My eyes tell me Jerebko and Singler started as rookies for two reasons:
1. They were pretty good.
2. The Pistons were pretty bad.
Now that the Pistons have added Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Chauncey Billups and Luigi Datome, “pretty good” might no longer cut it for Jerebko and Singler.
And that’s OK.
As much as Jerebko and Singler started because they were on bad teams — Jerebko especially stood out because he played hard on a team that didn’t — they also contributed to the teams being bad. Jerebko’s forays into trying to be more than a hustle player have gone poorly, and Singler excels at nothing.
Sure, there’s virtue in Jerebko’s effort and Singler’s balanced competence, but as the Pistons have made the necessary step of upgrading talent, Detroit probably can do better than what Jerekbo and Singler contributed as rookies.
In other words, Jerebko’s and Singler’s heavy minutes were a product of their proficiency and the Pistons’ lack thereof, but I think the Pistons’ bleakness played a larger role. Put Jerebko and Singler on even slightly better teams, and they probably don’t start as rookies — and maybe never in their careers.
However, historical precedent indicates that my eye test might be off.
Since 1980, just four other second-round picks (indicative of lesser players) have started at least 70 games as a rookie on a losing team: Marc Gasol, Nick Van Exel, Grant Long and Hot Rod Williams.
All four turned out pretty well. Gasol and Van Exel made All-Star Games, and Long and Williams had lengthy careers that included starting roles.
Of course, it’s a small sample, but this group greatly surpasses an average sample of second-rounders.
Starting 70 games as a rookie, apparently even on a bad team, indicates a high aptitude. Plus, all that playing time surely helps a player improve during his first year.