Detroit Pistons: Why Team Can't Handle Brandon Knight Like Rodney Stuckey

Eric Vincent@@IAmEricVincentCorrespondent IMay 28, 2013

The public perception of veteran guard Rodney Stuckey has such a negative ring now. He's been voted as overrated and one of the biggest scapegoats for why the Detroit Pistons are losing and repairing the wounds of the past few seasons. 

Along with 100 other reasons and people associated with the team, it's easy to point at Stuckey as a problem. Being drafted as a mid-first rounder in 2007, expectations were rightfully placed high, and he hasn't been the player fans hoped for. Stuckey has now found himself coming off the bench, but lost in the team's transition during their rebuilding stage.

After watching his reign, thus far, and seeing the path of the team's makeup, it's time to stop blaming and pointing the finger at Rodney Stuckey. Personally, it seems the Pistons have mishandled the guard over him not performing and reaching his potential. 

Not only does the slander need to cease, but Detroit is dangerously threatening to repeat history with another guard.

This isn't the 2003 draft where the Pistons passed on elite-caliber players like Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. As the 2004 championship core was on the decline, new building blocks were needed, and Stuckey was a nice addition at the time.

Detroit drafted Stuckey as a combo-guard out of Eastern Washington University. At 6'5", 210 pounds, he excelled as a scorer off the dribble and at the rim. His jump shot as well as passing were both skills that needed work and improvement. Stuckey's talent and ability was challenged by little collegiate experience and competition playing in the Big Sky Conference.

General manager Joe Dumars selected Stuckey with the idea of making him the next great Pistons point guard. Learning behind veteran and 2004 NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups was a good recipe for the growth of their young draft pick. But the sudden departure of Billups put Stuckey and the Pistons on the hot seat.

Detroit swapped their former floor general for former All-Star Allen Iverson, which turned out to be disastrous and the beginning of the Pistons' decline. Detroit believed Iverson's "instant offense" style of play would mesh with the team-oriented system. The team finished the 2008-09 regular season 39-43 and were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

The Iverson acquisition had the lineup and team in disarray. Rip Hamilton and Iverson each uncomfortably spent time as the team's sixth man.

Stuckey took over as the young starting point guard of a team full of veterans. There were more flashes shown as an attacking scorer instead of a facilitator. He displayed an elite first step off the dribble and even had a 40-point career-high game against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls.

The Pistons could've used Stuckey better as a shooting guard, but weren't able to make that transition. The team was playing with a backcourt roster of veteran guards like Iverson, Richard Hamilton and Aaron Afflalo.

Year-by-year, that didn't change as the Pistons continued bringing in combo guards like Ben Gordon and Will Bynum. Detroit was stuck with their original philosophy that continued to backfire, making Stuckey the franchise point guard. Stuckey was a good prospect, but not as a point guard.

With the inability of switching his position, each Pistons' coach attempted to establish Stuckey as a point guard eventually costing them their jobs. Former head coaches Michael Curry and John Kuester both produced losing records with Stuckey as the floor general.

Most recent Detroit coach Lawrence Frank planned to shift Stuckey to shooting guard with hopes he would "live in the paint." The switch didn't work out well as young guard Brandon Knight struggled to grasp the position of running point. His offensive game was up-and-down, but his turnovers were consistently too high with 2.6 his rookie year then 2.7 the following season.

As Knight struggled, Frank eventually took the ball out of his hand moving Stuckey back to the same position he never excelled at. The Pistons finished the lockout-plagued season, 25-41.

This past season, to clear up space and boost the guard depth, Dumars moved longtime Piston Tayshaun Prince to the Memphis Grizzlies in a three-team deal bringing guard Jose Calderon to Detroit. The trade moved Knight to shooting guard and Stuckey off the bench backing up either guard.

The numbers and averages of Rodney Stuckey have never been bad, but never what he was capable of. He averaged a career-high 16.6 points in 2009-10, but never averaged more than 5.2 assists in 2010-11.

Despite not being the best point guard, however, he never managed more than 2.2 turnovers a year. The majority of frustration with Stuckey, however, roots to his shooting consistency. He's been a 42 percent shooter his whole career. His jumper never got much better from when he entered the draft, shooting 28 percent behind the arc—his career average.

Stuckey wasn't a project player and certainly didn't come with a package of versatility. He made his name known in the draft as a scorer, but hasn't established himself as a consistent threat. Courtesy of incorrect positioning, bad coaching and a logjam of guards on the roster, Stuckey didn't develop correctly.

Now, history can possibly repeat itself with the development of Brandon Knight.

Detroit is currently in a challenging place of their offseason with no coach, the No. 8 lottery pick this summer and plenty of cap space. The Pistons could use additions all over the roster and don't have much gold to choose from in this draft. 

Prospect guards like Michael Carter Williams and C.J. McCollum could be potential targets this summer. If either of them are drafted, how will that affect the progression of Knight? 

The Pistons need to establish Knight as their young point guard of the future instead of tinkering with him at shooting guard. As a 6'3", 189-pound skinny guard, he's not capable enough to defend bigger guards. Knight has already made it clear he doesn't see himself as a 2-guard. Unless the Pistons are attempting to deal Knight, they need to stick with him at his natural position.

Veterans Will Bynum and Calderon will be free agents this summer, and Stuckey is entering the last year of his contract. With both guard spots realistically open, Knight has to take hold as Detroit's point guard.

As draft classmates like Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker are budding with their teams, Knight is still a work in progress. He's struggled to take care of the ball in his first two years, averaging almost four assists to 2.7 turnovers. His scoring numbers have been unimpressive as well, averaging on 13.1 points.

Knight just turned 21 years old in April and is capable of much better. But he'll need the right positioning and pieces around him to help his growth. Luckily, he has a blossoming frontcourt duo in center Andre Drummond and forward Greg Monroe. With those foundation pieces set, they all three should progress together.

So as the majority of Detroit has unfortunately written off Rodney Stuckey, don't do the same for Brandon Knight. He's been clowned on for one of the biggest dunks of the year, and fans continue to grow impatient with his slow progression.

But you see consistent effort and hopeful glimpses of promise. After only one year of college basketball at Kentucky and two short years at the pro level, it's time for everyone to be patient with Knight. And if the Pistons plan on holding onto their 2011 first-round pick, they must let him grow at his customary position.