The Changing of the Guards: If Not Stuckey, Then Whom? Part I

Last week, Vince Ellis of Freep.com suggested that "more than one person around the league has said the team probably will be in the market for a starting-caliber point guard". This spurned a pretty active, interesting discussion here on DBB that will likely continue throughout the off-season. The question, of course, is that if Rodney Stuckey will not be playing the point in Detroit, who will?

While Ellis only offered a few names, specifically John Wall, Chris Paul or Raymond Felton, there is a long list of point guards available in free agency and a shorter, but more talented list of realistic trade options. Of course, Detroit's primary needs are in its frontcourt. If Detroit can address those needs with both its draft picks and then a primary trade, what are the available options for a secondary trade or the MLE? Second, do any of these options pose a significant upgrade over Rodney Stuckey? The list begins after the jump.

The Free Agents: Part One, Likely Candidates

(in no particular order)

1. Raymond Felton

Felton closed out the year with 12.1 ppg and 5.7 apg, both down from last year with 4 less minutes per game and nearly 3 less field goal attempts. He improved his field goal efficiency from 40.8% to 45.9%, mostly thanks to improved scoring from outside the arc (in a season, he went from Rodney Stuckey to Chauncey Billups from the three point line).

Felton earned $5,501,196 last year and is now an unrestricted free agent. Expect teams like New York and Miami to court Felton after the premier free agents sign their paperwork and money is left to spend. It is likely that he'll earn slightly more than the MLE in those cases, but beyond that he'll be looking at part or all of the MLE elsewhere.

The problem is, Felton is both a poor fit for this team and, throughout his career, less efficient even than Rodney Stuckey. Felton is 6'1" and can't defend the 2, something Stuckey can do alongside the undersized Ben Gordon. While Raymond shot well this year, it could be an abberation-- he's averaged under 40% from the floor throughout his career until this season. For the full MLE, Detroit would be getting a short, poor-shooting point guard with no defensive versatility. He improved in his contract year, but went right back to his old self in the playoffs.

Verdict: Pass. Felton does not present an upgrade over Rodney Stuckey.

2. Luke Ridnour

While Felton saw an uptick in efficiency during his contract year, Ridnour exploded. Ridnour improved from 40.3% shooting last year to 47.8% shooting this season, providing a much-needed dose of efficiency behind Brandon Jennings in Milwaukee's depth chart. Ridnour is a decent defender and a crafty passer, but beyond that is a bit too undersized to handle bigger guards. That said, at 6'2, he has height on Felton-- and between the two players Ridnour is likely the smarter bargain. Having produced a 17.7 PER off the bench behind Jennings, he could be a bench spark for a contender in the coming season.

Ridnour has flourished in a bench role where Felton hasn't produced with starter's minutes. Teams looking to bolster their depth at the point for a championship run would be wise to offer Ridnour a portion of the MLE, and he would be wise to take it.

Verdict: Pass. Ridnour would be a great backup point guard, but the Pistons aren't in need.

3. Randy Foye

Statistically, Randy Foye is a poor man's Raymond Felton. While that much isn't quite a selling point to most teams, his skill set is well suited to a backup point role. Due to the lack of quality point guard starters, Foye has lucked into a few starting gigs just as Felton and Ridnour have.

Foye has a pretty solid outside shot-- better than Felton or Ridnour, and it shows in a slight improvement in field goal shooting across the board. Slight, but not an upgrade over Stuckey. A 41.9% career shooter, it would be hard to argue that Foye could hold a starting spot and earn the Pistons more wins than Stuckey. And beyond that outside shot, he's not as "apt" a distributor as Rodney, which is saying less than very little.

As far as size and defense, he poses an upgrade over Felton and Ridnour, but not Rodney Stuckey.

Verdict: Pass. Again, a solid backup point player, but no substitute for Stuck.

4. Steve Blake

While Steve Blake may be another guard who has "lucked into a few starting gigs", he's shown he's more apt than your average second string backup. He's a great outside shooter, he's capable of handling bigger guards, he's a good passer and can manage pick-and-rolls like few others (just ask LaMarcus Aldridge).

Still, his efficiency and age pose question marks, and the only role he'd hold in a Pistons uniform is to replace Chucky Atkins, albeit with many more minutes (and less brainless offensive fouls).

Verdict: Pass. Unless we can't re-sign Will Bynum, then Blake could be a great, inexpensive option off the bench.

5. Will Bynum

I was surprised at the turning of the love for MFWB as this season closed. Bynum was hampered by some nasty injuries this season, and the main thing that suffered with Will was one of his two great strengths: lock-down guard defense. While his driving offense showed signs of life later in the season, his lock-down D did not. If Will can't get that back, the Pistons shouldn't offer much more than the vet minimum. However, I don't doubt for a moment that he'll be locking down his man at the start of the season.

If Bynum can enter training camp at full strength, and his contract options aren't exorbitant, he has the understanding of our squad and playbook to manage the point until better options arrive. Should that period last a full season, so be it. Bynum has earned both the love of the Pistons fans and the backing of the organization, so if we start the season in October with Will at the point, things could certainly be worse.

Bynum won't be a long-term option at the point, but his price tag and output could make him a temporary starter and a long-term backup as the Pistons move forward. Compared to Felton, Foye and Ridnour, Will Bynum has been a better passer, remains a better finisher and a superior defender. He doesn't have an outside game, but his strengths outweigh his weaknesses.

Verdict: If the price is right, re-sign him. He is as red, white and royal blue as it gets-- and can handle the starting job until better options arrive.

6. Shaun Livingston

Sure, I could just link to that terrible photo of Shaun's knee on court, but I'll try to communicate less disturbingly. 39 games. That's his per-season average throughout a five year career.

If Shaun were an 82-game lock, season after season, he'd be worth the MLE. He's not an outside shooter and he's not a great passer, but lately he's efficient when he does choose to shoot the ball. It's a foolish gamble, even for a veteran's minimum, when you're a team in transition. If you're a "rest until the playoffs" contender, then he's got value for the minimum and no more.

Verdict: Pass. Knee.

7. Jordan Farmar

Verdict: Pass. Douche.

Okay, I kid. The real analysis: a decent shooter from the perimeter and efficient inside, a good defender and a below-average passer. His youth and the colors on his jersey may earn him more than the ~$3 million he's due as a qualifying offer next year, but hopefully not by the Pistons. He hasn't done much since the 2007-08 campaign, when he began to look like he might replace Fisher in the staring lineup.

Chances are, if he goes anywhere, it will be to that starting job next year.

Verdict: Pass. Douche.

9. CJ Watson

Golden State's clusterfuck at the, well, 1-through-combo-forward positions is legendary. Don Nelson is like the Lou Pearlman of coaches-- he's creepy, drunk and likes to put undersized young men in uncomfortable positions. Thanks to the Justin Timberlake of point guards, Stephen Curry, CJ Watson will likely not return to Golden State next season.

He shoots very well from outside, he's efficient across the board, doesn't turn the ball over much and is decent defensively. He put up 15 and 5 on 49% shooting in 15 starts this season at the point, which should earn him every team's attention. In short, he's ready to leave the boy bands behind and join the big time. When he's been given the chance to shine on his own, he's shown he's capable of managing the show.

At the very worst, Watson is a solid backup point guard. At the best, he's a solid starter to be played next to a 2-guard who needs the ball to score. Attention, Miami.

Verdict: Keep your eye on the kid, if half of the MLE is the price and Detroit has their frontcourt shit in order, Watson should be on the menu.

10. Sergio Rodriguez

Okay, I'm kind of grasping at straws at this point. I was trying to figure out which player DBBer's might mention more this summer: Rodriguez or Duhon? I think that pretty much sums up my entire point.

Verdict: Pass. Although Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 is an awesome album.

The Free Agents: Part Two, The Rest

(again, in no particular order)

The rest of these players are real, available free agents whom the Pistons could sign this season. Consider this your lightning round, no long analysis here just short, quick and dirty quips. Bear in mind, the point of this is to find a player who should start over Stuckey at the point.

1. Nate Robinson - Krypto-no.

2. Kyle Lowry - Mini-Stuckey.

3. Carlos Arroyo - Name sounds familiar...

4. Eddie House - Old, bleeds green, shoots nothing but threes. Rasheed? A true haiku.

5. Lindsey Hunter - MFWB 1.0

6. Jannero Pargo - Wait, you mean Johan Petro? Then we could talk vet minimum.

7. JJ Barea - Considerable option for a backup point.

8. Anthony Carter - Chucky Atkins 1.0 (but great as an extra in the next Aliens movie)

9. Allen Iverson - *facepalm*

10. Rafer Alston - Skip to my no thank you.

11. Chris Duhon - See-rgio above.

12. Speedy Claxton - Cool name, Mason would have fun with it.

13. Acie Law - Drafted over Stuckey, plays under Stuckey.

14. Travis Deiner - At 27, he's a little old for the D-League.

15. Earl Watson - Had some of the best games of his career against Detroit, beyond that, very little.

16. Derek Fisher - Should we trade for Kobe or draft Turner, maybe we can talk. Even then, probably not.

17. Anthony Johnson - Didn't we already talk about him? Oh wait, that was Carter, Anthony Carter.

18. Royal Ivey - Solid at lowering cholesterol, taken as an anti-inflammatory or an anti-biotic.

19. Javaris Crittenton - Good shooter.

20. Mike James - Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

21. Jamaal Tinsley - Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

22. Antonio Daniels - Still waiting for him to peak.

23. Chris Quinn - Just get a reference from Shaq first.

24. Jason Williams - Ditch the zero, get with the hero.

25. Earl Boykins - Always liked dude, heart as big as Shaq in a little frame.

Next up? The realistic trade options. Though 35 is a pretty big list in terms of free agency, I personally haven't found any names that are worth the MLE that should start over Rodney Stuckey. Stuckey has his faults, but working to acquire pretty much any name above doesn't guarantee an upgrade over our current point man. With that, why spend on any of these names if they won't make us a better team?

The Draft of Point Guards has came and went, and we opted for a gang of combo forwards. Since free agency won't heal our wounds, we'll next explore trade options that could improve our options at the point-- only after we've made our primary moves for big men. Keep your eyes open, the next in the Changing of the Guards series is coming soon... Trade Speculation is next on this little menu.

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