Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
1. Let’s just start this out with the obvious question: What the heck has gotten into Rodney Stuckey this season?
Dan Feldman: The Pistons have finally stopped asking too much from him. Stuckey is assisting and rebounding at career-worst clips, effectively focusing on scoring. He’s developed a short mid-range game that has helped him shoot a career-best 2-point percentage by giving him another option than driving out of control to the rim. After trending up the last few seasons, Stuckey’s 3-point attempts are wisely coming down. Better selection from long range has produced a career-high 3-point percentage, too.
Patrick Hayes: He’s a totally committed, consistent player who just needed the right coaching and role to thrive. Just kidding. Contract year, contract year, contract year. Stuckey has always had an incredible amount of athletic talent. He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s athletic, he’s versatile enough to give competent minutes at both guard spots and he draws and absorbs and incredible amount of contact. Also, for all of his faults as a full-time point guard, he still takes pretty good care of the ball. He just doesn’t try hard all the time, and he said as much in a recent interview with Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News. So, any team that wants to sign him to more than a short-term deal should be very wary of that — if he doesn’t like the coach or his role or whatever, he’s probably going to “shut down.” But a motivated Stuckey on a short, make-good deal? I’d take that skill-set on my team any time.
Brady Fredericksen: Patrick said it, but the dude wants to get paid. Contract Year Rodney Stuckey is aware of the stink that follows him around these days, and he’s always been capable of shaking it. This year he’s comfortable. Michael Curry had a very un-polished version of Stuckey, John Kuester had a very unhappy version of Stuckey and Lawrence Frank had a very perplexing version. He is what he is — a scoring guard that can give you minutes at both spots. He should come off the bench, and he should use his ability to draw contact at the rim. He wants to cash in this summer and he’s being used right, maybe?
2. We’ve seen flashes of this kind of play throughout his career in Detroit, but what’s the one thing he’s doing this season that has kept him so consistent?
Dan Feldman: I reject the premise of the question. If this holds up, it would be Stuckey’s best season, but it’s been just 18 games. Even now that he’s focused more on scoring than he ever has previously, Stuckey has two other independent higher-scoring 18-game stretches: late in the 2011-12 season and December 2009. If there’s any reason to hope Stuckey keeps it up this time, it’s Maurice Cheeks. Stuckey is finally playing for a coach that likes him. That doesn’t excuse Stuckey for his troubles with previous coaches — a lot of that was on him — but as a moody player, Stuckey has definitely benefited from Cheeks’ confidence in him, and that seems like it will remain all season.
Patrick Hayes: A couple of things. First, Stuckey has had a sneaky good post game for a guard for a while now, he just hasn’t always used it — whether that’s his own fault or the fault of coaches for putting him in bad situations is up for debate (though Stuckey clearly feels it was coaches using him incorrectly). It’s probably a bit of both in reality. Stuckey has been used in head scratching roles by the past three Pistons coaches, but he’s also been content to settle for jumpers too often or barrel into the lane with reckless abandon in search of contact. This season, he’s more under control and he’s using great post moves and craftiness around the basket to get better shots for himself. Secondly, he’s hitting his mid-range shots better than he ever has. In fact, he’s also hitting the three at a decent 35 percent clip, although I’m not sold he’ll sustain that number all season — bad long range shooters don’t miraculously turn into good ones over night, so we’ll see where he’s at when the season ends. In short, he’s looking for his shot more but is also more selective about good shots vs. bad ones, he’s playing more against reserves and he’s, by his own admission, playing harder. Those three things have combined to, finally, make him a pretty valuable player.
Brady Fredericksen: Money aside, I think he’s excited to be playing for something. The last three seasons have been draining to watch as a fan, imagine how it is to be one of those players? There’s something to earn, something to play for and a sign of positivity within the organization — that’s going to get any player going. He doesn’t have to try to be a “star” anymore; it’s apparent he’s not, so just go do what you do and help the team win. The last time we saw a Stuckey who was fully engaged, coincidentally, was 2009-10 when the Pistons were last in a playoff race.
3. Reports have already said the Pistons won’t be trading him this season — so, does it make sense to keep him around with the team pushing for the playoffs?
Dan Feldman: Probably. As we saw with the Josh Smith signing and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope draft choice, the Pistons have prioritized — I’d say over-prioritized — making the 2014 playoffs at the expense of their long-term upside. Part of Stuckey’s league-wide appeal is his expiring contract, but unless the Pistons take a worse contract of a better player in return, using Stuckey’s contract in a trade won’t help this season if the return is a worse player on a multi-year contract and draft sweetener. For a team desperate to make the playoffs, the Pistons can get value from Stuckey from using him the rest of this season, regardless of what happens in the offseason.
Patrick Hayes: Other than Andre Drummond, it doesn’t make sense for the Pistons to oppose trading anyone. That doesn’t mean they should make a lopsided deal or one that improves the team in the short-term at the expense of the long-term, but the team is also simply not good enough to keep anyone other than Drummond off the table. Stuckey is valuable when he’s playing at this level, particularly to a team that is weak in the backcourt as this one is. But he could also help any number of guard-needy teams. I would prefer the Pistons trade him rather than sign him long-term provided they can get good value for him, but he’s also made himself an asset again, so I don’t think there’s any pressure to trade him just because the risk of losing him as a free agent looms.
Brady Fredericksen: If playoffs are the goal, keep him. There’s value in his expiring contract ($8.5 million), and there’s value in a guy who is playing well and has an expiring contract. I’ve always noted that just Stuckey isn’t enough to bring anything back. If the Pistons were to make a legitimate trade, it would probably include Charlie Villanueva ($8.5 million) expiring deal, too. Those are the most valuable trade chips the Pistons have — especially in a year where so many teams want to bottom out. But, if it comes down to keeping Stuckey all season and also making the playoffs, go for it. Just don’t be the team to pay him this summer, too.