Charlie Villanueva’s last good season came in 2008-09.
He’s due for another.
Villanueva hasn’t come close to the 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per game he averaged five years ago, but the upcoming season brings a potentially key similarity to 2008-09: it’s a contract year.
After his breakout season with the Bucks, Villanueva got a five-year, $37.7 million contract from the Pistons and has continuously disappointed since. Pistons fans hoped a contract year would at least motivate Villanueva into one quality season in Detroit, potentially even making him trade bait.
That plan is off to a poor start.
Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks speculated that Charlie Villanueva’s 0-of-8 shooting on 3-pointers in two preseason games is the product of training-camp legs. “If you’re a shooter, you’ve got to get yourself in that shape to be able to make those shots,” Cheeks said.
“If you’re a rebounder, you’re not rebounding, they find somebody to rebound. If you’re a shooter, you don’t shoot, they find somebody to shoot,” he said.
Villanueva shot 2-for-4 on 3-pointers in Detroit’s third preseason game, but that still leaves him a woeful 2-for-12. We’re dealing with a small sample size, obviously in individual games, but also in the entirety of the preseason. Assuming Cheeks is basing his evaluation on more than just Villanueva’s in-game 3-point shooting stats, though, this becomes much more meaningful.
With bad shooter Josh Smith and non-shooters Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond comprising the starting front line, the Pistons could use a stretch four in their rotation, so Villanueva has an opportunity. But Jonas Jerebko is also vying for that same backup spot. He doesn’t have the shooting ability of Villanueva, but Jerebko can be a better defender and rebounder, and he’s also at least a passable perimeter shooter when being selective.
Villanueva still has time to work his way into shape, and many players use the preseason precisely for that purpose. But the Pistons have to be disappointed Villanueva – the man John Calipari once called too fat for the Dominican national team – isn’t better positioned to prove himself in a contract year.
Then again, maybe Joe Dumars is just better off without the temptation to re-sign Villanueva.