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Tayshaun Prince trade: Jonas Jerebko must step up

Tayshaun Prince's departure opens up a significant hole in the Pistons' rotation, and Jonas Jerebko is likely to get the first crack at the lion's share of those minutes. Can he bounce back from his first-half season slump?

Can Lawrence Frank facilitate improved play from Jonas Jerebko? The Pistons could surely use it.
Can Lawrence Frank facilitate improved play from Jonas Jerebko? The Pistons could surely use it.
Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

If you had told me in October 2012, that Tayshaun Prince would be traded, and Jonas Jerebko would likely take the majority of Prince's minutes (while also acquiring a very good point guard who doesn't jeapordize future financial flexibility, no less), I'd have been thrilled.

Today, I'm still thrilled, but that excitement is tempered with a little bit of worry. The fact is, the Jonas Jerebko of 2012-2013 simply isn't producing.

During his first two seasons, Jonas established himself as a quality rotation player who shot the ball well, did the dirty work, rebounded the basketball, played competent defense at both forward positions depending on matchups, and moved very well without the basketball.

This season, however, his numbers are down across the board. During his first two seasons, Jonas shot the ball well relative to other NBA forwards; this year, he can't throw the ball in the ocean. His effective field goal percentage, which takes both two- and three-point shots into consideration, has plummeted to 39.3%, after shooting 51.1% and 50.3% in his first two seasons.

Jonas' rebounding has also fallen off dramatically, especially on the defensive glass. After grabbing about 17% of all available defensive rebounds while on the floor during his first two seasons, this year, he's only corralling 10.7%.

The "dirty work," "little things," and "moving without the basketball" are a lot harder to quantify, but we can at least make an educated guess. In his rookie season, Jonas was second (!!) on the team in Offensive Rating (behind Ben Wallace, no less) and a respectable fifth in defensive rating. In his sophomore campaign, Jonas was fourth on the squad in ORTG, sixth in DRTG. This year? Second to last in ORTG, only above Viacheslav Kravtsov, but fifth in DRTG. This might suggest that all of that glue-guy stuff that Jonas does and coaches love but isn't necessarily captured in the box score just isn't getting done.

The all-in-one box score metrics unsurprisingly agree that Jonas is struggling; his 11.3 PER, 0.45 Win Shares per 48, and 0.000 Wins Produced per 48 are all career lows.

So what gives?

While it's easy to look at his production and see the obvious decline, it's much less clear why this is the case.

It's possible that Jonas struggled as Lawrence Frank tried to move him to the perimeter on a more permanent basis. It's possible that his confidence has been shaking by Jason Maxiel's and Charlie Villanueva's resurgences. It's possible that he's pressing and playing outside his limitations. It's also possible that he's simply slumping, and he just hasn't had the minutes to play his way out of it yet.

If it's minutes, he should get the opportunity now to play his way out of it. If it's something else, well, that's why they pay Lawrence Frank the big bucks.

But whatever the reason, Jonas Jerebko needs to step up.

In order to make a serious run at the Playoffs, the Pistons must replace the quality production that Tayshaun Prince has provided so far. A second-half surge from Jonas Jerebko will go a long way toward doing that.