Currently in his seventh year in the NBA, combo guard Rodney Stuckey has played the entirety of his professional career with the Detroit Pistons. Drafted with the 15th pick of the 2007 draft from Eastern Washington, the Pistons had high hopes for Stuckey. Initially he was seen by Detroit as their point guard for the future, but over time he has seen his ball handling duties reeled in. Now, in 2014, Stuckey spends most of his time playing as a two guard, and his sometimes explosive scoring makes him a real threat coming off the bench. As he fills that Sixth Man role for the first time in his career, Detroit have some questions to ask themselves. Stuckey’s contract expires in the summer, and this time, should the Pistons just take a step back and let him sign elsewhere?
It’s important to point out that this is both a simple, and a difficult decision. On one hand, the 27 year old is having a very good year, producing exceptionally solid numbers coming off the Pistons incredibly poor bench. Then on the other hand, Stuckey is criminally overpaid for his current level of production. Who will be making the decision is another variable to be thrown into the mix. Rumors continue to grow around Joe Dumars future as general manager, and interim head coach John Loyer currently looks unlikely to get the chance to lead the team any further than the end of this season.
Since a career high of 34.2 minutes a night back in his third season in 2009/10, Stuckey has seen a steady decline in his time on the floor with every passing year. This season, he is currently at 25.7 minutes, but perhaps more striking is the fact that to date this is his first professional season without a start. For his time on the floor, his numbers have been good this year. The Washington native is averaging 13.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2 assists, while shooting a career high field goal average of 44.1 percent.
To give a true picture of how this looks in terms of his overall career performance, with his reduced minutes, looking at his stats per 36 minutes makes a lot more sense. The findings reveal that although his current levels of assisting and rebounding pale in comparison, Stuckey is having a career year for scoring. Adjusted per 36, he’s averaging 18.7 per game, a career high by almost a full point. This should be no surprise really, as Stuckey had arguably the best all around season of his career back in 2010/11, also under the pressure of an expiring contract.
His play is undoubtedly very solid, but what does Stuckey really offer? What does he do so well that the Pistons couldn’t replace his production cheaper with someone else? It’s tough to think of an answer to that question, and it gets even more difficult when you go through a list of names of the guards on similar salaries. At point guard, George Hill, Mike Conley, Goran Dragic and Jameer Nelson all earn within that $7-9 million bracket that Stuckey’s $8.5 million a year falls into, while at shooting guard the list contains the likes of Monte Ellis, Kevin Martin and Manu Ginobili. It may be a case that Stuckey can perform at the same level as these players, but it seems fair to say that he hasn’t done so in his first seven seasons.
Along with Stuckey, Greg Monroe and Charlie Villanueva are the other expiring contracts on Detroit’s roster. Monroe could well land somewhere else. Detroit’s front court experiment hasn’t worked as a trio, and Monroe’s departure would allow Smith to move to his more natural power forward spot. On top of that Monroe’s salary is likely to more than double which may just be a little too rich for the Pistons. Villanueva almost certainly won’t be coming back, and combined with Stuckey and Monroe, that would give the Pistons over $21 million in cap space. If Stuckey is willing to take a pay cut, he’d represent good value returning at $4-5 million a year. Otherwise, it seems likely that Stuckey will be suiting up in another city in 2015.