Rodney Stuckey: More Than Stats Can Measure

Apr 10, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey (2) goes to the basket against Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) during the fourth quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pacers won 107-103. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 10, 2015; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey (2) goes to the basket against Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) during the fourth quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Pacers won 107-103. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

Rodney Stuckey turned 29 years old on April 21st (Happy belated birthday, Stuck!)

Rodney Stuckey just completed his eighth season in the NBA, and it was supposed to be a season of redemption for him: an escape from the madness that has been the Detroit Pistons since their title teams unraveled, an escape from learning a new offensive and defensive system yearly, an escape from a team that never seemed to fit together, just spare pieces tossed in to make a (not very) competitive NBA team.

This was Stuckey’s year to show that the promise that made him the 15th overall pick in the 2007 draft wasn’t gone, but merely misused. Rodney Stuckey, he of the 13.4 points per game career average, was playing on a minimum deal to prove himself.

Just looking at the numbers, you’d assume Stuckey’s bid to resurrect his career had failed. Most of his numbers were in line with his career norms, some were slightly worse, some very slightly better; he’s the same player he’s always been, right?

Rodney Stuckey
Rodney Stuckey /

There are two figures that really stand out, however.

The first: Rodney Stuckey, a career 28.6% shooter from behind the arc coming into this season, shot 39% from deep for the Pacers.

A jump like seems like fool’s gold. It is possible — even likely — that Stuckey will regress to the mean in future seasons. Players his age almost never improve as shooters to that degree. There are some examples — Jason Kidd, most notably — but it is rare.

There are some signs that his 3-point shooting is more than just a hot streak, however. He may be an exception.

Typically, these fool’s gold type instances will be buoyed by a singular hot streak, but after starting the season around his average, he was quite consistent, shooting better than 39% from deep in each of December, February, March, and April.  Stuckey certainly had a few hot streaks scoring the ball, but his shooting from deep was good for a large part of the year.

His shooting from deep raised his TS% (52.8%) and helped his PER (15.4) to their highest they’ve been since his 2011-2012 season, and he posted the best defensive rating since his abbreviated rookie year. There’s obviously no way to tell one way or the other if the change is permanent or was an aberration, but good signs abound.

More importantly, he was simply electrifying after he moved to a full-time role as the team’s sixth man. The Pacers won his first three games off the bench as he dropped 30 points in two of those outings. And though the 30-point outings didn’t become commonplace, he scored in double digits in 14 of the first 15 games after he took on sixth-man duty. Not coincidentally, the Pacers won 11 of those.

Regardless of whether he can continue to hit 3s at his career-high rates, the Pacers haven’t had a bench scorer like Stuckey in a long time. For years, the team was hamstrung by weak reserve units that couldn’t put up points.

With Stuckey, they finally found a bench warrior.

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Key 2014-2015 Stats

If you just look at the surface stats and didn’t watch the Pacers this year, he seems to be right in line with his career averages (Career averages are pre-Indiana):

  • 15.4 PER
  • 12.6 PPG
  • 44% FG%
  • 81.9% FT%
  • 3.1 APG
  • 3.5 RPG

How He Scores:

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Stuckey’s shot chart appears to be all over the place; hot from behind the arc in some places, cold in others. What it actually shows is a player who likes to drive to his right, whether to finish or to pull up, and shoot the deep ball when drifting to his left.

This is not a completely unusual thing, though Stuckey’s shot chart is very pronounced. Stuck attacks the rim, and finished at a mediocre rate in among the trees, but finishes strongly when he stops short of the bucket and can use his frame and bulk to take contact and finish over his overmatched defenders. His 3-point shooting is a little more odd, but it definitely appears his has some favorite spots, and some spots he gets to in the flow of the offense.

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As you can see, Stuckey did the vast amount of his scoring in three types of plays: as a pick-and-roll ball handler, in transition, and as a spot-up shooter. The PnR ball handler and transition spikes come as no surprise, but the spot-up scoring was something the Pacers probably didn’t expect.

Stuckey’s dramatic increase in 3-point shooting reconfigured his scoring a bit, and gave some balance to a guy that NBA defenses haven’t traditionally worried about beyond the arc. That shooting bump forced defenses to close out in him, allowing him a better path to get to the cup.

In transition, Stuckey’s frame and muscular build make stopping him when he’s got a head of steam incredibly difficult, and he gets to the line with regularity when it’s him against an opposing point guard.

Stuckey’s Future With the Pacers:

“Godney” played last year on the veteran’s minimum: a one-year, $1.2 million deal. It’s likely that his improved shooting and hot second half of the season will earn him a pay raise, possibly even taking him out of the Pacers (modest) price range. But it’s widely believed that Stuckey could be one of the guys Larry Bird mentioned in his comments concerning guys that didn’t care how much they were paid, they wanted to be here (In Indiana).

Bird also expressed a desire to get a deal done for Stuckey specifically, and he seems likely to get an offer from the team for some (or all) of the mid-level exception. And since this is where he revived his career and the place where he — finally — has a clear role, he should want to stay for such a reasonable deal.

Next: The 5 Best Pacers Games of the Year

Then, once he signs, the fans and front office alike will have to hope his improved efficiency sticks, and he remains the sixth-man dynamo he became towards the end of the year.