Photo Credit: Kevin Ward (Flickr.com)
Detroit Pistons fans could not be happier with how rookie Andre Drummond performed in his first 50 games in the NBA.
Despite suffering a stress fracture in his tailbone last week that will keep the big man out for the next four to six weeks, Drummond has given the Pistons faithful hope that they can soon return to being a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference. While this injury is a disappointing hurdle for Drummond, the team and its fans it allows us to stop for a moment and asses his performance thus far in his rookie year. One of the best per-minute performers in the entire league, let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses he has displayed in his young NBA career.
The first thing you notice about Andre Drummond is his immense size. At just 19 years old, he is already one of the biggest, strongest and well-built big men in the entire league. When you combine his imposing stature with his athletic ability you see why he was touted as a basketball phenom early on in his high school career. Physically, the transition into the pros has not been a difficult one for Drummond. He is significantly bigger than a great deal of his opponents and has an athletic advantage over the majority of the league’s big men.
Defensively, Drummond has been one of the most impactful players in the entire league this season ranking in the top five in defensive rating. His aforementioned size and athletic advantages combine with a natural feel for the game on the defensive end. That has allowed him to become a true defensive anchor for the Pistons. He moves extremely well for a player his size and has become a force blocking shots.
He gets his hands on attempts from scorers going directly at him in the post as well as helping teammates on defensive assignments by swatting the ball away at the last minute. He is among the league’s elite with the fourth-best block percentage in the NBA.
The Pistons’ defense improves dramatically when he is on the court, he provides cover for what is at times a poor perimeter defense and collects the majority of the opposition’s missed shots. His strength in the post allows him to get inside position on rebounds and he ranks in the top 10 for defensive rebound percentage. Aware of his own limitations, Drummond is quick to find a guard to bring the ball up court and sprints up the floor. He has good foot speed for a man his size and knows that his place is in the paint on both sides of the court.
Offensively, Drummond is not yet a go-to scorer, but has found his niche relatively quickly. An outstanding finisher above the rim he works his way into the paint searching for a lob or entry pass for an easy shot attempt.
This is reflected by his near 60 percent field-goal shooting on the season. By holding his position in the paint, Drummond also positions himself extremely well for offensive rebounds, where again he ranks among the very best in the NBA. By offensive rebound percentage, he is the top-rated player in the entire league and per minute rakes in more offensive boards than any other player.
Opposing defenses find it nearly impossible to box out Drummond with his rare mix of size, strength and athletic ability. A solid percentage of Drummond’s points at this stage of his career come from the offensive glass where he is capable of delicate tip ins as well as thunderous put back jams.
The main weakness in Drummond’s game at this stage of his career is obvious and that is his horrific free-throw shooting percentage. At just 36 percent, he has one of the worst percentages in the league and opposing defenses will foul the rookie on purpose to avoid giving up high-percentage buckets in the paint.
While he obviously needs extensive work on his stroke, his form is not as bad as other big men who struggle at the line such as Dwight Howard or retired legend Shaquille O’Neal. Drummond has decent mechanics on his shot and it is a matter of working extensively in the off-season to refine his technique.
With his immense size and strength, it is likely that Drummond will never be a good free-throw shooter but he should at least be over the 50 percent mark, where he can then begin to set higher goals.
Overall on offense, Drummond is still quite raw. He does not have the ability to catch the ball with his back to the basket and create his own shot and will take time to develop enough offense to be considered a reliable threat on that end. At just 19, Drummond has time on his side and with his talent will likely be able to develop at least a few offensive go-to moves.
He also needs to improve his passing; on possessions where he does not get a quick look at the basket he can struggle to find the open man. Working with coaching staff, fellow big man Greg Monroe, who is an accomplished passer, and gaining experience in the league will no doubt allow him to improve in this area; however, it does not seem to come naturally.
Defensively, Drummond’s deficiencies are few and far between, most of which will be solved with experience and court time. He can get caught in foul trouble; however, rookies often struggle with this problem as they do not receive favorable treatment from refs as well as adjusting to the pace of the NBA.
He needs to improve his defensive communication, while just 19 and not likely to become a vocal presence that early in a career, he is relied upon as the defensive anchor of the team and should be directing his perimeter men wherever possible. Again, this will no doubt improve through the course of his NBA career as he gains familiarity with his own teammates as well as studying the offensive sets of his opposition.
In these early stages of his NBA career, Drummond has shown fans that his positives far outweigh any weaknesses. He is further developed than most scouts had presumed prior to the draft and he is one of the most impactful big men in the entire league. He is already among the very best in the league in the areas he excels in and many of his deficiencies will be solved with time and experience.
By all accounts a hard worker and an easy-to-coach young man, Drummond shows the potential of being one of the best big men in the game and a future All-Star for Detroit. As he returns from injury later this season he will likely be contributing in limited minutes, but his impact will be felt. It is in the offseason where he can truly develop his game, work with coaching staff to improve his offense and having a full NBA season under his belt will do wonders for his confidence and familiarity with the professional game.
In a league starved of legitimate game-changing big men, Detroit has found a rare commodity in Drummond and is likely to develop him as a franchise cornerstone. In a time where many big men are focused on their outside shooting, stretching the floor and trying to develop into versatile offensive players, it is refreshing to see someone as physically talented as Drummond focused on being such a factor defensively.
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