Internal Improvement: Charlie Villanueva

Tom Gores said it better happen. Jonas Jerebko guaranteed it. Rodney Stuckey agreed.

The Detroit Pistons can certainly make the playoffs this season, but given how similar the team is to last year’s, it won’t be easy. It appears the Pistons are mostly relying on internal improvement in order to exceed expectations and reach the postseason.

For our 2012 preview series, Patrick and I will each examine one area where we see realistic room for improvement from each Piston. Today, we look at Charlie Villanueva.

Defense or rebounding or anything but scoring

Villanueva has been such a colossal disappointment in  Detroit that I’d be pleased if he improves in any way this season other than scoring. He has proven himself a talented scorer who can make shots inside and out, even if he’s ridiculously streaky.

But there can be value in that. When the Pistons trail by double digits, Villanueva could enter the game in the hope he provides a spark. He might fail miserably. He might score 15 points on eight shots in 10 minutes. Regardless, when down big, increasing variance is a good plan.

Except Villanueva been so bad at everything else he’s become virtually unplayable. If he could improve just a bit as a rebounder or defender, Villanueva could have value as an occasional change of pace off the bench in dire situations. — D.F.

Nothing

I don’t dislike Villanueva. He seems like a decently nice human being. But I’m beyond over watching him play basketball for my favorite team. As Dan mentioned above, if Villanueva could improve just about any aspect of his game, he’d easily become a legitimate rotation player again. There’s certainly a case that Villanueva could build some semblance of value or entice a team to gamble on him in a trade if he plays reasonably better than he has in previous seasons in Detroit.

I’d prefer that doesn’t happen, though. The most efficient way to get rid of Villanueva is to use the amnesty on him in the offseason. That way, his salary doesn’t count against the Pistons cap. Even if they swung a trade for him, chances are a team is not giving up an expiring deal to take on the remaining money owed to Villanueva (unless the Pistons give up another first rounder to do that, which I don’t even want to think about that scenario). I’d rather just see him glued to the bench all season, amnestied in the offseason and then the Pistons have more money to spend in free agency and Villanueva can choose a better situation for himself to try to revive his NBA career. — P.H.

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