Stuckey on the Spot

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

Though Allen Iverson and Chauncey Billups were the featured principals in yesterday's trade between Detroit and Denver, the deal was predicated on Joe Dumars' faith in Rodney Stuckey. When Stuckey came out of Eastern Washington the summer of 2007, he was regarded as a curiosity. Few outside the Pacific Northwest and the Big Sky Conference had seen him play, but at first blush, Stuckey appeared to be built for the NBA a big, agile combo guard with the instincts to facilitate an offense. Just before the 2007 Draft, Jonathan Givony sized up Stuckey this way:

Stuckey is more than just a pure scorer, though, he's also pretty good at creating for others too. His court vision is very solid, particularly threading the needle to cutters from the perimeter, driving and dishing in traffic, or finding open teammates in transition. Despite the 17+ shots he took per game, he doesn't come off as a selfish player.

(n.b. In classic Givony fashion, he correctly called Stuckey at #15 two weeks before the draft.)

After a productive rookie season which saw him get substantial minutes behind a banged-up Billups, Stuckey got the ultimate audition in last spring's playoffs after Billups went down in the Orlando series. Lindsey Hunter was Flip Saunders' insurance policy, but it was Stuckey who got the lion's share of the playing time in the clincher over the Magic. He logged 33 minutes, during which he chalked up 15 points and 6 assists on zero turnovers.

With Iverson's arrival, Stuckey will remain the third guard in the Pistons' rotation for the time being. But the departure of Billups upgrades Stuckey's status as the Pistons' PG of the Future from likely to inevitable.

Is he ready? Here's Matt Watson from Detroit Bad Boys on Stuckey's "first game in post-Chauncey era," a win last night in Charlotte:

Rodney Stuckey looked like a work in progress, shooting 3-of-7 for nine points with only three of the team's 23 assists. I'm big on his future, but anyone who thinks Stuckey is ready to replace everything Billups brought to the table right now is kidding himself. Stuckey can drive, yeah, but he's not nearly the distributor that Billups is. He was okay on Monday, but I wasn't surprised to see he was "only +7 on the night whereas every other starter was +14 or or more.

There are compelling arguments on both sides of the Billups-Iverson debate. But for Detroit and its fans, the deal's ultimate value will be measured by Rodney Stuckey's capacity to turn potential into promise.