Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
1. When the Pistons signed Chauncey Billups this summer, it was supposed to be the second coming of everyone’s favorite Piston. It hasn’t been quite as fun as most had hoped, so what grade does he get for his performance so far?
Brady Fredericksen, PistonPowered: It’s hard to watch him play now, but it’s not really a surprise. The fans who thought the Pistons were getting the old Billups were, well, naive to say the least. His per-36 number (8 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds) are kind of where I expected in a best-case scenario. Obviously, he can’t sustain that kind of court time, but here’s my thing with Billups — he’s old, but I don’t think he’s really this bad. He can still be an asset as a shooter, but the issue is that he doesn’t play consistently enough to find any sort of rhythm. If he finds his stroke, I think he can come in and be a threat from 3-point range. But so far, he’s been pretty brutal. GRADE: F
Tim Thielke, PistonPowered: Billups has played terribly. It’s unfortunate, but there’s no getting around that. His 31/29/83 splits suggest that he should never, ever shoot the ball. But he doesn’t contribute in any other way either. He is far too slow to defend anyone at this stage of his career, his 22 percent turnover rate blows away his previous career high, and his assist rate is way down from his career levels (for a guy who never amassed huge assist totals). Peyton Siva might actually be a better player right now. GRADE: F
Sean Corp, Detroit Bad Boys: Sadly, Billups provides more evidence every day that maybe it’s time to hang up his jersey (in the Palace rafters, maybe?) and trade it in for a front-office suit. His numbers almost universally are the worst in his illustrious career. He’s shooting 29 percent, can’t defend and can’t get to the free-throw line. In a lineup desperate for a ball-handler and decision-maker alongside Brandon Jennings late in games, a contributing Billups would be just what the doctor ordered. Unfortunately, Billups can’t contribute and he’s largely lost his minutes to Will Bynum. Billups was always my favorite player from the Going to Work era, and I’m glad that the Pistons re-signed him even if it was just to see him don the Pistons’ jersey again. But this will probably be his last year as a professional. Grade: D
2. While he’s still not the most well-liked Piston, Rodney Stuckey has put together one of his most productive seasons so far. Injuries have slowed him, but what does he get for his play thus far?
Brady Fredericksen, PistonPowered: Contract Year Rodney Stuckey is the best version of the much-maligned guard. He’s been slowed by a shoulder injury recently, but Stuckey was playing the best basketball of his career prior to that. Considering the Pistons are trying to make the playoffs, there’s definitely value to keeping Stuckey around and just letting his $8.5 million contract expire this summer. But if he’s playing well later on, and you can spin him for assets (maybe a late 1st round pick?)… well, we’ll wait and see if he returns to form first. GRADE: B
Tim Thielke, PistonPowered: Stuckey started off the season red hot. As expected, though, he has cooled down of late. He’s still very important to the Pistons’ continued success this season, though. If either Jennings or Bynum is injured (or is playing particularly poorly), you don’t wan to rely on Billups or Siva to have to take minutes at the point. GRADE: C+
Sean Corp, Detroit Bad Boys: Stuckey rebounded nicely from an off 2012-13 season and looked like a potent go-to bench scorer … until he pulled a Stuckey and started dealing with a series of nagging injuries. He’s tough, so he has played through his various ailments, but it has definitely hurt his overall effectiveness. If he can get healthy again and put together another strong string of games, the team should definitely capitalize and try and trade him to a team looking for scoring punch in return for either a draft pick or a different kind of scorer — namely, one with legitimate 3-point range. Grade: C+
3. While all three of the Pistons big guys have had their fair share of inconsistencies this year, Greg Monroe has been one guy who’s kind of been a steady presence. What grade has he earned?
Brady Fredericksen, PistonPowered: Overall, I think Monroe has done his job. He’s been put in a bad spot on both sides of the ball, but he’s still been really good around the basket and on the boards. As for his defense, it’s been poor, yeah. But he wasn’t a great defender when he was playing primarily center, so I don’t see why everyone is so surprised that he’s struggled with the more athletic power forwards. He’s kind of in that company of guys who have gone from underrated to overrated and maybe back to underrated now. Fans can complain about him all they want, but if the Pistons do trade him and they don’t get a stud in return, Monroe is going to join the Amir Johnsons and Arron Afflalos as the next, “WHY DID JOE DUMARS TRADE THIS GUY???!!” figurehead. GRADE: B
Tim Thielke, PistonPowered: I’m not concerned about Monroe’s scoring dip. He’s shouldering a lighter burden this season than in the past. And that is also reflected in his reduced turnovers and increased field goal percentage (although I’d like to see that percentage go up a bit higher still to his rookie or sophomore levels). Unfortunately, his rates of collecting blocks, steals, rebounds, and assists are down too. I tend to think that’s because of being used poorly (being played with two other bigs, not silly nitpicking between PF and C), but I can’t know for sure. Given that at his age, he should still be improving, this is a disappointment. At least he’s playing the best (still not very good) defense of his career. GRADE: C-
Sean Corp, Detroit Bad Boys: Monroe is the forgotten man (especially in the fourth quarters), less because a lack of skill and less because of a lack of role. The offense runs through Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, for better or worse, so Monroe is usually the second or third option despite being Detroit’s most reliable scorer. Yes, he has his limitations — he still doesn’t have a jump shot, his defensive awareness leaves a lot to be desired and he allows balls to be too easily poked away. But he is Detroit’s most potent weapon on offense on a nightly basis, and he should be featured on offense more, especially late in games when the opposing defense clamps down. The big 3 experiment has failed, and that has most negatively affected Monroe and Smith. If the team staggers the minutes among the three better all could see increased effectiveness, and the Monroe as power forward experiment has obviously worked better than the Smith as small forward one. Grade: B