Part of the argument over the roughly $8 million a year contract Joe Dumars signed Rodney Stuckey with lies in how Stuckey progressed in 2012 and beyond. At first glance, Stuckey's end of season averages certainly offer room for a steady dose of optimism considering he was shifted to the 2 with the heralded arrival of the Knight, Ser Brandon.
His three point shooting finally broke into the realm of respectability finishing the season at a 31.7% rate averaging a full 50% more three point attempts over the prior year with 2.3 per game. More importantly, his TS%, eFG%, and O-Ratings were all career highs as well.
That said, the rest of his per 36 averages were flat or down year over year. So what gives? Did he or didn't he improve? Much can be drawn from Stuckey's season end numbers, but what does the story of the season tell? How did his averages trend? How concerned should we be with his left groin injury early on and left hamstring injury which kept him out of most of 7 games over a 9 game period? All those questions and more after the jump...
Before I get to the graphs a quick note about how I compiled the stats so we all understand what we're looking at. Basically, I took an average of every game Stuckey played as he moved through the season. So the first data point is an average of only 1 game, the 2nd data point includes 2 games, the 3rd point 3 games, and so on throughout the 2011-12 season. I wouldn't call it a perfect way to look at his numbers but it's definitely ONE way of looking at it. With that said, how did Stuckey's 2PT FG% trend over the season? Short answer: It went up!
The dots on the line above represent the single games following the 3 spans of missed games that Stuckey experienced throughout last season. From the graph above we could draw two conclusions:
- Stuckey's 2PT% did not suffer from his 3 injury periods as it went up after his first injury, and was stable through the later injuries in the year.
- Stuckey consistently improved his 2PT% over the course of the year as his average clearly trends up over time.
Both are fair arguments, but would be based on a narrow view of the data.
This second graph shows the difference in Stuckey's single game FG% for every game during last season against his cumulative average shown in graph 1. In the 10 games that Stuckey played following his first period of missed games in January, he averaged a +9.1% 2PT% differential while accumulating an even 5 and 5 positive and negative games. Compare this with the period towards the end of the season and we can see a huge difference in how the two injuries affected Stuckey. Over the entire period between his 1st and 2nd injuries, Stuckey's differential was slightly more tempered at +7.2% over 34 games of which 23 were a + differential.
Over the last 16 games of the season, (spanning his injured period through to the end of the season) Stuckey's +/- 2PT% was a -10%. So while his 2PT% progressive average doesn't show it, looking at the +/- % debunks the first potential conclusion. The injuries at the end of the season actually did have an impact on Stuckey's ability to compete and perform at or above his seasonal averages. Even better, his 2PT% consistently improved over the course of the season before flattening out at around 43% to finish.
Moving on, let's see how Stuckey's 3PT% fared of the progression of last season:
Unlike his 2PT%, Stuckey's progressive 3PT% was all over the place. Part of this can be attributed to the fact that 11 of his 55 games played were played without taking a single 3PT attempt, which can cause some of the sporadic jumps in efficiency. In the case of 3PT shooting, it appears that both the left groin and left hamstring injuries negatively impacted his performance.
It seems evident that Stuckey's injuries impacted his ability to get the proper strength behind his 3 point shot. If you removed the final 16 games played by Stuckey (the period in which a nagging hamstring injury hampered him consistently), his 3PT% for the season would have jumped to 37.3%. Not bad considering his career averages in this area leave a lot to be desired...
Lastly, we'll take a brief look at a few more of Stuckey's key "guardy" stats just to say we looked at more than just shots:
Not surprising, the injury at the end of the season may have had an impact on Stuckey's ability to draw fouls, rebound, and distribute as well. We'll ignore the early injury and chalk it up to early season sporadic performance given the high variance over the first couple weeks of the season in 3 of the 4 above stats.
The 2nd injury period however shows a gradual, yet steady decline in all but his ability to steal the ball. If we're to believe that a nagging hamstring injury had an impact on his 3PT% and 2PT%, then it should go without reason that his other stats that depend on his athleticism, explosiveness, and lateral quickness would suffer as well.
A 2012 Conclusion: What Could Have Been
While the stats above do not definitively prove the cause for Stuckey's decline in his progressive averages or in his ability to perform above those averages, I do think the data strongly correlates with the periods following his injuries. Its always hard to play the "what if" game, even more so when you erase the question of injury, but what would have been if Stuckey had played injury-free for the year? If we remove the final 16 games we get the following seasonal averages:
16.6 Points Per Game on 11.5 attempts shooting 45.2% from the field, 37.3% from beyond the arc, and 84% from the line while attempting 6.5 free throws a game. He'd average 4.2 assists, 3 rebounds, a steal, and only 2 turnovers a game.
That would be good for top 25 in FG%, top 40 in 3PT%, top 35 in FT%, and top 15 in points scored among all guards who played last season. Or for comparison sake,
3PT% Comparable - Jose Calderon, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, or Jameer Nelson.,
FG% Comparable - Joe Johnson, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, or Russell Westbrook
FT% Comparable - Deron Williams, Kobe Bryant, James Harden, or Joe Johnson
RPG Comparable - George Hill, Eric Gordon, or Kevin Martin
APG Comparable - Manu Ginobli, Joe Johnson, or James Harden
FTA Comparable - (3rd in the league) Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon, D. Wade, or Derrick Rose
My conclusion is this: Stuckey earned his $8M this year even with the 14 game injury hampered period to close the season. If we look at what could have been, Stuckey's season at $8M could ultimately go down as a steal when we compare him to other high priced guards in the league and young talent soon to be paid. Of course this all depends on Stuckey's conditioning and Arnie Kander's ability to keep him healthy, but if the progressive numbers are to be believed, we should all look forward to an healthy Rodney Stuckey at SG next season and appreciate Joe Dumars' savvy 3 year extension.