If there is one player on the current Pistons' roster who has the ability to finally lead them past the conference finals for the first time in three years, it is Rodney Stuckey. Without him, the Pistons would not have even competed with the Boston Celtics.
This is not a knock against the other Detroit Pistons, but the game is changing due to the no touching on defense rule. Players like Stuckey, Paul Pierce, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James, who can beat their man off the dribble, are now virtually unstoppable.
Being too much of a jump shooting team has killed the Pistons the past three seasons. It is now impossible to stop a player with a quick first step who can finish in the lane. You win a series by out penetrating the other team. This is why players like Lamar Odom and Tayshaun Prince have unfairly been criticized for losing a step defensively. Under the new rules, nobody can stop a player like Pierce.
With Stuckey's combination of size and speed, his ability to finish, and his free throw shooting, there is not anyone who can stop him for long either. He is young, tough, and this needs to be his team. Rodney Stuckey needs to start, and that does not mean Richard Hamilton or Chauncey Billups need to go.
Supposing that the Pistons make no significant offseason moves, there are a number of ways the Pistons could make Stuckey a starter. One unorthodox lineup would make Prince a four-position super-sixth man, with Richard Hamilton moving to small forward. There are not many threes who can keep up with Hamilton, if any at all, and his defensive workload would actually be easier than at two-guard.
Starting Billups and Stuckey together in the back court would make it difficult to slow down the Pistons' offense, as both of them can score or create shots for others. Other options would have Billups or Hamilton coming off the bench as a super-sub (similar to Manu Ginobili or Jason Terry).
In any scenario, Stuckey needs to assume a leadership role with the team, sooner rather than later. If not as a starter, than as a 30+ minute per game sixth man. "Hot Rod" is ready. The "no superstars" era of the Detroit Pistons is ending quicker than anyone could have imagined.
Tony Wichowski is a writer for the Bleacher Report and the host of "That's Real Sports Talk" on the Godly Network.
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