In case you've turned a blind-eye to the Pistons recently —and who'd blame you after the 0-8 start— the Pistons have gone 4-3 since. While part of the reason for their mini turnaround stems from playing easier Eastern Conference opponents, Lawrence Frank's rotational changes, or plain dumb luck, deserves credit as well. The moves have lead to more wins for the Pistons, but as is the case in any rotational shake-up there are always a few winners and losers. Here's the way Pistons 101 sees it:
Rodney Stuckey: Winner
When he was first relegated to bench duty, many thought Stuckey would blossom as he became the main scoring option next to second-unit point guard Will Bynum. Playing the off-guard spot with the second unit, Stuckey averaged 9.2 points over five games. But his scoring average was bolstered by a 14 point and 13 point performance in a blowout win against Boston, and a blowout loss to Orlando, respectively— garbage time. More importantly, when Stuckey played alongside Bynum the second-unit offense didn't seem to have a consistent flow to it. Stuckey seemingly was having the same problems adjusting to the shooting guard position that he had when Lawrence Frank started the combo-guard alongside Brandon Knight.
In the second half of a close game against Portland, Stuckey's sixth game off the bench, Lawrence Frank decided to go with Stuckey as his second-unit point guard. Keeping Will Bynum on the bench. Stuckey responded with his best game off the bench, scoring 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting and logging four assists in 23 minutes on the floor. Having played point guard for the Pistons in the years before Brandon Knight was drafted, it's not surprising that Stuckey played well at the one spot. Problem is, this puts Will Bynum back into the seldom-used role of third line point guard; a spot that didn't yield steady minutes for him last year.
Charlie Villanueva: Winner
It's common Detroit knowledge that Charlie Villanueva is seen as the highest paid "bench warmer" on the Pistons, but a recent cold-streak for Jonas Jerebko has gotten some fans thinking twice on Charlie V. Or at least, not thinking "amnesty" for a few days.
Charlie V. had gotten scattered minutes before Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, but against the New York Knicks Charlie V. showed flashes of his eight-million dollar contract. Charlie V. scored 17 points in 19 minutes in the Pistons blow-out loss to the Knicks, and although Charlie V. had an advantage with Knicks shooter Steve Novak defending him, Charlie V. showed that he could be an effective bench contributor for the Pistons. On Monday against Portland, Lawrence Frank again went to Charlie V. instead of Jonas Jerebko. Charlie V. responded with a more complete outing.
On the floor for 15 minutes, Charlie V. scored 10 points, pulled down three rebounds and threw two assists. Good for the offensive spacing, Charlie's long-range shot was working for him; opening up the lane for Stuckey and Maggette to drive and slash to the rim. If Charlie V. can continue to play within himself, not force his shot and do the intangibles (rebounding, passing, defending) that Lawrence Frank highly values, it's possible that Charlie V. could become one of the Pistons more consistent bench weapons.
Will Bynum and Jonas Jerebko: Losers
Okay, these two are tied together for the obvious reason of playing time.
In Will Bynum's case, if Stuckey continues to be Frank's go-to point guard off the bench, Corey Maggette will most likely become the second-unit shooting guard, and Bynum will be left with a seat on the bench. Unlike Stuckey who has combo-guard ability, Bynum is a player that really only fits at point guard; a spot Bynum has played well for the Pistons this year. But the problem for Bynum is with the points. Bynum hasn't been a legitimate scoring threat for the Pistons since the early moments of the season, and if Stuckey can go on bringing a balanced scoring and passing game then Will Bynum might begin to see his playing time more closely match the five minutes he played against Portland on Monday night.
Jonas Jerebko's benching has been more self-imposed than it has been Charlie V. muscling him out of his spot. The past two games have brought Jerebko zero minutes on the floor, but that's only because of his poor production in the six games prior. In those six games —running from 11/12 through 11/23— Jerebko scored only 11 points total while playing ten minutes or more in each game. During that same time period, Charlie V. had logged five games with nothing to show except a "DNP Coaches Decision" stat. Jerebko's struggles forced Lawrence Frank's hand with Charlie V., and now that Charlie V. is playing well it may be tough for Jerebko to work his way back in.
Tonight's Game, 11/28/12
The Pistons take on the Phoenix Suns tonight at the Palace for the second and last meeting of the season. In their first meeting, the Suns defeated the Pistons 92-89. The seventh highest scoring team in the NBA, the Suns average nearly 100 points a game in Alvin Gentry's offense. The Pistons will need a strong scoring output to split the season series tonight, which most likely will mean Lawrence Frank going back to Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva off the bench. Leaving Jerebko and Bynum sitting down.
Tags: Basketball, Charlie Villanueva, Detroit, Detroit Pistons, Jonas Jerebko, Lawrence Frank, NBA, Rodney Stuckey
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