Can Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight Coexist for Detroit Pistons?
The NBA lockout continues, yet life goes on in sports prognostication.
While everything in sports generally takes a backseat to football once fall rolls around, this year's NFL lockout has essentially whipped the fans into even more of a frenzy than usual.
Basketball, pro or otherwise, is left as a hazy afterthought.
Nowhere is that more the fact than in Michigan, where the early season success of the pro and college football teams have fans in a celebratory mood.
Top that off with the looming baseball playoffs for the beloved Tigers and you have a fanbase that is more apathetic to basketball than Kate Moss is partial to food.
But I have not forgotten about basketball or my Detroit Pistons. And while most of my recent articles have focused on looking back on the past, it is also important to look at the current state of the franchise and how the assembled pieces will fit together once this lockout madness is over.
Today's Existential Issue
This is a team that has been in flux for a couple years now, essentially stuck in a holding pattern that is incongruent to progress.
However, team president Joe Dumars did his part this summer to bring in some new talent through the draft, most notably guard Brandon Knight.
All reports, including mine, point to Knight being the classic combo guard that seems capable of turning into a point guard at the next level.
He can shoot, score, has the frame and quick hands to play defense and the personal makeup to be successful for this franchise.
There is only one problem: What does this mean for Rodney Stuckey?
Stuckey has been a maddening talent to figure out over the past few seasons. He was brought in through the purging of colossally disappointing Darko Milicic and immediately hurt himself, stunting his growth off the bat.
Once he did get on the court, he showed flashes of brilliance in the postseason, providing a spark off the bench.
Eventually, the Pistons decided to trade point guard Chauncey Billups in a controversial move that also added Allen Iverson.
While part of the reason for the trade was to trim the team salary ahead of a free-agent period, the other reason was to clear the way for Stuckey to take over as the point guard.
While we all know how disastrous the Iverson ordeal was, what was somewhat lost is the situation into which Stuckey was thrust.
Never a true point guard, he was asked to not only play the position in the pros, but to become the leader of a veteran team that was becoming more and more disgruntled.
Add to that two train wrecks masquerading as coaches and you have a recipe for disaster that Stuckey could not weather.
Stuckey is not without blame, however. He never improved his outside shooting, he continuously made the same type of mistakes with the ball (his default move seems to be to jump into the air with the intention of passing the ball, only to throw it away) and he became a distraction on and off the court.
While he ended the season on a bit of a roll, most fans seem to want the Stuckey as point guard experiment to go the way of the dinosaurs. So where exactly does that leave him?
Dumars built the current roster as a group of interchangeable parts that he hoped would be versatile and form a good team.
That didn't work and now he appears to want to go a more conventional route.
Knight is everything that you want in a point guard. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of a more athletic Billups with his ability to stretch the court with his shooting and his no-nonsense approach to the game.
So that would make Stuckey the off-guard, right? Ideally, yes, but there still are a lot of other moving parts.
Ben Gordon, Will Bynum and Terrico White appear likely to return and the team will have to work a small miracle to get out from under Rip Hamilton's franchise-killing salary.
That leaves a lot of bodies for a short amount of minutes.
While some think that this represents a problem, I am actually in the minority that thinks this could be a very effective marriage. The thinking is again looking at the past.
When Dumars was a Hall of Fame player in Detroit, he shared the backcourt with another Hall of Famer, Isiah Thomas.
Thomas was the pure point guard, Dumars the combo guard. They had another stud mate in Vinnie Johnson, who was a pure scorer off the bench.
When Thomas needed a rest, Dumars ran the point. When the team needed Thomas to take over, they put him off the ball and let Dumars bring the ball up the court.
That setup worked to the tune of two championships. This backcourt is similarly built, albeit with less talent.
Gordon is the super-sub, taking over Johnson's role, perhaps more effectively. He is a pure scorer and has a below-average handle of the ball. Therefore, he will need someone opposite him that can take the ball-handling duties away.
This is where Stuckey will find his niche if he embraces his role. He essentially could operate in the Dumars role.
When Knight is in the game, Stuckey will play off the ball as a true shooting guard, capable of breaking opponents down off the dribble.
When Gordon comes into the game, Stuckey will then shift to the primary ball-handler, allowing Gordon to focus exclusively on scoring.
This is not to say that things will happen like this. Stuckey still has to embrace the role and give up his starting point guard duties gracefully.
If coach Lawrence Frank can get Stuckey to see the big picture, this could be the beginning of something good in Detroit.
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