Detroit Pistons mid-season grades

Ground rules:

  • Grades are based on how much each person has contributed to the Pistons this season. So, injuries will lower a player’s grade.
  • Grades are curved toward expected roles. For example, if a starter and bench player perform equally, the bench player would get a higher grade.
  • A ‘C’ is average.
  • Rodney Stuckey: A-minus

    The rest of these are in alphabetical order, but I moved Stuckey to the top. I original had him pegged at a ‘B,’ but looking closer, I don’t think we’ve appreciated his season enough.

    Although his defense was better earlier in the season, it’s been solid overall and might be the area he’s improved the most.

    Stuckey is averaging 18.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. Just nine other players are averaging at least 18, 4 and 4:

  • LeBron James
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Dwyane Wade
  • Monta Ellis
  • Brandon Roy
  • Gilbert Arenas
  • Joe Johnson
  • Tyreke Evans
  • Chris Paul
  • Few would argue each of those nine are among the NBA’s top players. And the way Stuckey has played this year, he deserves a lot of credit.

    I’m not quite ready to include among the league’s elite, though. He barely meets the targets, when most of the others crush them. His field-goal and free-throw percentages are easily worst on the list, too.

    But here’s the best part – Stuckey is the second-youngest player on the list. (Stuckey is 23, and Tyreke Evans is 20).

    I think Stuckey is growing up right before our eyes. He hasn’t reached the next level yet – but he’s getting close.

Chucky Atkins: B

He was supposed to help in practice and maybe dress for the occasional game. Instead, he’s been pretty reliable as the Pistons’ only true point guard. When Atkins is on the court, Rodney Stuckey plays his best — a real asset to this team.

Kwame Brown: D-minus

What happened to the talk of Brown starting? He was a solid inside defender and rebounder last season, and that’s a role the Pistons definitely need filled when Ben Wallace goes to the bench. Now, he’s just piling up DNP-CDs.

Will Bynum: C

His efficiency numbers are down, but he’s playing more minutes. So, that should be expected. He looks like a better all-around player this season, but I’m not sure if he’s played enough to know for certain. He would have received a higher grade if he hadn’t missed 14 games.

Austin Daye: C

He’s basically been what was expected: bursts of talent mixed with inconsistency, brilliant shooting and defensive lapses, decent ball handling and weakness going for rebounds.

Ben Gordon: C

His field-goal, 3-point and free-throw shooting percentages are down, and he’s missed 16 games. But he’s still better than most sixth men. It’d be nice if he finally gets in a groove in the second half.

Richard Hamilton: D-minus

This might be a little generous because Hamilton has played in just 14 games and probably deserves an ‘F’ just because of that. But he was really good in his only game prior to injury (25 points against the Grizzlies in the season opener). And now that he’s getting back in shape, his movement away from the ball has done wonders for the offense.

Jonas Jerebko: A

What a pleasant surprise. Jerebko has become a fan favorite with his rebounding and defense. Besides DeJuan Blair, he’s probably the best second-round pick of the last draft.

Jason Maxiell: D

His production and, not coincidentally, his minutes have been dropping the last few seasons. He just doesn’t look as hungry on the court.

Tayshaun Prince: F

He’s barely played, and when he has, he hasn’t been productive. It’s a limited sample size, so this grade is undoubtedly lower than a player of Prince’s caliber would typically receive. But like I said above, injuries will lower a player’s grade.

DaJuan Summers: C-minus

There were decent hopes for Summers after his strong summer league play. But even Austin Daye, who was expected to be a multi-year project, is playing ahead of him.

Charlie Villanueva: C-minus

It’s been a frustrating first half for Villanueva. He’s battled injury and poor play. He hasn’t become a fixture in the starting lineup, like many were hoping. He’s shown enough glimpses to be effective, but he could be more consistent. It would be nice to see him defend, even when his shot isn’t falling.

Ben Wallace: A-plus

Ben Wallace is Detroit basketball this year. He’s one of just four players to lead his team in offensive and defensive rating (minimum eight games):

  • LeBron James, Cavaliers
  • Troy Murphy, Warriors
  • Marcus Camby, Clippers

I think Wallace is actually playing better than he did his last year in Detroit. He had slipped a little bit then. But now, he almost looks like Big Ben in his prime. Almost.

He wasn’t supposed to be anything more than frontcourt depth. But he’s the team MVP, easily.

Chris Wilcox: C-minus

He’s scored double digits just four times and grabbed at least seven rebounds just twice this season (one game overlaps). By comparison he reached those marks 18 and 15 times last season (nine overlapped).

I knew he’d be boom or bust. It’d be naive to expect differently. I just thought there’d be a few more booms.

John Kuester: B-plus

With all the injuries, it certainly hasn’t been an easy year to coach. This is a flawed team, anyway. Chucky Atkins is the best pure point guard, and the only trustworthy  center is 35.

But the Pistons play hard, and that’s a credit to Kuester. He hasn’t been shy about tweaking the lineup to find the right fit. The younger players have seen the court and improved, too.

Still, he’s made enough curios moves (can’t Kwame Brown get a chance?) to not warrant a higher grade.

For a first-time NBA head coach with a team facing much more uncertainty than he ever expected, Kuester is doing a heck of a job. Consider this the Michael Curry curve.

Team: D

This has been a pretty disappointing season. Detroit was never going to contend for a title this year. Rather the goal was to make the playoffs.

And as the Pistons are learning, when you’re that fragile, injuries matter – a lot. They haven’t had a chance to show what they can be, and they might never.

The first half of the season was a disaster, and it probably means Detroit will miss the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons. But that’s hardly a given.

There’s still plenty of hope and intrigue left in these final 41 games.

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Tags: Austin Daye Ben Gordon Charlie Villanueva Chris Wilcox Chucky Atkins DaJuan Summers Jason Maxiell John Kuester Jonas Jerebko Kwame Brown Richard Hamilton Rodney Stuckey Tayshaun Prince Will Bynum

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