Charlie Villanueva wasn’t even supposed to make this team. After getting paid big money form the Detroit Pistons in 2009, Villanueva never played like the Pistons expected. His scoring average decreased each year during his five year tenure in Detroit and averaged a mere 4.6 points a game last season. Then the Mavericks signed him to a non-guaranteed contract this summer, and Villanueva has proved that he can still play in this league.
The Mavs actually cut big man Bernard “Sarge” James to create space for Charlie V after he impressed the front office in the preseason. Even with him signed, Villanueva was expected to be a bench warmer. However, the Rajon Rondo trade changed that. Before acquiring Rondo, Villanueva hadn’t even played ten minutes in a game and averaged less than 3 points per game. In the past four games, Charlie V has averaged over 17 minutes a game and 13 points a game.
Charlie V’s increase in minutes is no shock, though, since the Mavs are in need of a big man after trading high-flyer Brandan Wright to Boston. However, this consistent production from Villanueva in the past week has been a bit more surprising. Not only has he scored more, Villanueva is doing exactly what the Mavs signed him for, shooting around 43% from beyond the arc in the past 4 games.
Villanueva’s timing, however, is what has been the most pleasing. After nailing two clutch threes late in a game against the Lakers to put the game out of reach, Charlie V repeated his clutch play by scoring five straight points in the fourth quarter against the Thunder, which gave the Mavs the lead and momentum for the rest of the game.
It’s only been a few games, but Villanueva looks like he could play a much bigger role on this team than most imagined. Will he be the Mavs new 2011 Peja Stojakovik? Probably not. But his recent play can only be a sign of positive things to come, and Rick Carlisle’s trust in him late in games seems to be paying off greatly.
Credit: Sameer Moosa, The Smoking Cuban