspect virtually nobody bothered to read it, as it’s under the banner of a post regarding Charlie Villanueva. Cheers!

    • Oct 31, 20122:59 pm
      by Keith


      Completely agree. I didn’t like the Gordon trade any more than the Chauncey trade, both times we gave away value (1st rounder, Chauncey) to get cap space, and at both times we were in no position to land top tier free agents. I don’t see this team making the playoffs this year, and unless we make significant strides across the board (including coaching and player evaluation) we will probably be in the lottery next year s well. There is pretty good chance we traded away a lottery pick just to clean up Joe’s mistake.
      I was even going to mention the false hope of talking about improvement for a bad player already in his prime, but you said it just as well. This was a bad team on multiple levels for the past several years. We aren’t going to suddenly forget about the terrible handling of the end of our contender status and suddenly be winners again. We can’t just ignore the multitudes of bad deals and worse player management that have dropped us this far. It’s great that we have some talented players again, but Joe has never built through the draft before. There’s little history to suggest we have the brain trust to actually turn this thing all the way around.

  • [...] but Charlie Villanueva — who was, in the distant past, a promising prospect — has become “virtually unplayable,” per Dan Feldman of Piston [...]

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