Often it can take time for big men to develop in the NBA and as gifted as Andre Drummond is physically it was a near consensus opinion that at least early on in his career it may take time for his raw talent to transition to the pros. The Pistons coaching staff made the decision to bring Drummond off the bench and have mostly limited his game action this season to between 15 and 20 minutes per game. While Detroit fans had looked forward to seeing a new front court pairing of Drummond and fellow big man Greg Monroe, at least initially the decision to bring Drummond along slowly was understandable.
Fast forward 34 games into the Pistons season and Drummond has surprised everybody with how much his presence can impact the game. He has surpassed expectations and taken everything the coaches have thrown at him in his stride. He is still coming off the bench, he is still being limited most games to less than 25 minutes and fans are starting to wonder why coach Lawrence Frank refuses to move the young stud into the starting line-up. Often fans can be blinded by the excitement of new players or even more so the promise of a freshly drafted rookie, wanting to see them play more is natural but not always the best course for their career, in this case however the statistics back them up.
The Pistons have won 5 of their last 6 games, in which Drummond has averaged 9 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks in just over 24 minutes per game. He instantly changes the game with his defensive presence on one end and scores the ball with ridiculous efficiency. There is more to Drummonds statistical impact than just raw numbers though, especially on the defensive end and on the glass.
Drummond has a PER of 21.6. good for 18th best in the league, and is 20th in win shares per 48 minutes where every player above him on the list is on a playoff team. He has the 9th best defensive rating in the league including being 7th in block percentage. He also ranks in the top 15 in all percentage based rebounding categories and total offensive rebounds, in short on a per minute basis there are few big men in the league that are having a bigger impact than Drummond.
The time has come for Frank to change his management of the teams prized rookie and move on to the next phase of his development. It may have come sooner than he expected but the plan to pair Drummond and Monroe in the front court needs to happen sooner rather than later.
Drummonds attitude towards his role has been nothing but professional, “My teammates and my coaching staff kind of take a lot of pressure off me because I know that it’s out there,” Drummond said referring to fan and media demand to see him start “Everybody wants to see me and Greg play. They want to see me play more. But it’s not all about me. It’s about the team. We’re just focused on winning basketball games. If it’s me on the floor, if it’s not me on the floor, it doesn’t matter.”
The media has also questioned Frank about Drummonds minutes, the coach was unclear in his answer ”… But the thing is, there are certain things that we’re privy to things that maybe the general public isn’t.” Frank said referring to why Drummond was playing 20 minutes per game. “There’s a lot of things we see and understand the big picture. Not that there’s a right way or wrong way, but it’s the way we choose it. Plus, there are other guys who may also be doing their jobs as well.”
One of the most important traits for an NBA coach, or one in any sport for that matter is the ability to adjust. While there was no need to fault Coach Franks plan for Drummond to start the season it has become clear that the 19 year old Center is well ahead of where the franchise expected him to be at this stage of his career. You don’t get many better building blocks for an NBA franchise than a game changing, defense anchoring Center especially one that falls into your lap with the 9th pick. If the Pistons want to change the recent losing ways of the franchise then Drummond is the key. The earlier and more regularly he gets the chance to play with Monroe and point guard Brandon Knight the better the chemistry of this team will be going forward.
We’ve all seen the lack of job security when it comes to being a head coach in the NBA, Mike Brown was given 5 games with an injured roster before losing his job in LA, more recently Avery Johnson was given the boot fresh off winning coach of the month honors. Frank doesn’t have the same expectancy to win in Detroit, but with fans, media and potentially Pistons management wanting to see more of their new franchise big man Frank needs to re-assess his plan for Drummond and insert him into his rightful place in the starting line-up. Once there, the Pistons can truly assess what they have as a team and develop a plan to build the rest of the squad around Drummond , Monroe and Knight going forward.
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