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Internal Improvement: Rodney Stuckey

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 Rodney Stuckey.

Consistency

I usually don’t like writing about platitudes like consistency. Usually, critics slap the “inconsistent” title to players who simply aren’t good enough to play well every game, but I don’t think that applies to Stuckey.

Previously, Stuckey showed flashes for stretches of games. Last year, he displayed his potential over a full month. But he hasn’t played near his potential for a full season, not even a 66-game one.

It takes a well-conditioned body and a focused mind to play well each game. Stuckey has probably been deficient in both areas.

He lost several pounds before last season, an excess weight I didn’t think he needed to shed at the time. But more than keep him from playing well within each game, the extra pounds probably hindered him over the long haul of the season.

It also takes intense concentration to excel in the NBA, and Stuckey appeared to drift too often. Stuckey had a great month or so last year before getting hurt, but if the injury hadn’t knocked him out, could he have sustained his mental drive? — D.F.

Health

Dan touched on both the mental and physical aspects that have hindered Stuckey over the years above. I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to him. Last season, he appeared to be focused, more mature and seemed to bring a better mental approach to the game. I’m going to assume that he struggled early in the season and then again late in the season sandwiched around a really good month of productive basketball because he was simply too injured to sustain that level of play that left us all wanting more.

Stuckey’s style may very well be on that leads to him always being banged up and suffering from lingering injuries. Look no further than teammate Corey Maggette for proof of the toll a physical style can take on the body of even a well-conditioned athlete. My hope for Stuckey is that he just has a healthy season so that, finally, we can properly evaluate what he is as a player and forever stop talking about his never-ending upside. — P.H.

Previously

7 Comments

  • Oct 22, 201211:08 am
    by Crispus

    Reply

    The last sentence of the intro says Brandon Knight.

    What about shooting? Young Russell Westbrook has been very visibly inventing himself a midrange pullup jumper. It still looks awkward, but once it becomes comfortable it will save his body from Derrick Rose level wear and tear. Stuckey could conceivably use the same strategy.

  • Oct 22, 201211:16 am
    by Keith

    Reply

    After 5 years in the league, I think it is naive to talk about Stuckey at all in terms of upside. He’s 26, in his prime, and honestly hasn’t left a lot to project in his game. He’s a pure slashing SG with above average passing skills. He draws a lot of fouls, but doesn’t shoot well or function at his best in the half-court. He shouldn’t be your primary ballhandler or scorer, but he pressures defenses and make his foul shots.
     
    Trying to project him from one good month, with one good week later, with one good stretch of 4 games later, is an effort in futility. Seasons are made from up and down games, weeks, and months. The entire difference between a good player and a great player is how often those good games show up. Stuckey is simply not talented enough to be great every game. He can’t shoot, and doesn’t actually finish well at the rim. Pack the paint to reduce the need to foul, and he becomes very mediocre (look at his preseason lines). This is almost an inevitability given our lack of shooting. Put him alongside a high end passing PG, put him alongside another star, and I imagine he would be a consistently solid player. But put him on our team, where he is forced into the role of #1 option, and he’s unlike to produce consistent result like a true star.
     
    If there’s any one thing he could improve that would drastically alter his impact on the game, it would be shooting. By now, I’ve given up on that hope, but it remains the most glaring point. If he could shoot, it would open up driving lanes both for himself and his teammates. If he wasn’t bricking 65% of his shots outside 10 feet, maybe our mid-range centric offense wouldn’t be so disastrous. But until we start running all the time (which could also help Knight), it’s going to be hard for Stuckey to thrive consistently. We essentially have two separate offenses at work. We have a highly skilled big man that we should run the half-court through, and we have two ball-pushing guards that should be running at every opportunity, even on makes.

    • Oct 22, 201212:49 pm
      by Max

      Reply

      Whenever Stuck was healthy last year, he was great.   Playing with a pulled groin isn’t healthy and doesn’t demonstrate anything about an up and down schedule.   Also, 26 is just entering a player’s prime and players are very capable of developing into good shooters even after their prime.   Stuck had his best 3 point shooting year by far last year and hit 4 threes in the last preseason game.   Some players like Charles Oakley go from being horrible shooters to good outside shooters late in their career so I would say that it is naive to want to close the book on a player who just changed positions and who, despite being on the same team that drafted him, has rarely enjoyed any stability in terms of coaching or direction regarding what his role is supposed to be on the Pistons.   He has not been nearly as injured as people here indicate either and has been a fairly healthy player in his career.   Last season can be largely thrown out on that score because of the compressed schedule and Stuckey pulling his groin early because he joined the team late after a protracted contract negotiation.   

    • Oct 22, 20124:15 pm
      by D_S_V

      Reply

      Well put Keith. I think Stuckey is clearly a talented player but not one capable of carrying a roster like the Pistons have had. I believe a reduced and more functional role as something of a potent 6th man with borderline starter’s minutes would best suit his attributes. Unfortunately, the Pistons have not had the roster capable of using him in that way the last so many seasons. 

      I’ve watched a fair amount of the preseason so far and I’m still wondering why more offense isn’t being initiated through Monroe. I’m not saying I think he needs to double is FGA, but initiating with him on the block or high post is something I don’t think has been done enough. We play so much pick and roll game out on the wing but I’d like to see some more establishing Monroe early, forcing opposing double teams, and opening the perimeter up for the oft-slashing guards we have. 

  • Oct 22, 201212:39 pm
    by swish22

    Reply

    Well said Keith,  If he walks like a duck and talks like a duck he’s most likely a duck!  A trip to the Pacific Northwest is what I’d recommend for the Pistons to do while he still has some trade value!!  Never too early in the season to argue with the many who are STUCK on Rodney! 

  • Oct 23, 20123:53 am
    by MrHappyMushroom

    Reply

    Stuckey will miss seven to fifteen games this year with an injury and be fairly ineffective because of injury in an equal number of games.  That’s been true of four of his five years and I expect the same again.As others have said, he’s a potential difference maker as a role player, but I don’t see him every being a serious top ten at his position over the course of a full season.I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened for a variety of reasons, but I would have looked to shop him, ideally in a way that would put them in position for a top draft pick next year, and sign T. Williams to take over his job.  Stuckey has consistently proven to be the better player. But that also means that he could have real trade value right now.

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