Welcome to Detroit (and Your Last Chance at NBA Redemption), Chris Wilcox

Pistons forward Chris WilcoxI’ve kind of sort of been somewhat of a minor Chris Wilcox apologist from time to time over the 26-year-old’s so-so NBA career. And yes, in case you didn’t notice, this isn’t one of those things I’m especially keen to go on the record about.

The Los Angeles Clippers made Wilcox the eighth-overall pick of the 2002 draft, and like so many Clipper draftees before him, the 6-10 bruiser from Maryland never panned out. After making only minimal contributions to the franchise in 3 1/2 seasons, he was traded to the Seattle SuperSonics halfway through the 2005-06 season.

It’s this roughly three-season stint with the Sonics/Thunder that put Wilcox at least somewhat back on the NBA map, and the one that Detroit Pistons fans should cling to as they evaluate the potential for their new big man to have one of those glorious mid-career rebirths guys like Chauncey Billups, Rasheed Wallace, and Antonio McDyess recently enjoyed in Motown.

Wilcox averaged about 13.5 points and 7.5 boards per in his first 2 1/2 years on those (very) bad Sonics teams; those were also the only times thus far in his 7-year career in which he’s averaged at least 28 minutes per over an entire season. Most NBA players are capable of posting decent stats when given the opportunity to do so, however, so it’s hard to put much stock in those numbers–really, it’s more of a “for what it’s worth” thing than anything else.

In 211 career starts, Wilcox has per-game averages of 13 points (53% FG), 7.2 boards, and… that’s about it. He doesn’t block a lot of shots, cause many turnovers, set up teammates, or shoot free throws particularly well.

In general, his defense could generously be called porous, and at this point he’s been labeled a loser, a guy who’ll post strong stats every now and again but who doesn’t contribute to a winning cause.

Maybe that’s true. But after signing a two-year, $6 million deal with the Detroit Pistons, Wilcox will for the first time since joining the NBA find himself on a winning franchise with a recent track record of success. One that wants to actually win. You can’t say the same of his Clippers, Sonics/Thunder, and Knicks teams.

His move to Detroit represents a chance to actually make something of his NBA career… and it’s probably his last chance. The Pistons have a habit of resurrecting the careers of unwanted cast-offs and vagabonds left on the scrap heap, and Wilcox certainly fits the bill.

But will he actually do it? Hard to say.

More on Chris Wilcox after the break…

Wilcox has the body and talent to be an offensive force in the paint, but he’s not so gifted that he can sleepwalk his way to 15 and 10. He has to play like he wants it, like he did, for example, last season against the Pistons when he put up 17 points and 11 boards in just over 26 minutes in the Thunder’s 89-79 win on January 16.

Too often, though, Wilcox doesn’t seem to want it and looks as listless and disinterested as Eddy Curry in the weight room. It’ll be interesting to see if Joe Dumars, head coach John Kuester, and the franchise’s winning tradition rubs off.

Barring another move to shore up the frontcourt, Wilcox will battle for a spot in the Pistons’ starting lineup with Kwame “Big Hands” Brown as his most likely competition. Obviously, all parties involved (except for Brown) are hoping Wilcox beats him out. If/when he does, the Pistons are looking at a starting frontcourt of Wilcox, Charlie Villanueva, and Tayshaun Prince: not sure how that’ll pan out, especially on the defensive end of the floor, but we’ll see. (For the record, Charlie V likes the move.)

I might be the only apologist still willing to go on the record for you, Chris Wilcox–don’t make me look daft.

Related Reading:
The Summer of 2009’s Second-Tier NBA Unrestricted Free Agents to Keep an Eye On
The Thunder Finally Get Their Center

Chris Wilcox Photo Credit: Icon SMI

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