Over the past few weeks, ESPN has been counting down every single player in the NBA, from #500 to #1. With each team (30 total) having five ‘solid starters,’ the better teams will have more players in the top 150.
Every single Piston had already been announced, with just Slava Kravtsov being the only unranked Detroiter. Three of the team’s rookies – Kyle Singler (407), Kim English (441) and Khris Middleton (485) – brought up the rear for the Pistons, understandably. With all three likely to get playing time this season, one would assume that they should rise in next season’s rankings.
Free agent and long-time Piston Ben Wallace is next on the list at 303, a major drop from 2011 when he came in at 227. Perhaps the freefall isn’t unexpected, considering his declining production over the past few seasons. He’ll always been a fan favorite in Detroit, but if he does come back for another season (possibly in another uniform), I can’t imagine he’ll rise at all.
The Pistons’ lottery pick from this past draft, Andre Drummond, comes in at 277, quite high for a rookie big man. Being just 19 and an extremely raw prospect, he’ll obviously have to develop some NBA skills, but if the team is patient with him, he could become a huge part of Detroit’s future.
Quite possibly the three most disappointing players of last season are next in line, according to ESPN. Charlie Villanueva (262) deservedly dropped 71 spots from last year (191) after playing in just 13 games for the Pistons. If Lawrence Frank continues to keep him on the bench, he can expect another huge drop for 2013. Austin Daye (245) posted career-worst numbers across the board, and ESPN punished him for it. He drops 28 spots; he probably should have gone further, but his age (24) and potential likely kept him from sinking too much more. Will Bynum (244) has seen his minutes and production drop steadily since his breakout season of 2009-10, and his ranking has dropped accordingly.
Possible 2012 starting center Jason Maxiell (241) barely moved from last year’s ranking of 239, but with a productive season – in a contract year – should move him up next year. Bench contributors Corey Maggette (221) and Jonas Jerebko (206) round out the Pistons that are ranked above 200, but Jerebko should see a boost next season as he’ll certainly be a big part of the team’s season.
Rookie point guard Brandon Knight (177) will need to continue learning the NBA game to jump into the top 150 ‘solid starter’ range, but he’s on his way. After a year that saw him play in all 66 games, average 12.8 points, 3.8 assists, shoot 42% and make the All-Rookie First Team, a full season as floor general should bode well for the former Kentucky Wildcat.
Veteran forward Tayshaun Prince (144) just breaks the top 150, meaning his status as a true starter is slipping from his grip. After another solid, but not spectacular, season, the Pistons’ small forward dropped 39 spots from 105, showing that he is consistent but not immune to losing playing time. Unless he has a rebound year, he will probably stay within that 140-150 range.
Shooting guard Rodney Stuckey (103) slightly improved from last season’s 108 despite a career-low 14.8 points average. Now that he has moved over to his more natural position, however, playing alongside Knight and letting him initiate the offense should help his game. Obviously you’d like to see more than 3.8 assists, but that’s not really what this team needs; they need Stuckey to become the scorer that he has shown signs of being.
Second-year center Greg Monroe (49) soared up in the rankings, as he was ranked 132 in 2011. After improving all of his statistics from his rookie year, the 22-year old big man is the Pistons’ best player by far and one of their best big man since Bill Laimbeer. He will need to continue improving his athleticism and defense, but considering how hard of a worker he has shown himself to be, that doesn’t seem like a big task for Monroe.