Thursday, April 7, 2011

Stuckey's Contract Situation

This is my first post on BB in a while ever since I took my writing to PistonPowered for the most part. If you were looking for breakdowns, every breakdown I do is on that site.

As most of you know by now the salary situation of the organization is a mess. We have a lot of accomplished players who are overpaid and we have a couple of good contracts (Bynum, McGrady) which are well worth their money. The player who has gotten most attention lately is Rodney Stuckey.

Stuckey, who was supposed to be Chauncey Billups heir which eventually led to the Allen Iverson trade, has never played up to his potential. Now his rookie contract is expiring and Joe Dumars has to decide how much money he wants to dish out to Rodney. A player he is usually compared to is Michael Conley. Most people expect Stuckey to earn around the same amount of money as the former Ohio standout. I will point out that Stuckey should not earn as much money as Conley. The reasoning for this will be elaborated on later in this text.

First of all let's get the numbers. According to Sham Sports, Conley is going to make $44 mio in six years. That is an average of a little above $7 mio per year. This is supposedly what Stuckey is looking for. Stuckey is known to be a great scorer, a good athlete with good basketball instincts. Conley was largely regarded as the sidekick to the injury-prone Greg Oden. Conley never won a scoring award or anything, he is a pure Point Guard though and that is rare. When comparing the two players you will quickly realize that, at this stage of their career, most of it is mainly based on reputation than on actual skill. While Stuckey is indeed very skilled at getting to the hoop and drawing fouls, he is not a great finisher around the basket and simply not a playmaker. Playmaking ability is a must for any PG in the league and Stuckey certainly has the tools as we saw in his 14 assist night the other week. In order to be a Shooting Guard Stuckey doesn't have the jumpshot. He has shown little improvement over the past few seasons and is hitting at a clip of 28%. This is in unacceptable. A jumpshot can be developed! It is just practice. Ray Allen has become the greatest shooter in NBA history by practice, practice and more practice. Now, Allen Iverson might disagree, but that is how it works for most basketball players, at least for the ones playing outside of Turkey.
So you'd expect Conley to trail Stuckey in scoring by a whole lot. Well, he kind of does. Per 36 minutes he scores 3.8 points less than Stuckey, but he dishes out one more assist. Right now, the reputation looks justified. Conley's primary role on the team is running the offense, not scoring. The secondary role is to play defense and then his scoring comes into play. Conley is playing alongside very very good and young scorers such as OJ Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Stuckey's usage rate is 24% whereas Conley's is only 19% He does not need to score that much, yet he is still only 4 points behind Stuckey. Conley gets more steals, more assists, has less turnovers and shoots a higher percentage from the field. Stuckey gets more rebounds which has to be explained by the fact that he is significantly bigger. Moreover, Conley has shown steady improvement in his shooting touch. When he came out of college most scouts doubted he could have a reliable jumper. He shot 33% beyond the arch in his rookie season and is now hitting them at a 37% clip. He peaked in his sophomore year at 40%, he still improved greatly though. He is much better than Stuckey at this point.

Which brings me to my point. Stuckey hasn't improved. He appears to have peaked one or two years ago. I fully agree that Stuckey would have benefitted from a coach who knows how to play the PG position, players have to accountable for what they do and Stuckey never showed the willingnes to become a great distributor. Conley meanwhile looked like a longshot to remain in the league and has shown steady improvement. He will never be a star, he will be a very good starting PG on any team. Stuckey was supposed to be the savior of this franchise and doesn't even prove he is better than average at this point.

So, when you consider the statistics I think Stuckey should make less than Conley by last year's standard. Taking the new CBA into consideration, which will feature shorter contracts and a lower salary cap, I would argue Rodney should be offered a four year $24 mio contract at a maximum, maybe even a little less. Being the PG on a bad team doesn't help, but the recent flashes of immaturity and lacking leadership won't trigger lots of teams to offer him much more. Try to name one team, which would try to take him on! I mean, there aren't a lot of them. Most of them have a better, an equal or a cheaper PG in place. Would they spend their money on a player who is immature, hasn't improved and cannot run an offense smoothly over the course of the whole season. If a team offers more than that, let him go or sign him and then trade him.

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