The Charlie V Factor

Villanueva helps punch up Pistons scoring since emerging again

Charlie Villanueva returned to the lineup 9 games ago.
J. Dennis/Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
PHILADELPHIA – The Pistons have gone 7-7 since their 0-8 start and tonight they return to the place where their about-face was executed, Philadelphia. That stretch coincided with the addition of Kyle Singler to the starting lineup. Singler subbed in th night of Nov. 14 for the ill Rodney Stuckey, who subsequently suggested to Lawrence Frank that he make the move permanent – or as permanent as it gets in the fluid world of the NBA.

But another tweak to Frank’s rotation can’t be overlooked, either.

The Pistons are 4-5 since Charlie Villanueva replaced Jonas Jerebko as the backup to Jason Maxiell at power forward, 3-12 before the move. There are way too many variables to make too much of that, of course – the 0-8 start that came against a daunting, road-heavy schedule, the most significant among them.

But it’s hard to ignore the spike in offensive productivity since Villanueva, arguably the most naturally gifted scorer on the roster, has become a factor.

The Pistons have scored 97.1 points per game and have scored 100 or more five times in nine games since Charlie Villanueva has become a starter. They’ve shot .423 from the 3-point line and made 7.3 per game in 17.3 attempts. The numbers in the 13 games before Villanueva moved into the rotation: 91.9 points per game, .332 3-point shooting and 5.2 makes in 15.6 attempts.

Frank wants the Pistons to be a defense-first team, but he also clearly understands the value of the 3-point range and overall shot-making aplomb Charlie V offers.

“You look at the teams that score in this league, they have shooting,” Frank said after Monday morning’s shootaround at the Wells Fargo Center. “You set good screens, you share the ball and you have shooting.

Villanueva has made exactly half his 3-point attempts over those nine games, hitting 19 of 38, and he’s averaged 9.9 points, giving the second unit the scoring punch in the way it most needed.

“It’s what I’m good at – spreading the floor, just making the opponents change their schemes of how to guard me and then having (Rodney) Stuckey at the one creates so much more attacking,” he said. “Just the fact he’s capable of scoring and driving to the basket spreads the floor and makes it easier for me and other guys to get their opportunities.”

Villanueva also has been a good fit next to the defensive presence and inside athleticism Andre Drummond represents.

“The five guys in the second unit all complement each other very well,” Villanueva said. “We all bring different things to the table. I feel like we have more trust out there and we’re feeling more comfortable with that group.”

“Charlie stretches the floor and you have to account for where he is,” Frank said. “The thing I like, when Charlie is at his best, it’s not just making shots, it’s making plays.” He cited a play in Saturday’s win at Cleveland when Villanueva make an alert skip pass to find an open Brandon Knight for a big fourth-quarter triple. “Charlie has a high basketball IQ.”