For most of the 2000’s, Pistons general manager Joe Dumars was striking out in the draft. Besides Tayshaun Prince and Mehmet Okur in the 2001 and 2002 drafts, Dumars didn’t have another draft pick make an impact until Jason Maxiell in 2005.
He went another few drafts before Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo in 2007 – and not much in between – but in the last three years, he has done extremely well. Using the last few drafts, we’ll be taking a look at the Pistons young core of players and best-case projections for each. We’ve already looked at Brandon Knight. Next up is the team’s fifth-year point guard-turned-shooting guard, Rodney Stuckey.
With the “Stuckey as point guard” experiment officially over, it’s time for the fifth-year guard to truly become a scorer for the Pistons. After a career-high of 16.6 points in 2009-10, the former Eastern Washington star has seen his average go down the last two years. Whether that’s because of coaching changes, injuries or simply trying to be something he’s not, Stuckey should see increased numbers in 2012-13.
In addition to his ability to aggressively drive the lane and take contact, he makes the shots he’s given at the charity stripe. He averaged a career-high 5.8 attempts last season, making 83.4%. He also vastly improved his three-point shooting (31.7%, up from 22.8% in 2009), giving him another weapon on offense. His defense has always been solid because of his lateral quickness and athleticism. He’s averaged about one steal every year and about 3-4 rebounds as well.
Best-case scenario: OJ Mayo
After starting in 163 of his first 164 career NBA games, averaging 18 points on 44% shooting, Mayo suddenly became the odd man out in Memphis, starting just 17 games in 2010-11. He wouldn’t start another game for the Grizzlies before leaving for the Mavericks (he did play in all 66 games last year, scoring 12.6 points on 36.4% shooting).
Much like Stuckey, Mayo came into the league with one head coach, got used to their system, then experienced multiple coaching changes. The former USC Trojan saw his best years with Tony Barone and Marc Iavaroni, while Johnny Davis and Lionel Hollins decided Mayo wasn’t what they were looking for at shooting guard. Things didn’t work out much better for Stuckey with Flip Saunders, Michael Curry or John Kuester.
After finally becoming the team’s true shooting guard of the future, however, Stuckey can focus simply on scoring and defense with Brandon Knight now running the offense. If he can replicate the first two seasons that Mayo had, the Pistons will be much better off. It also helps that the team’s head coach Lawrence Frank has the full endorsement of owner Tom Gores, whereas the last two coaches were hired when the team was in a state of flux between owners.