When Rodney Stuckey was drafted with the 15th pick in the 2007 draft by the Detroit Pistons, expectations were high and they went even higher shortly into his second season. Going solely by those expectations, his time in Detroit would be considered a failure, as he never led the team to a championship and never lived up to the “Godney” nickname that was thrust upon him. With those days behind him, Stuckey has a renewed energy as he enters his second season with the Pacers.
Last season, Stuckey only played in 58 of 82 games due to sprains in his right foot and ankle. The injuries also impacted his play when he was on the court, has his field goal percentage dropped to 41 percent and his scoring fell to just 8.9 points per game. Even though he’s healthy, with Frank Vogel out and Nate McMillan in, Stuckey wasn’t sure he’d still have a place in the Pacers offense, but after a solid training camp, the new coach confirmed that Stuckey has earned a spot in the team’s rotation.
With his roster spot secure, Stuckey has been focusing on being ready to do something he has yet to do leading up to his now 10th season, play, or at least be available to play, in all 82 games. One thing that should make that easier is that he is comfortable in his role as the sixth man for the Pacers and has fully embraced his designation as a leader off the bench. In the Pacers win over the Bucks, Stuckey scored a game-high 21 points in just 25 minutes and in their win over the Bulls, he came off the bench to score 20 and dish out seven assists.
Despite the fact that he has started 302 games in his career, he has never been one to seek the spotlight and he has enjoyed flying under the radar for the duration of training camp and preseason. With expectations tempered, Stuckey hopes to improve upon his statistics from last season, which were some of the lowest of his career. McMillan has been encouraged by the early returns and has consistently praised Stuckey for his effort in practice and games. Stuckey has been buoyed by the fact that not only is his roster spot secure, but so is his position on the court.
For most of his career, Stuckey has had to shift between being a pass-first point guard to a shoot first, scorer. To keep things simple, and hopefully get the most out of him, McMillan has told Stuckey he will strictly be a shoot first, attacking guard, whose job is to come off the bench with energy and keep the offense going smoothly while giving a breather to the starters.
So what does it all mean? How will the Pacers and Stuckey define success this season? The bottom line is that he can’t be the dead weight he was last season when injuries caused him to miss games the team needed him. The Pacers obviously want to be more than what they were last season. And while some have predicted them to be a top eastern team this season, for that to happen, Stuckey needs to make an impact. If he can avoid those injuries and give the Pacers the same regular season production as they have seen from him in the preseason, he will have truly earned the roster spot McMillan gave him.