Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Developing young players

Of the 10 guys who were named to the NBA All-Rookie team recently, only Detroit's Rodney Stuckey is still playing.

I've read where Flip has been criticized for not playing his younger players enough. Here's the problem: With a talented, veteran team that's trying to win it all, it's tough to find minutes for young guys. Second, they're still learning the game. Throwing them into a game before they're ready can destroy a player's confidence.

In Stuckey's case, Flip's done a masterful job in helping him develop. Stuckey played 30-plus minutes to help the Pistons close out Game 5 against ORL. In that game, he had zero turnovers (DET only had three the entire game, which is remarkable) and was the point guard in a close-out game. Stuckey also stepped up in Game 4 when Billups went down.

At the same time, Stuckey's stats show that he's still coming along. He's only shot 35% from the field in the postseason, including less than 20 percent from 3-point range. But these numbers will improve as he develops. And he will develop under Flip.

A couple other rookies who received votes, but didn't make the First or Second teams are Boston's Glen Davis and New Orleans' Julian Wright, both of whom have contributed in spots during the postseason.

When it comes to knowing how a player is developing, it's not as simple as looking at the MIN column of a box score. Simply giving rookies lots of minutes doesn't mean they're "developing." It only means they're playing a lot.

Development happens at practice. It happens in the film room and the weight room. And it happens, strategically, during games. Young players need to earn their minutes and be placed in situations where they have the best chance to succeed.