Tayshaun Prince on verge of becoming one of the oldest players ever to lead a team in shots per game for the first time

In his first three seasons, Tayshaun Prince’s scoring average climbed from 3.3 to 10.3 to 14.7 points per game. Many fans, myself included, saw a player who could score in the post, from mid-range and beyond the 3-point arc. The Pistons kept putting more on his plate, and he kept delivering. It looked like nothing could keep him from blossoming into a star.

But Prince basically plateaued. I don’t mean that as a knock. He settled into a high level. Any disappointment about the height of his peak stems more from miscalculated fan expectation than any inadequacy from Prince.

He was just never going to become a go-to player.

Scratch that. I spoke too soon.

Years after everyone accepted Prince would never fill that role, he’s quietly leading the Pistons in shots per game. At age 31!

In NBA history, 353 players have led a team in shots per game. Just 17 of them didn’t do it for the first time until turning 30. Two players could join that list this year – Prince and Houston’s Luis Scola, who both lead their team in shots per game.

Here are the oldest players to ever lead a team in shots per game for the first time, their age on Feb. 1 (the date Basketball-Reference.com uses) of the season they first led a team in shots per game and the team they led. I also put each player’s birthday in parentheses to serve as a tie-breaker.

  • John Starks, 33 (Aug. 10) – 1999 Warriors
  • Mel Riebe, 32 (July 12) – 1949 Celtics
  • Kevin Willis, 32 (Sept. 6) – 1995 Hawks
  • Stephen Jackson, 31 (April 5) – 2010 Bobcats
  • Guy Rodgers, 31 (Sept. 1) – 1967 Bulls
  • Benoit Benjamin, 31 (Nov. 22) – Grizzlies
  • Mike Newlin, 31 (Jan. 2) – 1980 Nets
  • Rolando Blackman, 30 (Feb. 26) – 1990 Mavericks
  • Tayshaun Prince, 30 (Feb. 28) – 2011 Pistons
  • Belus Smawley, 30 (March 20) – 1949 Bombers
  • Luis Scola, 30 (April 30) – 2011 Rockets
  • Jack Coleman, 30 (May 23) – 1955 Royals
  • Mike James, 30 (June 23) – 2006 Raptors
  • Ricky Pierce, 30  (Aug. 19) – 1990 Bucks
  • Ron Boone, 30 (Sept. 6) – 1977 Kings
  • Toni Kukoc, 30 (Sept. 18) – 1999 Bulls
  • Derek Harper, 30 (Oct. 13) – 1992 Mavericks
  • Nick Van Exel, 30 (Nov. 27) – 2002 Nuggets
  • Bones McKinney 30 (Jan. 1) – 1949 Capitols

If Prince holds his lead – Rodney Stuckey is 0.9 shots per game behind – and no older players overtake their team’s lead in shots, Prince will become the ninth-oldest player ever to lead his team in shots for the first time.

That probably says something about how scrambled the Pistons are or how overly dependent they are on the Isolayshaun offense (great name from Mike Payne of Detroit Bad Boys). That’s the pessimistic, although probably fairest, outlook of the feat.

But I’d prefer to look at this as just another example of Prince stepping up and filling a role the Pistons need someone to fill.

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