A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved


Jakob Eich of Bynumite Blog takes a closer look at Rodney Stuckey’s best passing night of his career.

Okay, I went a little proverbial on the headline, but I thought it fit Rodney Stuckey’s performance Wednesday. After weeks, months and even years of being told that he was too selfish to be the starting point guard on the team and that he is not a good enough passer to be an elite NBA point guard Stuckey went out and got 14 assists with only one field goal attempt, four free throws and only two turnovers.

Patrick had a post earlier where he mentioned his belief that Stuckey gave up some good shots that ultimately led to worse shots for his teammates. Stuckey was probably fed up with all the jibber-jabber and went Kobe Bryant on his coach. I decided to take a closer look at what he did in that game (stayed up watching the game live and then re-watching it, it ended at 3 a.m. for me). I don’t want to prove Patrick wrong and I only looked at the assists which led to baskets. But of the 14 he had, only one should have been an easy lay-up for himself. On another he could have gone both ways but decided to drop it off to CV and a third one on a Hamilton basket shouldn’t have been an assist in my opinion. Rip caught the ball standing still, pump-faked, took two dribbles and laid it up. But still, good for Rodney!

Assisting  Monroe

Of the 14 assists, he passed the ball to Monroe four times. Five times (or four-and-a-half) Hamilton was on the receiving end of the dishes. I realize that the Toronto Raptors are not exactly a good defensive team, yet I still liked the plays. In a lot of plays Stuckey played similar to Chauncey Billups’ style back when CB was still with the team. Hamilton curled around screens and used them.

Stuckey showed great understanding of how the Raptors wanted to contain him. They sagged off in order to force him to beat the Raps with his jumpshot. Stuckey’s jumper, as we all know, can be shaky. His unwillingness to pass the ball makes this a rather effective strategy for a defensively challenged guard like Jose Calderon to make Stuckey become ineffective. Last night Stuckey decided to pass up a couple of good looks to hit the cutter or in the next case, the roller (‘Monroll’) in the pick and roll.

Stuckey is calmly dribbling the ball on top of the key. He will get a screen from Monroe. I always like how far Stuckey stays back in order to get as much speed as possible. Going full speed at his defender creates a real advantage for him. Usually his defenders are neither strong nor fast enough to keep him from getting to the rim. Kuester is marked in red, because this is how he always stands there, I think it’s funny. Hands at his hips, jacket casually thrown back and he always looks as if he’s marveling at what his players are doing.

Stuckey this time opts to go for the pull-up jumper. The defenders sagged off him and gave him the free jumper. This is how most defenses guard Stuckey. They gamble on him not making as many mid-range jumpers. If he had a solid mid-range game he would be one of the best scoring point guards in the league. He is not the elite passer or defender Rajon Rondo is for instance, but he could affect the game in other ways. He realizes the players are giving him the jumper, none of the defenders bother to switch to Monroe and Stuckey passes him the ball. Monroe gets a bucket and a foul.

Assisting Rip

Hamilton is the person who has suffered most from Billups’ departure. He not only lost the player he was most in sync with, he also lost his brother. I don’t he’s been the same since. Against the Raptors  he had a vintage performance and Stuckey’s selfless play had a lot to do with it. Stuckey had his fingerprints all over the game, he was calm and let the plays develop. This is usually typical of Tracy McGrady, if Rodney could learn how to do that it would add another dimension to his game.

This is just a short play I picked and I won’t go into much detail, we have all seen this plenty times when Billups was around. Stuckey holds onto the ball and waits until Rip curls around a screen and is ready to receive the pass. He can now either shoot it or drive it to the hole, he opts for the latter and finishes it strong at the rim. This is why I (and many others) expected Rip to be effective deep into his thirties. His game was never defined by his athleticism but by his deceptiveness. He has a lot more in the tank than what we have seen the past two years. He will be better again and might even gain some trade value. With a good point guard and a good coach he might have a couple of more productive seasons left.

Probably the Reason Joe D Fell In Love With Stuckey

This play perfectly illustrates why Dumars put so much trust in Stuckey. At his best, he is so fast, so explosive and basically unguardable. Unfortunately, he almost never is at his best. He shows flashes and gets oohs and aahs from the crowd and it is easy to imagine him as an elite point guard in this league. He often starts settling for jumpers, and as already mentioned his jumper is not very consistent.

I wanted to get Monroe into this so we’ll start out with the Raptors on offense. Bargnani is in an iso post-up against Monroe. Smartly the Pistons let Monroe handle this one-on-one as Bargnani only has one real go-to move in the low-post, the turnaround fadeaway. Not surprisingly Bargnani shoots a turnaround fade-away. Look at how well Monroe defends this play. He has his long arms straight up and he is so close to Bargnani that he can’t make the shot. This is great defense and incredibly smart and fundamental. I’d bet anything that Ben Wallace’s mentoring has a lot to do with this development in Monroe’s skill set. This is Tim Duncanesque defense. Not athletic, not spectacular, but effective.

Monroe gets the rebound and passes the outlet to Stuckey. Rodney takes the ball and goes full speed. His defenders can’t keep up with him and he passes the ball to Rip in the open court who knocks down the easy midrange jumper. I believe this is what Patrick talked about when he said Stuckey gave up good looks for worse looks for his teammates. In this case, Stuckey seems to have a rather clear path to the basket, still I like him giving up the ball since Rip is a very good midrange shooter and as a PG it is more important to keep your teammates happy than keeping yourself happy.

Summing this up, I would love for Stuckey to pass the ball more and score less. There’s nothing wrong with him averaging 10 PPG and 10 APG. I know it is highly unlikely to happen, but I think he could become this type of player. Jason Kidd never was a huge scorer, he was effective in other ways. Stuckey needs to find his niche within his skill set. He needs to realize when he can score and when he should pass, even if it means more games with just one field goal attempt, it worked. The Raptors gave him so much space, he could create for his teammates instead of taking many ill-advised jumpers. His primary skill might be scoring, but isn’t scoring T-Mac’s primary skill as well? Stuckey shows great potential in seeing passing angles, I think he would really profit from a mentor for his position. Since Billups left, he hasn’t had one. Heck, he hasn’t even had a good coach since then!

Here’s a compilation of all of Stuckey’s assists: