Despite seeing his playing drop this past season, Rodney Stuckey had the best year of his career for the Detroit Pistons, posting his highest WARP (4.3) and True Shooting Percentage (54.4) to date. The way Detroit used Stuckey was consistent with past seasons, as was his playing style. So when looking for the reasons for Stuckey's improved productivity, you have to look at the improvement of his specific skills, particularly his play in the pick-and-roll plus his ability to finish at the rim despite contact.
What He Did Well
One of the biggest improvements that Stuckey made was his pick-and-roll play, both when looking to create for himself and others. Two years ago, Stuckey posted a points per possession (PPP) of .835 in all pick-and-roll possessions (combining both passes and when he looks for his own offense) with a 39.5 percent shooting percentage and turnovers on 10 percent of those possessions. Last year? Stuckey and his teammates posted a PPP of .960 on 44.4 percent shooting and the turnovers dropped to 8.9 percent. The key to Stuckey's improvement was that he started being a little more unselfish, looking for teammates more and taking fewer bad shots himself:
Playing with his head up and demonstrating a willingness to share, Stuckey was not only able to hit the roll man when open, but he was also able to survey the court and hit cutters and spot-up shooters outside of the pick-and-roll. This is a huge reason why his assist rate jumped from 24.27 to 34.10 percent.
Two seasons ago, Stuckey was looking for his own offense 61 percent of the time in the pick-and-roll. Last year, that number dropped to 51.1 percent. With a more balanced attack, it was hard for the defense to overplay anything, allowing him to create even better opportunities for himself:
With Stuckey more willing to pass, the defense can't just wall him off, keep him out of the lane, and hope he misses a forced shot. This allows Stuckey to get to the rim a little more often and finish while being contested less.
So can Stuckey use this past season's success and build upon it? I think so. Last year, Stuckey showed development as a facilitator. As a restricted free agent, I think he is a more attractive and valuable option as a scoring point guard than as a two-guard, especially if he continues to develop as someone who can distribute the ball effectively, and make solid pass-shoot decisions.
Sebastian Pruiti is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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