As a guard and then a Pistons executive, Joe Dumars is experienced at building Detroit into a winner and what parts such a run require. Not all of those parts are always easy to work with, and Dumars understands that playing with Isiah Thomas. But he’s proven his savvy as a GM in that same regard, turning Chauncey Billups from a journeyman to a building block after his arrival in 2002.
If he wants to turn Detroit, 30-52 during a contentious 2010-11 season, into a contender again for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, he knows a first step would be keeping Rodney Stuckey as his premier guard. But at what cost?
The restricted free agent is going through his first negotiation of his career with agent Leon Rose, whom he hired this summer. Reports from the Motor City show he believes his market value is near $10 million per year, about a million less than teammate Ben Gordon‘s deal but a million more than Mike Conley‘s contract he signed with Memphis in November 2010.
Is Stuckey worth it? Certainly. He’s durable, playing at least 70 games in his three-year career, and averages 13.6 points per game in that time with a career-high 5.2 assists per game last season.
As a big, 6-5 point guard, Stuckey matches up well with the league’s trend of smaller starting guards, especially in his division with Derrick Rose, Darren Collison and Brandon Jennings. And Detroit’s resigning of Tayshaun Prince shows it wants to make a serious try at a playoff spot under new coach Lawrence Frank and owner Tom Gores. Stuckey knows any shot at a run will include him, and wants to use that to his advantage in negotiations.
Meeting with reporters last week, Dumars flinched when asked if the goal was the playoffs, saying: “Huh? We’re sure going to try.”
But Stuckey is a fulcrum upon which the Pistons’ playoff hopes teeter. Signing him to a mid-level exception of $5 million each year for four years seems out of the question because the contracts that surround him â€” with Gordon, who devolved into a role player under John Kuester, as a prime example â€” makes a deal like that look like an insult.