Rodney Stuckey suffered an unfortunate car door incident that resulted in a broken thumb. Brandon Jennings’ wisdom teeth have finally come in, and one of them has fractured (“Young Money” is finally growing up). Both of these players are likely out for a few weeks and will probably miss the regular season opener for the Detroit Pistons.
The unfortunate timing of these injuries present an opportunity for the Pistons’ other guards to make a case for themselves to earn a rotation spot – namely, Will Bynum and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Maurice Cheeks told the Detroit Free Press that he will not play five guards in his rotation. Before making cameos on the injury report, both Stuckey and Jennings appeared to be firmly in the guard rotation. Jennings will be the Pistons’ starting point guard when he returns, and Stuckey was battling with Chauncey Billups for the starting role alongside him. It’s pretty clear that Billups will be a significant part of this team as well.
For Bynum and Caldwell-Pope, it’s time to prove their worth. I originally believed that Bynum would be on the outside looking in, because he’s struggling to play good defense and cut down his turnover rate, and Caldwell-Pope figures to be a bigger part of Detroit’s future. However, Caldwell-Pope hasn’t put up great numbers, and Bynum has been seeing more minutes so far this preseason.
All of those offensive positives we heard about KCP after the draft may have been a bit overblown. In our very limited sample so far, Caldwell-Pope appears to be a volume scorer, and he hasn’t shot the ball well at all. Coming into Thursday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, KCP was 13-of-48 from the field and 4-of-20 from the three point line. In case you’re bad at math, this translates to shooting percentages of .271 and .200 respectively – not good. The only edge he appears to have over Bynum is defense, though nearly everyone has the edge on Bynum on this side of the ball, and free throw shooting – Caldwell-Pope was a proficient 11-of-13 from the charity stripe entering Thursday night.
As bad as Caldwell-Pope has been, Bynum could still play himself out of a rotation spot. The absence of Stuckey and Jennings is just as important for him. He is capable of a scoring explosion on any given night, but he can’t play good defense. He’s an assist-machine, dishing to teammates every chance he gets, but he turns the ball over more often than he should. If he wants to stay in the rotation, he needs to improve his flaws and maintain his strengths. While he may have the edge over KCP right now, any decrease in production will tempt Cheeks to give his highly-touted rookie another shot.
While it isn’t particularly good to have two starting-caliber guards miss time, this presents an excellent opportunity for Detroit to further evaluate the back-end of their guard rotation, especially since wins and losses don’t necessarily matter just yet. As a Detroit Pistons fan, it is also comforting to know that they have an excess of talent. The Pistons have issues, but for the first time in a long time, it appears they have some issues worth having.