Well, the mid-season, and I think pretty much everyone's happy with how things are working out. It's time to hand out some grades! Now, I want every Pistons player to take these home to get a parental signature, and have these back to me by Friday. Jonas, you can have an extra three days.
(insert caveats... nobody expected a championship boilerplate... injuries...)
Rodney Stuckey: C+
He is continuing his slow progression on offense, becoming more active without turning the ball over. He is also becoming more selfish on offense, reflected in his assist rate and true shooting percentage. His outside shot has yet to develop, and that's going to be the key to his transition from starter to star. On defense, Stuckey is showing some modest improvement, as he is learning to use his size on both ends of the court.
Rip Hamilton: D
This grade could change substantially, but right now, Rip is destroying the offensive with his turnovers and missed shots. Two years ago, Rip participated in the three-point shootout. This year, he's shooting 24% from behind the arc. He's hobbled, trying to do too much, and looks lost on both ends of the court. Worse, he is quickly climbing the "worst contracts in the NBA" charts.
Ben Wallace: A
One of only two Pistons to play every game, Ben is only 2/10ths of a point from leading the team in Player Efficiency rating. He leads the team in rebounding rate, blocks/40, steals/40, FG%, foul rate (!). He leads the league in offensive rebounding rate, should make one of the NBA all-defensive teams, and may be the one thing separating Detroit from a New Jersey Nets style fiasco.
Jonas Jerebko: B-
After wandering into the starting position thanks to injuries, Jerebko has fought off all comers to keep it with his hustle and defense. He has become a fan favorite, and is even starting to bring a little offense to the table. His quality play should silence the "Dumars can't draft" for a little while, though I don't think the Pistons are a playoff team with Jerebko playing 30 mpg.
Tayshaun Prince: Inc. (In danger of failing. Needs to turn in more work.)
It has only been eleven games, most of them coming off a back injury, but it's amazing how quickly the Pistons' iron man has fallen. If he continues to play like this, he will almost certainly be benched, and likely asked to take some time off to recuperate. Already, this season is looking like a wash. What does that mean for a 30 year old swingman who relies on his defense to contribute at a starter level?
There are two Charlie V's on offense. The first is a smooth operator in the post with a nearly unstoppable mid-range game. The second is a bad version of Sam Perkins. On some nights Charlie looks like the all-star go-to guy the Pistons desperately need. Other nights, the offense stalls as he drifts behind the three point line and watches. On defense, there is only one Charlie V, and that guy has trouble sticking to his man, though he does a nice job on the defensive glass.
Ben Gordon: C+
Before going down with an injury, Ben Gordon was playing like a superstar. Since then, he has been hobbled, and has played like it. Perhaps the most disappoint aspect of Gordon's play has been his inefficiency (32%) from behind the arc. Even when he was producing, he was getting to the paint and dictating the offensive flow. Teams were figuring this out, and collapsing their defenses, just like they did last year. On defense, Gordon has been as unspectacular as expected, though a bit better than advertised.
Will Bynum: B-
Ankle injuries make a big difference for guys who rely on blinding speed to beat their guys to the basket. MFWB (which, for new readers, stands for Messed-up Foot Will Bynum) was off to a great start after leading the team in PER last year. Bynum compensates for a lack of outside shooting my getting to the hoop and (are you listening, Rodney?) creating shots for teammates. Unfortunately, he seems to be most effective in small doses, and is not at all effective in no doses due to the aforementioned foot ailment.
I'll say this... In terms of minutes per dollar, the Pistons have some of the best bargains in the NBA. Unfortunately, many of those minutes are spent pulling up long three pointers early in the shot clock, thanks to Chucky, who has taken a far too active role in the offense. His PER of 8.2 is among the worst in the league, and I'm looking forward to a day when Atkins is providing intangibles like "veteran leadership" rather than tangibles like "missed field goals". His assist rate and low turnover ratio are saving him from an F here.
Austin Daye: B
His numbers are solid, and rapidly improving. He is aggressive on offense, and successful enough that this seems like a good idea. Prior to a recent slump, he was a actually a bonafide three point threat. Frankly, I think the Pistons would do well to keep hobbling players on the bench go develop for the future. His game is the sort that will take some time to mature, but he shows every bit of promise as a multi-tool player at both ends of the floor.
What happened? Two seasons ago, it looked like Maxiell was going to be a breakout player. Now, he's struggling to stay relevant on a team that is hurting for offense. He's starting to improve with more consistent minutes, a sign that maybe he wasn't in game shape at the start of the season. Still, it's hard to ignore the fouls, turnovers, and missed shots from a player who is normally pretty efficient.
Chris Wilcox: C+
Much maligned in these parts, Wilcox has more or less lived up to his billing as a solid rotation big man who can provide some offense and keep Kwame Brown off the court. Fouls will always limit his minutes, and his recent tendency to turn the ball at an absurd rate may keep him on the bench entirely, since those are two areas coaches tend to over-emphasize.
Kwame Brown: F
See above. Turnovers are tough to swallow from guys who contribute on offense. When they come from a guy who almost never scores? Ugh. All Kwame had to do to be a starter right now is make modest improvements in a limited offensive game and stay tough on defense. He has not done that, and now it appears he will be relegated to cheerleader if he (and his expiring contract) are not traded at the deadline.
DaJaun Summers: F
The wrong DaJuan has failed to earn minutes in an atmosphere where they are ripe for the picking. That'll happen when you shoot 29%. I am still think draft night in the war room went something like this.
Joe Dumars: Okay, we got our man. (Picks up the phone) Langlois, write up a piece about how we're not worried about his knees. Arnie Kander can work with that. We need rebounding and we got it. All you needed to see was what he did to Thabeet and... What? Wait... That was the oth... Wow. Um, have Langlois write a piece about the fine tradition of Temple basketball and...
Georgetown? I have no idea who this guy is. Just tell 'em we planned to pick him in the first round, so we're thrilled he fell in our laps... Tell 'em this "Joe Dumars is walking around with a smile like he knows something everyone else doesn't". What? We used that? On who? I have no idea who that is... Uh, huh, sleeps a lot. Doesn't sound like anyone I'd draft. Also, we're trading that Swedish guy to Houston, so sell that up. Alright, I'm going to bed.