Final Regular-Season Grades for Every Detroit Pistons Player
The 2013-14 season has mercifully come to an end for the Detroit Pistons, giving us the opportunity to evaluate the play of every single player on the roster.
A busy offseason led to heightened expectations for the Pistons, who haven't been to the postseason since 2009. But after looking like a playoff team in the weak Eastern Conference even into the early parts of 2014, they fell apart over the final two months, winning just seven of their final 30 games.
President of basketball operations Joe Dumars will not have his contract renewed, and Maurice Cheeks was fired as head coach midseason, so there will be big changes throughout the organization before the start of the 2014-15 season. Whoever takes over those roles will be tasked with evaluating the play of all 15 Pistons players, much like we will with these end-of-season grades.
Every player on the roster is being evaluated on his play for the entirety of the season against expectations for his play, not against each other or even the league as a whole.
For instance, an end-of-the-bench player who works his way into the rotation will receive a higher grade than a starter whose play fell off from previous seasons. For the grades, the players are ordered by total minutes played, from lowest to highest.
2013-14 stats: 21 games, 3.8 MPG, 1.0 PPG, 1.2 RPG, .1 APG, .3 SPG, .1 BPG, 18.1 PER
Pistons rookie Tony Mitchell was looked at as a high-upside pick in the second round out of North Texas with tons of athleticism but little polish to his game. And after his first NBA season, it's very hard to get a sense of what kind of player he can become.
For one, he played just 79 minutes all season, over 100 fewer than any of his teammates. And those minutes came at the end of games when the final result was already decided. And 21 minutes came in three of the final four games of the season, at which point the fate of the season had long been determined.
On the other hand, Mitchell was an efficient player in that very limited sample size—his 18.1 PER ranked third on the team, and he was one of only four Pistons with a PER above the league average of 15.
That doesn't mean that he outplayed those other guys or even anyone on the roster—if he had he would have been on the court for more than 79 minutes. But there's reason to believe that he can develop into a rotation player—beyond his physical abilities, he rebounds well and had just four turnovers all season.
Mitchell wasn't expected to do much of anything as a rookie, and he didn't. But he does get credit for playing efficiently when he was on the court.
Final regular-season grade: B-
2013-14 stats: 20 games, 9.0 MPG, 4.6 PPG, 1.7 RPG, .3 APG, .2 SPG, .3 BPG, 12.8 PER
Nothing about Charlie Villanueva's 2013-14 season will make Pistons fans (even this guy) miss him now that his contract has finally expired.
Villanueva, known as an offensive player, posted career lows in nearly every statistical category while shooting just 38 percent from the field and 25 percent from beyond the arc. And he was particularly bad defensively, even for him, allowing opposing power forwards a PER of 23.6 against him, according to 82games.
The only silver lining to this season is that Villanueva and his $8.6 million salary is coming off the books, the final year of his five-year, $35 million deal he signed in the infamous offseason of 2009. The Pistons cannot move away from the Charlie V era—during which they went 140-254—fast enough.
Final regular-season grade: F
2013-14 stats: 24 games, 9.3 MPG, 2.3 PPG, .6 RPG, 1.4 APG, .4 SPG, 0.0 BPG, 5.7 PER
Like Mitchell, we saw very little of fellow second-rounder Peyton Siva the entire season. However, the former Louisville point guard got a real run over the final two weeks of the season.
Over the final seven games, Siva played over 18 minutes per contest, averaging 6.4 points and 2.9 assists while only turning it over four times total. He made just one-third of his field goals, but he did shoot 31.7 percent from three, better than he shot in any of his final three college seasons.
Siva will never be a starter, but continued improvement on the offensive end may allow him to be a valuable role player in the future. He was an excellent defender at Louisville and held point guards to a PER of 15.7 as a rookie, per 82games. While that's just average, it should only improve as he continues to adapt to the NBA game.
For much of the season, Siva barely saw the court and had a negative PER. He only managed to bump that number up to 5.7, but in the final weeks he made a real case for being brought back in 2014-15.
Final regular-season grade: C+
2013-14 stats: 34 games, 7.0 MPG, 2.4 PPG, 1.4 RPG, .3 APG, .2 SPG, 0.0 BPG, 8.0 PER
To say that Luigi Datome's first NBA season was disappointing would be putting it very lightly.
The Italian forward was expected to be the kind of sharpshooter who would bend opposing defenses and stretch the floor for Detroit's big men. He made 51.5 percent of his field goals, 39.4 percent of his threes and 92.6 percent of his free throws in his final season overseas—he looked like he could be a more athletic Kyle Korver.
Instead, he scored just 2.4 points while shooting only 35.1 percent from the field and 17.9 percent from the arc. His playing time was sporadic after he started the season slowly, which was due partly to missing the preseason with an injury.
“My percentage is terrible,” he said after the Palace finale to the Detroit Free Press. “It’s not easy to sit for five, six games and then play maybe 5 minutes of garbage time.”
With one more season on his contract, the Pistons certainly hope that he can rebound in his second season if given a more consistent role. He's a solid defender (which keeps him from a failing grade), holding opposing small forwards to a PER of 8.3, per 82games. If he can come close to resembling the kind of player he was in Italy, he'll be a very solid addition to the rotation.
Final regular-season grade: D
2013-14 stats: 19 games, 16.3 MPG, 3.8 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2.2 APG, .4 SPG, .1 BPG, 5.3 PER
For the third consecutive season, Chauncey Billups has missed at least 60 games. And after the worst play of his career, it very well may be time for him to move into a new role.
Prior to 2013-14, Billups had never shot below 37.4 percent from the field or averaged fewer than 12.8 points per 36 minutes, per Basketball-Reference.com. This season he shot 30.4 percent and scored just 8.4 points per 36 minutes or only 3.8 per game.
Billups wasn't supposed to be the same player he was during his first stint in Detroit, but his play even dropped off significantly from his two seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers. He is a shell of his former self and is basically incapable of generating his own shot anymore, although he remains an excellent passer.
Fortunately for Billups, he projects to have an excellent future in basketball even after he is done wearing a jersey, as detailed by The Detroit News:
Chauncey Billups began thinking about life after basketball in 2005. After helping the Pistons win their first title in 15 years, the Pistons guard wanted to learn about the business side of the NBA. Life in the front office. So Billups began sitting in on meetings with then-team president Joe Dumars and his assistants, Scott Perry and John Hammond. Billups learned how to set up a draft room. He learned what executives looked for when evaluating talent. Now, he believes he’s ready to move into the front office.
The article said that Billups still has interest in playing, but barring a major bounce-back in his play, there won't be any room for him in the Pistons' rotation. With openings in the front office, this looks like the perfect opportunity for Billups to call it quits on his Hall of Fame career.
Final regular-season grade: F
2013-14 stats: 32 games, 9.9 MPG, 2.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, .5 APG, .2 SPG, .5 BPG, 13.5 PER
When big man Josh Harrellson signed with the Pistons in August, it looked like he would be no more than a big body to fill out the end of the roster. With three starters who could play the 4 or 5 and Villanueva and Jonas Jerebko on the roster, a guy who played just six NBA games in 2012-13 didn't seem to stand a chance at cracking the rotation.
Yet, Harrellson became a key part of the Pistons bench in December as they went 8-9 in the month—their best of the season. For December, Harrellson averaged 3.4 points and 2.5 rebounds, shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from three.
The numbers may sound pretty pedestrian, but he was giving the Pistons solid post defense while stretching the floor offensively—something they couldn't get enough of in 2013-14.
His minutes tailed off in January, and he didn't play after Feb. 1 because of an injury, but for three months Harrellson was a solid rotation player for the Pistons—something that very few people saw coming.
Final regular-season grade: B+
2013-14 stats: 64 games, 11.6 MPG, 4.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG, .6 APG, .3 SPG, .1 BPG, 13.4 PER
While the Pistons' season was going off the rails in March and April, Jonas Jerebko was actually playing his best two months of basketball for the year.
Through February, the fourth-year forward was unable to average even 10 minutes in a single month, despite averaging at least 18 minutes in each of his first three seasons.
But in March his playing time jumped to nearly 16 minutes per game, and he rewarded interim coach John Loyer by averaging 5.9 points and 4.7 rebounds, shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 37 percent from the arc.
That play earned him even more time—nearly 21 minutes per game in April. Again he performed well, scoring 7.6 points on 46.5 percent shooting from the field. He also made 50 percent of his threes while taking 2.8 per game.
Like Harrellson, Jerebko's three-point shooting is essential for the Pistons, who were the second-worst team in the NBA from long range. And at 41.9 percent from threes on the year, he was their best three-point shooter while eclipsing his previous best mark by over 10 percent.
Defensively, Jerebko was very good in limited minutes against small forwards, giving up a PER of 11.8, but was a sieve against power forwards, who had a PER of 21.5 against him, per 82games. Unfortunately, he played more than three times the minutes at the 4 than the 3.
Jerebko couldn't get on the court for much of the season, but he proved that, at least offensively, he was still a solid offensive player over the final two months. With an improved jumper, the Pistons might not be against him picking up his $4.5 million player option for 2013-14.
Final regular-season grade: B
2013-14 stats: 56 games, 18.8 MPG, 8.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 3.9 APG, .7 SPG, .1 BPG, 14.4 PER
After playing the best basketball of his career in 2012-13, Will Bynum played basically right up to expectations in 2013-14.
Check out his season compared to 2012-13 and his career numbers:
|MPG||FG %||3PT %||PPG||APG||RPG|
His shooting and scoring were down from 2012-13, but his thee-point percentage was a new career high, and his assist and rebound numbers were up slightly. Otherwise, there were very little differences.
So as we've come to expect, Bynum was a solid offensive player off the bench for the Pistons, capable of scoring in bunches and putting pressure on opposing defenses. And as we've come to expect, he was a defensive liability, giving up a PER of 17.9 to opposing point guards, per 82games.
Bynum has one more year on his contract, so barring a trade or a significant injury, there's no reason to think he'll be any different for the Pistons in 2014-15.
Final regular-season grade: B-
2013-14 stats: 80 games, 19.8 MPG, 5.9 PPG, 2.0 RPG, .7 APG, .9 SPG, .2 BPG, 9.5 PER
Grading Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's rookie season is possibly the most difficult of all the roster grades.
Should he be graded based on what he was expected to do coming out of Georgia, like this from Yahoo's post-draft grades: "His rebounding rates at Georgia and shooting acumen bode well for a nice NBA transition."
Well, he shot under 40 percent from the field and just 31.9 percent from the arc, and he grabbed just two rebounds per game after averaging 7.1 his sophomore year in college.
Should he be graded on his play from November to January, when he was almost exclusively in the starting lineup, or should he be evaluated on February and March, when he played less than 15 minutes per game?
And how about the final game of the season, when he scored 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 from three, all while grabbing six rebounds, not turning the ball over and trading baskets with Kevin Durant?
All of that makes for a very up-and-down rookie season for KCP. In general, he provided solid defense while struggling with his jump shot for much of the season. That game against the Oklahoma City Thunder showed the kind of offensive explosiveness of which he is capable. Hopefully he won't wait until the last game of the year to show it off in Year 2.
Final regular-season grade: C+
2013-14 stats: 73 games, 26.7 MPG, 13.9 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, .7 SPG, .1 BPG, 14.0 PER
In November, Rodney Stuckey sure looked like he was playing his way to a big payday, averaging 16.9 points on 49.5 percent shooting from the field and 37.5 percent from three—all of which would be career highs.
However, he scored just 10.3 points on 38.8 shooting in December, and his play was generally down through March. But in April, with the fate of the season already decided, he averaged 19.9 points while shooting 45.1 percent from the field, attacking the rim and getting to the line 4.6 times more than he did the month before.
Stuckey clearly bounced back from 2012-13, which was possibly the worst year of his career. But should his season be defined by that first month, when he was a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, or for the majority of the season when seemed to coast? Whoever pays him this summer needs to know that he brings both to the table.
Final regular-season grade: B
2013-14 stats: 82 games, 28.5 MPG, 9.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, .9 APG, .7 SPG, .5 BPG, 11.9 PER
Although Kyle Singler wasn't supposed to be in the starting lineup again in his second season, he made the most of his opportunity and showed incremental improvement in his game.
From his rookie to sophomore season, Singler's shooting about 2 percent better from the field and 3 percent from the arc, averaging nearly another free-throw attempt and point per game, and his PER is up nearly two points overall.
He's still a negative defender, giving up a PER of 20.3 to shooting guards, per 82games, although giving up a 15.3 PER to small forwards is adequate. But he works hard enough to make up for some of it.
Singler is at his best defensively at small forward, and there's a chance he could be their long-term solution there if he continues to improve like he did this year.
Final regular-season grade: B+
2013-14 stats: 81 games, 32.3 MPG, 13.5 PPG, 13.2 RPG, .4 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 22.6 PER
Even though the Pistons had an utterly disappointing season, it would have been drastically worse if Andre Drummond hadn't developed into one of the NBA's top big men.
At just 20 years old, the center is already their best player, even if he's only scratching the surface of his potential. He may not have much of a post game and can get lost defensively, but in the entire NBA he ranked No. 2 in field-goal percentage and rebounding, No. 10 in blocks, No. 16 in PER and in the top 40 in steals. That's a unique talent.
If you want more evidence of what kind of player Drummond is becoming, look at his play in April. After 2012-13 there were questions about his conditioning, but in the final two weeks of a season in which he only missed one game, he averaged 18.4 points and 17.4 rebounds on 64.2 percent shooting.
Drummond's one-on-one defense can certainly be criticized, and he made only 21 shots from beyond five feet all season, per NBA.com. But there's no way to judge his season and say he didn't smash all expectations.
Final regular-season grade: A
2013-14 stats: 82 games, 32.8 MPG, 15.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.1 SPG, .6 BPG, 18.2 PER
Drummond's presence in the starting lineup moved Greg Monroe to power forward full-time for 2013-14, and—at least on offense—he was able to adapt his game well to a brand-new position.
No longer operating out of the pivot, Monroe was forced away from the basket, where he'd struggled in the past. According to NBA.com, he shot just 30.4 percent from five to nine feet and 30.3 percent from 10 to 14 feet in 2012-13. In 2013-14, those marks jumped to 41.6 percent and 41.3 percent, respectively.
And with Brandon Jennings running the point, Monroe has been asked to create offense less, and his assists have dropped from 3.5 to 2.1 since 2012-13. But that has also helped him take care of the ball better, as his turnovers per game dropped from 2.9 to 2.0.
Monroe has struggled on the other end of the court, as he gave up a PER of 21.2 against power forwards but only a 17.2 PER to centers, per 82games. With relatively slow lateral movement and a limited vertical, he's always going to struggle against quicker power forwards.
Nonetheless, he was a very strong offensive player yet again this season, and he'll certainly get some attention as a restricted free agent this summer. His play will give the Pistons a very tough decision about whether he's in their future plans.
Final regular-season grade: B+
2013-14 stats: 80 games, 34.1 MPG, 15.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 7.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, .1 BPG, 15.7 PER
For the first four months of the 2013-14 season, Brandon Jennings played some of the best point guard of his career. Sure, he still took more shots than some people would like, but he was blowing away his previous assist numbers and had actually cut back the number of field goals he was attempting per game.
December was the best month of his season, as he averaged 18.9 points, 8.4 assists and 1.6 steals while shooting 40.4 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from the arc. By the start of the new year, it looked like the Pistons were getting great return on their three-year, $24 million investment.
His play was strong in January and February, as he averaged 15.6 points and 7.9 assists, then 17 points and 7.2 assists, respectively. But since March, his play has fallen off a cliff.
That month he scored just 11.7 points per game while the Pistons won just four games. And April was nearly as poor, as he put up 13.1 points and 5.9 assists while making just one-third of his field goals.
For the season, a 15.7 PER is just down from the 16.2 he put up in 2012-13. But it's a disappointment after how well he played to begin the season. The Pistons' play overall was terrible during that point, so there was certainly fatigue and frustration for him. But as the point guard of the team, his play is crucial to the Pistons' success, and they'll need him to get back on track in order to be successful in 2013-14.
Final regular-season grade: C+
2013-14 stats: 77 games, 35.5 MPG, 16.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 14.1 PER
When you look at Josh Smith's first season in Detroit on paper, things aren't great.
His points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and field-goal and three-point percentages are all down from 2012-13. Some of that comes from a move to small forward that didn't agree with his skill set, but his play was far from exceptional.
But look away from the stat sheet, and things somehow get even worse.
Smith, not exactly known for having the greatest relationships with coaches, was rumored, per NBA writer Peter Vecsey, to be behind the firing of Maurice Cheeks, a move that fractured the locker room.
“I think, in the beginning when Mo was here, I was speaking by just playing hard every night — not playing hard, just hooping,” Jennings said to the Detroit Free Press. “After that, I think the locker room went down, just kind of split up. Not saying that guys had crews or, like, little cliques. Guys were like, ‘Whatever.’”
With that rift in the team, it's no wonder the Pistons went just 8-24 after Cheeks was fired. And some, like Vince Ellis from the Free Press (in the same article), believe there's plenty of evidence that Smith hurt the team chemistry.
I don’t read minds, but Wednesday night offered some insight. The Pistons looked like an actual team ... What was missing? Smith was on the bench. He was dressed in a suit for the final five games of the season ... The team, obviously, has a leadership void. Monroe, Drummond and Jennings aren’t experienced enough. But what about Smith, the team’s highest-paid player and 10-year veteran? After yet another season during which he didn’t see eye-to-eye with a coach, it’s likely that that ship has sailed.
Maybe it's all overblown, but with the way they played over the final three months of the season, there was clearly something wrong. And if it is Smith, there might not be much they can do, as the final three years and $53.5 million of his contract look virtually immovable. Get ready for another busy offseason in Detroit.
Final regular-season grade: D+
Note: All statistics from NBA.com unless otherwise noted. Salary information from ShamSports.com
Jakub Rudnik covers the Detroit Pistons as a Featured Columnist for B/R. Follow him on Twitter.