AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – Perhaps no position on any NBA team will be better manned for the full 48 minutes than point guard for the Pistons. Whenever three-time All-Star Chauncey Billups doesn’t have the ball in his hands directing Michael Curry’s offense, burgeoning star Rodney Stuckey will. To be sure, there will be frequent and lengthy interludes this season when Billups and Stuckey play in tandem, taking alternate turns running the show as dictated by the defensive matchups – or mismatches, as the case may be.
Joe Dumars’ doesn’t necessarily have a blueprint for the position, but he leans toward point guards with plus size. And both Billups and Stuckey have the physical makeup to overwhelm many opponents with their strength and size.
“It’s advantageous to have a point guard with size, as long as they have the speed and quickness to keep up with the smaller players,” Pistons vice president Scott Perry said. “It’s been one of Chauncey’s big advantages over the years. It makes him a tough matchup for a lot of people. Because he’s so strong, he’s able to not only play from the outside, but he’s big enough so you can post him up near the basket against smaller guards. That’s an added wrinkle you have, especially in the playoffs.”
Billups is listed at 6-foot-3 and 202 pounds, but plays bigger than that. He has the body of an NFL safety, thick through the thighs, chest and shoulders. When he gets his body on a defender, he’s able to create space for himself with his great strength and leverage. Stuckey is even bigger, listed at 6-foot-5 and 207 pounds. As his body matures and the more time he spends under the direction of strength coach Arnie Kander, he’ll be even better able to use his edge in strength to his advantage. Even as a rookie last season, smaller NBA guards would pin-ball off of Stuckey’s chest as he drew them into contact.
“When we found Rodney – first, he’s a good player – but, hey, he’s another big guard,” Perry said. “That stirs thoughts of, here’s a guy in the mold of Chauncey with that size. After having the success we’ve had over the last six years with a bigger guard like Chauncey, that obviously is an attraction. We’re glad to have two. A lot of people don’t have one.”
Curry, readying for his first season as Flip Saunders’ successor, has called Stuckey his “sixth starter,” over the summer, a clear indication that the second-year guard from Eastern Washington who missed the first 25 games of his rookie season with a broken hand, is in line to play 30 minutes or so a game. As he exhibited in Las Vegas, first playing with the Pistons’ Summer League team and then participating with the U.S. Select Team against the American Olympians, Stuckey has improved the consistency and range on his jump shot, making his devastating off-the-dribble game even more potent.
Despite their similar physiques, Stuckey and Billups have starkly different playing styles, which figures to make defending the Pistons a more daunting challenge.
“Chauncey and Rodney have different types of games,” Perry said, “but I don’t think the game plan changes. Rodney is a guy who is able to get to the basket, penetrate and score. Chauncey made his name as a big-time perimeter shooter. But both of those guys will do whatever is asked of him to make the team better and I can see those guys playing together, too.
“How they end up playing together will evolve throughout the season in terms of how Michael’s offense is going to be, but the advantage – and this is me talking – is that, matchups, it might be Rodney one night who will be more effective at the two based on who’s guarding him, or vice versa. That’s a luxury to have. What is interesting and exciting to us going forward, when you have two guards that can play either position, you’re got guards – like in the old days. The team will be able to run effectively with either guy at the point position or the two position when they’re in the game together.”
And because both are capable of manning the point, they should stay a little fresher by giving each other the benefit of playing off the ball occasionally.
“When you’re the point guard,” Perry said, “offense and defense starts with you. The point guard normally has to extend further up the floor, bring the basketball up offensively. You receive the outlet pass and push it on the fast break and have to initiate the offense and face ball pressure more times. So I’m sure there will be stretches that will help (Billups) to get off the ball a little bit to focus in on maybe shooting the basketball.”
The Pistons are also intrigued by what No. 3 point guard Will Bynum has to offer. Signed to a guaranteed contract after impressing them in Las Vegas, Bynum doesn’t have the size of Billups or Stuckey but he’s a sturdy 185-pounder whose calling card will be harassing defense.
“He’s athletic,” Perry said. “He has the ability to extend the floor defensively and pick the ball up. There’s a guy who has shown offensive ability throughout college. He’ll compete. I’m excited to look at him this year.”
Though not currently signed to a contract, Lindsey Hunter remains an option for the Pistons at some point. The 37-year-old proved in the 2008 playoffs that he still ranks among the NBA’s elite on-the-ball perimeter defenders.