Why the Pistons still believe Charlie Villanueva can help

Charlie Villanueva has been underwhelming while collecting a hefty paycheck from the Pistons since 2009. This season, he’s only played a handful of minutes and has yet to score a point while nursing an ankle injury. He’s often been talked about as a leading candidate to be amnestied next offseason should the Pistons decide to use the clause.

Still though, despite all the struggles, the Pistons hold out hope that Villanueva will get healthy and contribute despite the evidence that he’s too inconsistent and too much of a defensive liability to be a key rotation player. Beckley Mason of Hoop Speak gets at why that might be, using Ryan Anderson as an example:

The goal for NBA offenses–to make hay in the paint–hasn’t changed. But more than ever, the best offenses are adept at going away from the space they want to use, at using multiple credible shooters to unclog the lane.

It wasn’t so long ago that big men whose primary value was as a shooter were regarded as a curiosity, something to be brought of the bench and examined for 20 minutes a game. If a player over 6-8 didn’t trade primarily in toughness, it was a problem, notable exceptions like Robert Horry not withstanding.

Today, that’s simply not the case. In order to thrive after the environmental shift brought by defensive rule changes, the position descriptions of the NBA’s tallest players has mutated. Players like Ryan Anderson, the prototypical stretch big-man, are no longer exotic or a luxury, but a necessity.

Now, Anderson is a much, much more better player than Villanueva at this point. He not only contributes with his shooting, he’s also a solid rebounder and passable defensive player. Those are two things Villanueva is not, so when his shot hasn’t been falling in his Pistons career, there has been nothing else he does well enough to justify having him on the court.

Villanueva does have that 3-point range though. He shot 39 percent from three last season, which is the same percentage Anderson shoots for his career. The Pistons have slashers in the backcourt in Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey who have the ability to get in the paint and force the defense to adjust. They have a big man in Greg Monroe who has made himself into a viable option on offense who commands defensive attention. The Pistons could clearly benefit from having players on the floor whose range can create space for their other offensive threats. Villanueva should be one of those players, which is why he’ll get another chance to prove it if he ever gets healthy enough and in shape enough to get on the court this season. It remains to be seen if that will ever materialize.

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