No longer burdened by expectations, is this the season Rodney Stuckey finally exceeds them?

I’ve never been much of a fan of Rodney Stuckey’s style of play and have always been relatively skeptical of the high regard the organization has held his talents since the time he arrived in the league. But I’ve also felt that those expectations of the organization have been unfair to Stuckey, who is at worst a rotation guard on any team in the league. The problem has always been the fact that the Pistons predestined him to be more than that.

In this week’s column for the Detroit Free Press, I admitted to some casual intrigue about whether Stuckey, seemingly forgotten on a suddenly deep roster, can thrive now that he has no expectations to live up to:

Now, in the final year of his contract, on a Pistons team that seems to be both moving on with young players such as Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and moving back with veterans such as Billups and Will Bynum, Stuckey has become a forgotten player, almost a nonfactor in projections of Detroit’s guard rotation. And maybe that’s OK — that might be a recipe for Stuckey to exceed expectations for the first time in his career.

Maurice Cheeks will be Stuckey’s fifth coach since he entered the league in 2007, but — at least according to his introductory news conference — Cheeks seems to be intrigued by Stuckey’s attributes. He wouldn’t be the first coach to see a strong, big, athletic guard and fall in love with the potential. But that’s the problem. Previous coaches have failed with Stuckey because they are too tantalized by the package of what he should be or could be instead of focusing on what he is. What he is is a player who should be motivated by playing for his next contract, who should be able to give minutes at both guard spots, depending on matchups, and who should be able to use the one proven skill in his repertoire —getting to the line — to his advantage on a Pistons second unit for which he could be a focal point of the offense.

Discussing Stuckey’s potential long ago became an act reserved only for the most positive of positive-thinking fans. Now that his tenure in Detroit could be nearing its end, as an overlooked player competing for a role on a suddenly deep team, he finally could be in a position to live up to realistic expectations.

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