Rodney Stuckey vs. Will Bynum: Who Should Start?

There’s been a lot of talk among Detroit Pistons blogs and fans that are calling for backup point guard Will Bynum to take the reins from starter Rodney Stuckey and start in his place. And it’s not a bad idea it would seem at first glance. Looking at the raw stats Bynum is averaging 14 points per game, along with 4 assists and 3.5 rebounds in just 28 minutes per game while shooting 50% from the field. Meanwhile, Stuckey on the season is averaging 16.5 points per game, along with 4 assists and 5.1 rebounds in 37.8 minutes per game while shooting 38% from the field. So it would seem that Bynum is essentially outplaying Stuckey and in fewer minutes as well. Their stats are a virtual dead heat; Stuckey averages more points and rebounds but Bynum is shooting better and is the better passer at the moment.

So the Pistons should start Will Bynum right? Not so fast. While Bynum is playing better right now, Stuckey has a few advantages going for him. First off, injuries to Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince have led to Stuckey playing out of position a lot. Bynum has only been playing point guard, but Stuckey has played a little bit of point guard, shooting guard, and small forward as well. So we have to cut him a little slack for that. Stuckey is also taller, bigger, and (probably) stronger than Bynum. Since Hamilton is out, Ben Gordon is starting games at the SG position. But Gordon is undersized and usually guards the opposing PG as he cross-matches with Stuckey, who guards the other teams’ usually bigger SG.  The bottom line is that the Pistons can’t really start Bynum and Gordon together. They’re just both too undersized to be on the court for an extended period of time.

I also feel that Bynum’s style of play is better suited coming off the bench. The Pistons are a slow-paced team and Bynum coming off the bench is like a shot in the arm. Stuckey’s methodical approach is better suited for the starting lineup.

A point guard struggling in his first few seasons for Detroit is nothing new. Just look at Chauncey Billups’ stat line from his first season as a Piston: 16 point per game along with 3.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds in 31 minutes per game while shooting 42% from the field. Billups was 26 years old at the time.

I think it’s just too early to judge the 23 year old Stuckey. He’s had to endure breaking his hand as a rookie and missing over 1/3 of that season, playing behind Billups, playing behind Allen Iverson, starting alongside Iverson and Hamilton, starting alongside Hamilton and Prince, starting alongside Ben Gordon and a rookie in Jonas Jerekbo. The point is that he hasn’t had the luxury of gaining familiarity with a set lineup. Let’s wait and see what happens when Hamilton and Prince return from action.

I really enjoy watching Will Bynum, but I think one reason Pistons fans like him is that nothing was expected of him. He started off last season as the third string point guard, then this year as the fourth guard in a three guard rotation. He’s surprised Pistons fans and non-Pistons fans alike because he was an unknown. Much more has been expected of Stuckey. From filling in for an injured Billups in the ’08 playoffs, to being singled out in Joe Dumars’ famous “sacred cows” speech after the ’08 playoffs, to being named the heir apparent to Billups after the huge trade last November, Stuckey has had a lot of pressure heaped on him. People were and still are expecting him to change into Chauncey Billups overnight. And really, that’s not fair. Chauncey didn’t even become Chauncey until his late 20’s.

Really, Pistons fans should be excited about the point guard position. Between the two players they’re getting 30 points per game along with 8 assists and 8.5 rebounds. That’s pretty impressive. My one concern is that I doubt Bynum continues to play 27 minutes per game once Hamilton comes back from his injury. I really want Bynum to get at least 20 minutes each and every game, but it remains to be seen if there will be enough minutes to go around for four quality starting guards.

In summary, I feel that it’s just too soon to judge Rodney Stuckey. From last season to this one, Stuckey is shooting better on his free throws, averaging more steals, and playing better defenses. Of course, his shooting percentage and shot selection could definitely improve, but a certain point guard in Denver is sporting a pretty abysmal shooting percentage as well (40%). I want to see Stuckey run this team with a healthy Hamilton and Prince. If he’s still struggling, if his shooting percentage is still in the mid 30s, if Bynum is still outplaying him, then we can talk about starting Bynum or maybe even trading Stuckey. But let’s ease up on him until then.

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