Detroit Pistons: Is Andre Drummond Really Their Cornerstone Piece?

Andre Drummond was a gamble back in June. Scouts knew it, every team in the league knew it and even he knew it.

Drummond possesses ample amounts of raw potential at 19 years old, but questions regarding his work ethic and overall desire to get better reduced his draft stock at the time. Still, he went in the top 10 at No. 9 to the Detroit Pistons, who stepped up and rolled the dice on the Connecticut product. And a few months later, Detroit’s roll of the dice has seemingly paid off.

Right?

On the surface, Drummond isn’t doing anything out of the ordinary … until you realize that he’s not even playing 20 minutes per game.

In those 20 minutes he’s averaging a mere seven points and 7.3 rebounds per game, but his per 36-minute and per 40-minute numbers provide us with a better barometer of where he seems to be headed.

That is, once Pistons’ coach Lawrence Frank gives him the keys to the job, which might not be for awhile anyway.

Take note: Drummond is averaging 12.8 points and 13.4 rebounds (10th in NBA) per 36 minutes. Eventually, he should be playing close to 36 minutes a game if he’s in shape to carry that type of burden. Per 40 minutes, he’s averaging 14.4 points and 14.8 rebounds, and just for kicks, he’s averaging nearly 18 rebounds per 48 minutes, which is the fifth-best mark in the league.

All these digits are great and all, but until Drummond carries a larger load on a consistent basis, the projected numbers averaged through a certain amount of time are just empty numbers.

Or in simpler terns, those per 36 minute totals have absolutely no importance until Drummond actually plays 36 minutes in a single game. But that area isn’t in his control,  either.

So, what is Drummond doing that’s drawing all this thought and comparison to some of the league’s best big men?

Well, his natural athleticism certainly raises some eyebrows. Look at the picture below of Drummond soaring through the air to swat a shot.

Now that you’ve had a good look, can you possibly tell me that his athleticism isn’t appealing? I sincerely doubt you can.

Of course, this athleticism benefits him in some situations. For one, opposing penetrators rarely attack the basket when Drummond situates himself in the paint. He almost has a Dwight Howard-like effect, averaging 1.5 blocks per game, which earns him a spot in top 10.

Blocks do make the highlight reels, but what isn’t revealed is his tendency to jump at pump fakes. And to be sure, when Drummond leaps off the floor, he goes flying, meaning it’s unlikely that anything good will materialize.

So veteran big men often throw pump fakes at the young big and draw easy fouls. Opposing centers have an average PER of 20.7 against Drummond per 48 minutes, which is below the 15 set average.

To be sure, that isn’t to say that Drummond is a terrible post-up defender. He is in fact a little better than average, allowing just 0.80 points per possession (60th in NBA) during post-up situations.

That number could be better, but bear in mind that Drummond’s barely qualified to rank in that department, so his current ranking should be taken with a grain of salt. This should balance out–like everything else–once he receives more playing time.

An area where Drummond clearly thrives on defense is defending picks-and-rolls. His footwork is still a bit flawed given his inexperience, but his mobility is better than most big men, which allows him to stay closely on the roll man. He ranks eighth in the NBA in this facet, allowing just 0.68 points per possession.

However, defense isn’t necessarily the issue because with more and more experience, he will naturally refine that area of his game. Plus, he’s already shown some capability and raw talent. What’s concerning, though, are his offensive deficiencies, as there have been a dearth of indications that he will ever be a threat on that side of the ball.

His seven points per game aren’t a lot to begin with, but the majority of them stem from offensive rebounds–16.4 offensive rebounding percentage (2nd in NBA)–or off of picks-and-rolls. Both of those actions don’t require him creating his own shots, or even touching the ball for that matter.

At best, he is heading towards becoming a poor man’s Tyson Chandler, which wouldn’t be too bad. Both collect most of their points off picks-and-rolls, and rarely do much else offensively. But assuming that Drummond could replicate Chandler, that would also be assuming that he can become an All-NBA defender, which is a stretch at this point.

Then again, Drummond is only 19 and has yet to see any consistent minutes. His offensive game does need a lot of tweaking, but that’s the benefit of drafting such a young talent–he will get the experience now and still have plenty of years in his prime.

But until Frank takes him off his leash, it’s too soon to say anything bold about Drummond, whether it’s positive or negative.

Stats courtesy of:

Hoopdata

Basketball Reference

My Synergy Sports

ESPN

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Topics: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons, Lawrence Frank, Tyson Chandler

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