But in his fifth season as the Pistons’ expensive and disappointing free agent performer, Villanueva could actually prove to be a key part of the team’s drive to a playoff berth.
The number of forwards on the Pistons was trimmed by one when Khris Middleton was sent to the Milwaukee Bucks along with guard Brandon Knight in the deal that brought guard Brandon Jennings to Detroit.
Right down, the Pistons are looking at Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith for the post work, but the guys who are coming off the bench to relieve them will most likely include Villanueva. The door is wide open for Villanueva, considering the other forwards on their roster. When he’s at his best, Villanueva could be as good as any big man on the team. The mystery is how many minutes coach Maurice Cheeks will use him.
That obviously depends on Villanueva. He missed most of the 2011-12 season with an injury which made the expensive deal he signed with the team in 2009 look even more ridiculous.
Last season in the 69 games he played, Villanueva did show signs occasionally of being worth $8 million, but it wasn’t often enough. He averaged 15.8 minutes, 6.8 points and 3.5 rebounds a game, but all of those averages need to go up this season, not to mention his 37.7 shooting percentage from the floor and 55 percent from the free-throw line.
Cheeks will likely give Villanueva many minutes off the bench to give Monroe and Drummond rest during the season. Maybe this season, Villanueva will finally deliver.