The Pistons have been hobbled with bumps and bruises, as detailed by Chris McCoskey of the Detroit News.
But maybe not enough to make everyone happy.
If Rodney Stuckey’s sore back has stayed loose enough, he will be ready to play against the Bobcats tonight.
If Allen Iverson’s body is still serviceable, he should be ready to play, too.
And if the timetable is still on course, Richard Hamilton will be ready to go against the Bobcats.
Three guards, two starting spots.
Stuckey is an emerging star, and Detroit is 14-5 when he starts. He’s also the most natural point guard of the three, so he’s in.
That leaves Iverson and Hamilton.
- 2001 MVP
- Nine-time All-Star Three-time All-NBA
- Three-time All-NBA second team
- Two-time All-Star Game MVP
- Career average of 27.3 points, 6.3 assists and 2.2 steals per game
- Years in the NBA: 12
- Years as a starter: 12
- All-Star in the last three years
- Pistons’ all-time leading playoff scorer
- Career average of 17.8 points per game
- Years in the NBA: 10
- Years as a starter: 8.5
Both obviously have the pedigree of a starter. So let’s examine what Detroit coach Michael Curry should do.
First, what makes the most sense on the court?
The minutes (Min.) are listed on each table as a reminder that the fewer minutes a unit has played together, the less likely its statistics are relevant.
I included the small-ball lineup of Stuckey-Iverson-Tayshaun Prince- Amir Johnson-Rasheed Wallace for comparison’s sake. It’s possible Curry starts that lineup again, but unlikely.
Let’s start by comparing the offense.
PPP is the points per possession that unit scores when on the court together.
eFG is effective field-goal percentage, which is adjusted for the value of 3-pointers. Its formula is (field goals made + .5 * 3-pointers made) / field goal attempts.
Close is the percentage of shots taken from close range.
With Stuckey-Hamilton-Prince-Johnson-Wallace, the Pistons score more points, shoot more efficiently and take better shots than with Iverson in place of Hamilton.
The small-ball unit is even more proficient offensively than Stuckey-Iverson-Prince-Johnson-Wallace.
PPPA is the points per possesion that unit allows when on the court together.
eFGA is effective field-goal percentage, which is adjusted for the value of 3-pointers, of the opponents. Its formula is (field goals made + .5 * 3-pointers made) / field goal attempts.
Close is the percentage of shots the opponents has taken from close range.
The unit of Stuckey-Hamilton-Prince-Johnson-Wallace holds opponents to a lower effective field-goal percentage and prevents them into taking as many close shots.
Although that group allows a slightly higher points per possession than Stuckey-Iverson-Prince-Johnson-Wallace, the first unit appears to be better defensively.
Surprisingly, the small-ball unit allows the fewest points per possession. But it doesn’t pass the eye test of a good defense.
Prince is an elite defensive small forward, but a mediocre stopper as a power forward. His matchup is the big difference defensively between the top two lineups and small ball.
Reb. is percentage of rebounds as a percentage of available rebounds.
T.O. is turnover difference.
The lineup with Hamilton has fairly better turnover difference.
The group Iverson is a little better rebounding. But I take this to be more coincidence than anything because Iverson (3.5) averages about the same number of rebounds as Hamilton (3.3), and neither’s clip is particularly impressive.
As expected, the small-ball unit has the worst rebounding percentage and the best turnover difference.
Off the court
Neither player will be happy about being a reserve.
McCoskey asked Hamilton about coming off the bench before the Piston’s game against Denver.
"So, what’s going to happen when you come back, do you think you will jump right back into the starting lineup?Rip: “Yeah, that’s the only option.”Well, there is another option — coming off the bench.Rip: “That ain’t happening.”"
Hamilton was unhappy with the trade of Chauncey Billups, a close friend. He might not be as willing to take one for the team as he once was.
Hamilton’s response was slightly better than Iverson’s to Sixer coach Chris Ford in 2004. Ford asked Iverson to come off the bench after missing three games with an injury. Iverson said he was “insulted” and refused to play against, coincidentally, the Pistons.
"“A lot of people might look at it like it’s a selfish thing or something like that,” Iverson said. “Why wouldn’t I start? I’m the franchise player here. I don’t know any franchise players that come off the bench. I don’t know any Olympian that comes off the bench. I don’t know any All-Star that comes off the bench. I don’t know any former MVP that comes off the bench. I don’t know any three-time scoring champion that comes off the bench.“I don’t know any first team All-NBA (player) that comes off the bench. Why Allen Iverson? Why should I come off the bench? … I think it is an insult to me. Who I am as a player, who I am to this organization, who I’ve been to this organization, that’s an insult to me to come off the bench if I’m a starter.”"
Iverson has talked about how his focus has changed from his younger days, but I doubt he’d take this move well.
The starting five definitely seems like it would be better with Hamilton on the court. This makes sense. A jumpshooter like him would complement Stuckey’s driving game.
I don’t think either will take a demotion well, and there’s the possibility of a major problem.
But Hamilton has two years left on his contract and is three years younger than Iverson. He figures to be much more part of the Pistons’ future than Iverson.
If Iverson becomes unhappy, Detroit can just let him leave as a free agent in the offseason.
Hamilton comes off the bench against Charlotte tonight, and Curry says the move was solely because Hamilton is returning from an injury. The Pistons win. Iverson stays in the starting lineup, and Hamilton continues to come off the bench because “it’s working right now.”