Rodney Stuckey: Pistons’ Best Trade Asset
When the Pistons drafted point guard Brandon Knight eighth overall in last June’s NBA Draft, it was assumed that restricted free agent Rodney Stuckey’s days in Detroit were numbered. Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars was not about to let their young asset escape for nothing however, and when the free agent dust had settled, Stuckey had been inked to a new three-year $25.5 million deal with the final season non-guaranteed.
After some initial juggling, new head coach Lawrence Frank has settled on starting Knight and Stuckey together. Playing two point guards for long stretches of each game could become a problem, but Frank has set roles for each player in an attempt to keep things running smoothly.
“We’ve played that backcourt 18 or 19 games together,” said Frank. “We are just starting to play better, and yet in this league, things turn quickly. Things can be going good and things can go the other way and vice versa. The key is just staying with it.
“It doesn’t matter, especially off an outlet, whoever gets the ball, we go and attack. That’s part of the joy of having a two-headed monster. There are different things you can do out of a two guard front, but by in large when Brandon and Rodney are in the game together, Brandon will be the primary ball handler, and when Rodney is in there with Ben Gordon, Rodney is the primary ball handler, but it really doesn’t matter.”
The move to off-guard hasn’t impacted on Stuckey’s effectiveness and the 25-year-old has used the opportunity to his own best advantage.
“It’s the way that we play now,” said Stuckey. “We are getting the ball out a lot more now to get easy baskets, it’s been really helping me out.
“Trying to be aggressive is the most important thing, that’s my game, just being aggressive, taking the ball to the basket and that’s pretty much it.”
So far this season, Stuckey has the highest true shooting percentage of his career at 54.9, and his 14.4 points per game is only 2.2 fewer than in 2009-10 when he played 4.1 more minutes and took 4.8 more shots per game. His teammates and the opposition have taken note of the change from prior seasons.
“He is just making a concerted effort to be aggressive for the whole game,” said Greg Monroe. “The difference is his intensity and aggressiveness has gone to a whole other level.
“He has gotten better but he is doing the same things that he was doing before, getting to the rack and to the foul line is the strongest part of his game. He is making an effort to do that more consistently and to use that skill that he does have of getting to the goal and picking up fouls. He is doing it to control the game.
“Stuckey has always been good off the ball and that is another thing that has been a big help to him is he doesn’t have to control the ball all the time like he did last year and it’s easier for him to score when he doesn’t have to focus on distributing as much now. I think that’s another part of the reason he is playing at this level.”
“He is more aggressive, more efficient, and getting to the free throw line,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. “He is making jump shots, but most important is he is going body hunting and converting on and-ones. He is kind of in control of their offensive sets right now.”
The Pistons have been stuck between rebuilding and reloading for a while now and this season got off to a 4-20 start despite hiring an experienced and respected head coach and bringing back veterans Tayshaun Prince and Stuckey from free agency. February’s four and three game win streaks are already buried in a three game skid.
“We have shown what we are capable of on both ends of the spectrum,” said Frank. “We need everyone to do their part in order to give us the best chance to win.
“We have a lot of work to do like we have said from the beginning. You don’t let the wins and losses get caught in your eyes, it’s a process and we have a lot of work to do.”
That sounds like a rebuild and brings back the post-draft observation that Knight and Stuckey are similar players who could be in each other’s way in the future.
“Brandon can play the two, I can play the two, so it’s whatever the coach wants us to do,” said Stuckey. “Sometimes I am bringing the ball up and sometimes he is.”
Stuckey is a big, strong guard who has shown he can fill a combo guard role at the point or be productive off the ball, plus his contract only has one more season fully guaranteed. Now playing some of the most aggressive basketball of his career, Stuckey is the best trade asset the Pistons hold. Maybe it’s time for Dumars to embrace the rebuild and cash in on that asset.