This summer, Rodney Stuckey will be a restricted free agent, which means Joe Dumars will likely have an important decision to make. So far, all signs point to Dumars retaining Stuckey. Fortunately, he didn’t start a bidding war with himself and didn’t offer a contract extension to Stuckey; it seems as if the market will determine Stuckey’s price.
On the one hand, this is good news for Pistons fans. Joe Dumars has a questionable track record as it relates to extending contracts. One need look no further than the contracts of Jason Maxiel and Richard Hamilton for evidence. At least for now, Dumars has avoided overpaying Stuckey the way he overpaid Max and Rip.
On the other hand, the market tends to overvalue and overpay players like Rodney Stuckey, prioritizing points per game over other, more important statistical measures. Or at least that’s the story Wins Produced tells. Regardless of one’s opinion about Wins Produced, though, it is clear that points per game drives player salaries.
Obviously, the labor negotiations on the horizon render the following discussion somewhat tentative. But for the sake of converastion, I will assume a few things. First, a new CBA will resemble the current CBA as it relates to player compensation. Second, player evaluation won’t change dramatically due to a new labor agreement. Those two assumptions made, I think it’s fair to assume that Stuckey will receive an offer sheet that promises to pay him well through the prime of his career.
What is Stuckey’s “value”?
But just how well? That is the critical question for the Pistons and the franchise’s fans. Justin Rogers, of mlive.com, offered the following discussion last November:
Still, the question remains: How much is Stuckey worth? A number of point guards have recently signed contracts in the past several months:
Raymond Felton – 2 years, $15.8 million
Kyle Lowry – 4 years, $24 million
Mike Conley – 5 years, $45 million
Tony Parker – 6 years, $66 million
Depending on how much changes when a new labor agreement is reached, you can expect Stuckey to get a contract similar to what Conley go from the Grizzlies.
I think Justin has this exactly right. As I discuss below, all four of these players are more productive than Rodney, but the NBA market is likely to compensate these players at similar levels.
What has Stuckey produced?
At the time Justin wrote the article, Rodney was playing relatively well, and he appeared to have made significant improvements to his game. But as I argued in early December, that strong play began to fizzle rather quickly (and eager fans should note this decline began before Stuckey’s recent shoulder injury), and Stuckey appears to have regressed to career averages relative to Wins Produced. The following tables illustrate Stuckey’s career numbers, as well as this season’s numbers for his comparables (as always, powered by NerdNumbers):
It’s certainly true that Stuckey has produced for the Pistons this season, especially compared to the rest of the Pistons guards not named Tracy McGrady. Compared to Gordon, Hamilton, and Bynum, Stuckey is the superior player and belongs in the Pistons rotation. Further, he would have a strong case to belong in many rotations throughout the league.
That said, however, in relation to the comparables listed above, Stuckey simply doesn’t measure up. In spite of sharing some statistical similarities, particularly points per game which drives compensation, Stuckey is outproduced in most every key statistical category. As it relates to shooting and generating plays for teammates, Stuckey is simply sub-par. As it relates to possession retention and creation, Stuckey does a fine job, but he’s not in any way outstanding.
What should the Pistons do?
In short, Stuckey has not proven himself to be a worthy starter. Instead, he’s proven himself to be an adequate reserve. He’s the type of player most teams would like to have as a third or fourth guard, especially given that he’s 24 years old. The team who employs him next will have him throughout the prime of his career, and there remains the outside chance that Stuckey could make lasting improvements to his game, however small those might be.
As a restricted free agent, I suspect Stuckey will receive at least one offer comparable Lowry’s or Conley’s, somewhere between $6 – $9 million per season for at least four years.
Should the Pistons match such an offer? Obviously, the answer isn’t a binary yes or no. Sign and trades do happen. New contracts are signed, and players are traded in the first year of a new contract. Sometimes teams simply let players walk.
From the perspective of Wins Produced, any of these options would be more beneficial than retaining Stuckey for the long-term. The Pistons are already overpaying several unproductive players for the next several years – players like Villanueva, Gordon, Hamilton, and Maxiel. What is also obvious in the context of Wins Produced is that Stuckey hasn’t proven himself to be a starting-caliber player, and thus, he’s not worth starter’s money.
There are plenty of “ifs” between here and there, but if the scenario plays out as I suspect it might, it is time for the Pistons to part ways with Rodney Stuckey.