Citizen Jax will be pleased to know that John Hollinger has decreed Rodney Stuckey to be the best rookie of the 2008 NBA Playoffs.
OK, they can't get a do-over on drafting Darko Milicic, but at least the Pistons got something out of him. That's more than Memphis can say … or Orlando. In fact, the Magic's trade of a No. 1 pick and Kelvin Cato's expiring contract for Milicic and Carlos Arroyo two years ago might have cost them the series. Detroit used the pick to take Stuckey in the draft last June, and he held down the fort while Chauncey Billups sat out Games 4 and 5.
Detroit won both games to move on to the conference finals, and Stuckey played well enough for his team to win. The highlight was a 15-point, six-assist, two-steal outing in the clincher, as the 6-5 guard showed he can be an effective scoring point because of his ability to beat smaller players off the dribble and finish at the rim.
Just as important, the trade kept Stuckey off Orlando's roster -- the Magic could have really used him. Instead they played Arroyo 16 minutes the entire series while the offense dissolved in a sea of turnovers in the final three halves.
Stuckey is also the only rookie to both make the second round and average at least 12 minutes a game (he's getting 22.2).
Funny thing is, it would seem that Stuckey has had a pretty poor playoffs. Don't get me wrong - he's had a great rookie season, and it says a lot that he was asked to start in the playoffs when Billups went down. Obviously Flip Saunders has a lot of confidence in the guy. But he shot 35.7% against Orlando after shooting 35.4% against Philadelphia. This is good? This makes Detroit fans forget all about Carmelo Anthony?
Hollinger was very high on Stuckey in the draft, and would seem to be trying to make his predictions look correct simply by saying it out loud enough times. Check out the evidence he offers.
Detroit won both games [that Billups sat] to move on to the conference finals, and Stuckey played well enough for his team to win.
Really? He did? In fact, Detroit's game 4 win qualified for Hollinger's Ski Mask Award later in the article, and the Piston's stole the game with Lindsay Hunter playing the point, not Stuckey. For the game, Stuckey had 6 points and 3 assists in 22 minutes, on 2 for 7 shooting for a plus/minus of -6. Hunter was +7 in his 26 minutes. Seems Stuckey did not play well enough for his team to win, but Lindsay Hunter did.
Hollinger also conveniently ignores the only game in the series that Detroit lost, in which Billups was injured less than 4 minutes in. With Hunter on the inactive list, Stuckey was forced to play 34 minutes in game 3, he went 5-13, and the Pistons lost by 25. In fact, since Billups' injury, the Magic outscored the Pistons by 15 overall. (I realize that it's not news that Rodney Stuckey is not as good as Chauncey Billups, who is pretty clearly the Pistons' best player. It just irks me that Hollinger is so clearly dealing in half truths here.) Stuckey did have a good game 5, which I guess is enough to be the best rookie still in the playoffs.
Oh, what the heck, while we're here, let's look at that statement as well.
Stuckey is also the only rookie to both make the second round and average at least 12 minutes a game.
Impressive, right? Well, bear in mind that teams that advance to the second round often weren't drafting early the prior June. As it happens, five of the eight teams don't even have a first round pick on their roster - the Celtics traded theirs for Ray Allen, the Lakers traded theirs for Pau Gasol, the Magic pick ended up being Stuckey, Cleveland's was gone long ago, and San Antonio's plays in Spain. That leaves Julian Wright of the Hornets (13th pick), Stuckey (15th), Morris Almond of the Jazz (25th), and Stuckey's Pistons' teammate Arron Afflalo (27th). So Stuckey has been better than Wright, a couple of late first round picks, and a handful of second rounders. Um, OK. Isn't he supposed to be better than those guys (other than Wright)? And has he really been better than Wright, who's shooting 45% in the playoffs? If the '12 minutes a game' thing seems a little arbitrary, realize that Wright is playing 11.9. No kidding.
I like Stuckey a lot. I really do. I think he's going to be a great pro, and he played well in game 5. But he's actually struggled in the playoffs overall. Using the second item in his 'Best and Worst of the Playoffs' article, after only the MVP entry, is more than a little self-serving on Hollinger's part. There are essentially two rookies of note still playing, and Hollinger thinks Stuckey has been better than Julian Wright. Great. I'll make a note of that.