Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and John Wall are each better than Rodney Stuckey. I bet they will remain better than Stuckey for the rest of their careers, too.
Now that we have that out of the way, John Hollinger’s article praising Rose, Westbrook and Wall reminded me why the Pistons have invested so much in Stuckey.
The crux of Hollinger’s argument
"And what’s unusual about this group is that they play the position much differently than the previous generations. Their older peers are mostly traditional, pick-and-roll point guards who succeed with quickness, guile and court vision.These guys? Raw, unadulterated power. With awesome combinations of size and strength, they’re among the best finishers in basketball despite playing the point. They’re not great shooters and it doesn’t matter. They don’t have great court vision (though Wall has shown a lot of potential as a distributor; more on that below). That doesn’t matter, either. In today’s NBA, where the ability to beat opponents off the dribble is king and perimeter defenders can’t use their hands, burst and power are at a premium."
Forty-five “point guards” listed in DraftExpress’ database with weights and sprint times have been drafted in the first round since 2000.
Only 11 of them are above average among the group for both weight and sprint time.*
*Surprisingly, Tyreke Evans isn’t one.
Two are actually shooting guards (Dwyane Wade and O.J. Mayo). Three don’t crack 6 feet without shoes (Jameer Nelson, Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton). One is Jay Williams, who only played one season before injuring himself in a a motorcycle accident. Another is Jerryd Bayless, who has shown minimal point-guard ability.
The other four are Rose, Westbrook, Wall and Stuckey (denoted by their teams’ logos).
Like Wall (62.5 percent shooting at the rim, according to Hoopdata), Rose (58.6 percent) and Westbrook (52.4 percent), Stuckey (58.1 percent) is converting a high clip at the rim. That’s easily Stuckey’s career high, so we’ll see how whether it holds up.
"How much of a premium? Consider that Rose and Wall were the No. 1 picks in their respective drafts after just a year of college (after a generation in which point guards were almost never considered to be top-pick material), while Westbrook went fourth despite not even playing point guard as a collegian."
Stuckey was the 15th pick. Among the above-average, above-averagers, only Lawson (17th) and Jameer Nelson (20th) were picked lower. The Pistons got excellent value in acquiring their new-wave point guard.
Hollinger’s next point:
"And the irony is that they end up doing a lot of damage with midrange jump shots. Opponents are so fearful of their blinding quickness off the dribble that they back up, go under screens and concede shots they’d never permit to almost any other opponent.So while Rose, Westbrook and Wall live on the dynamic finishes at the rim, in between highlights they build up their numbers by hitting easy midrange jump shots, often shooting little more than a free throw with a defender still several feet off of them. You don’t have to be a great shooter to nail a high percentage of those shots."
Stuckey is shooting 46 percent on jumpers between 16 and 23 feet, according to Hoopdata – higher than Rose (43 percent), Westbrook (42 percent) and Wall (41 percent).
The key difference is Stuckey only makes 0.9 shots from that distance per game – fewer than Wall (2.6), Rose (2.0) and Westbrook (1.7).
Stuckey has obviously worked hard on his jumper. He’s shooting seven percentage points higher from that distance than his previous season high.
But he’s taking fewer shots from that distance than he ever has. Is he actually an improved jump-shooter, or is he just more selective? I’m not sure, but the answer probably determines how likely it is Stuckey can pad his scoring average from that distance like Rose, Westbrook and Wall.
Hollinger goes on to list the extra positives the three point guards have, and that’s where Stuckey falls short.
- Rose has an extremely effective floater – 57.1 percent shooting on attempts within 10 feet, but not at the rim, and, by far, a point-guard-high 2.4 makes from that distance per game. Stuckey shoots just 26.7 percent from that distance.
- Wall is a gifted passenger, averaging 9.6 assists per game. Stuckey averages just 6.3.
- Westbrook pulls in 2.2 offensive rebounds per game.* Stuckey grabs just 0.8 per game.
*I question the value of them, considering the Thunder, although ranking 12th in pace, allowed the fifth-most fastbreak points per game, according to Team Rankings.
If Stuckey wants to make the leap the Rose-Wall-Westbrook level, he’ll have to develop another strength. Defense, perhaps?
Hollinger’s final point:
"But with three such players entering the league in the past three years, and all making a huge impact almost immediately, one thing is for certain: Scouts will be looking high and low for the next one. With rules favoring point guards with the quickness to get a step to the rim and the size and explosiveness to finish, the power point guard phenomenon looks like it’s here to stay."
Maybe Stuckey, despite playing more NBA years than the other three, can still be the next “point guard phenomenon.”
Rose and Wall played for John Calipari in college. Westbrook played for Ben Howland. Stuckey played for Mike Burns. No offense to Burns, but there’s clearly a difference. Plus, the other three have been NBA starters from day one.
Stuckey obviously has a way to go, and it’s unlikely he’ll get there.
But it’s possible, in a couple years, Hollinger will write about Ian Miller trying to be the next Wall-Rose-Westbrook-Stuckey.