The Big Question: Charlie Villanueva

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: How good will he be in 2011-12?

I have no doubt Charlie Villanueva will succeed this season. Am I crazy? (After reading that first sentence, I won’t disagree with anyone who says yes.)

I believe Villanueva is in better shape. I believe Villanueva is focused and motivated. I believe he’s talented, just like he’s always been.

That’s a lethal combination, and in the rare times Villanueva has put together all those elements in the past, he’s succeeded.

Villanueva’s motivations aren’t complex. He signed a sizable contract last summer, didn’t live up to it and feels embarrassed. Let’s credit the guy for responding appropriately so far .

But once he surpasses this year’s extremely low expectations, what will motivate him next summer? Is his only goal not to be so bad he sticks out as a scapegoat? Does he have the passion to stand out for positive reasons, not just the desire not to stand out for negative ones?

For those of you expect nothing or next to nothing from Villanueva this season, I think you’re in for a pleasant surprise. But when stakes are raised a year from now, I’m not sure Villanueva will deliver.

PH: Is this year make or break?

No player had a more bi-polar season a year ago than Charlie V. For stretches in December/January, he was putting up huge scoring numbers, carrying the team some nights, and he looked like he was legitimately going to have a breakout season. By the end of the year, he was out of the rotation.

Villanueva has a big contract, but it’s not completely unreasonable by NBA standards. He’s also young, can score and is nearly 7-foot.

If Villanueva’s talking points about being committed to defense, committed to being in better shape and committed to being a viable cornerstone don’t materialize, it’s a good bet he could be a trade candidate.

Tags: Charlie Villanueva