The Detroit Pistons will go only as far as Andre Drummond can take them. The Pistons have tried to manage expectations for their raw, talented teenage big man, but a combination of Drummond's skill and Detroit's flaws mean the Brahma Bull will see big minutes and might sneak himself into the Rookie of the Year conversation.
When Andre Drummond was drafted as a 19-year-old, fresh of a single season of disappointing production in college, many thought it could be three or four seasons before he could be expected to produce at a high level. After a strong preseason full of blocks, dunks and highlight-reel plays, fans now want to see him in the starting lineup. Are they overreacting? Yes and no. He probably isn't the next Dwight Howard, but then again the kid can play and on this team he should play early and often.
2011-12 Year in Review
10 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, 53.8% shooting, 29.5% free-throw shooting
Drummond had buzz going into Connecticut as a possible No. 1 overall pick. But his team was embroiled in scandal, his coach battled health problems and didn't look long for the job, and sanctions from the NCAA were a cloud hanging over the team all season. Drummond showed flashes but couldn't deliver on a night-in, night-out basis. His stats were unimpressive for someone with his size and athleticism and many questioned his maturity and effort. Also, he had a free-throw shot that made Ben Wallace look like Mark Price.
A typical week last season looked like his run from Jan. 29 to Feb. 6. Drummond put together quality games back-to-back against Notre Dame and Georgetown, scoring 15 and 18 points and 11 and 7 rebounds, respectively, on an average 61 percent shooting. But he followed it up with no-shows against Seton Hall and Louisville, scoring 0 and 7 points and 6 and 4 rebounds.
After declaring for the NBA draft, becoming the first player in UConn history to be one and done, the Hartford Courant wrote the following about Drummond (emphasis added):
Drummond is a monstrous specimen. He is agile. He can block shots. His alley-oops are nothing short of vicious. Yet he has no real post game. He has no jump shot. The one thing his prep school coach Jere Quinn said last summer was he cannot take off plays and he must hit his fouls shots. Those remain on Andre's to-do list. It may take five years, but eventually a player with such potential should be a good one. That's not the question today.
And keep in mind five years later for Andre Drummond would take him to his age 24 season which would make him as old as current Pistons rookie Kim English.
In college, the size of Drummond was obvious. The natural abilities were obvious. The lack of production was REALLY obvious.
In other words, picking at No. 9, the Pistons drafted what was perhaps the biggest gamble available. And Pistons fans didn't have much confidence in Joe Dumars' ability to successfully take that kind of risk. He was, after all, the guy who chose raw big man Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, and selected Austin Daye instead of Ty Lawson.
But now it seems like aside from Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond is the safest bet to be the most productive player in uniform for the Pistons on any given night. And although I'm not a betting man, it seems like the "smart money" would take a serious look at Drummond's 30-to-1 odds of winning Rookie of the Year.
2012-13 Projected Production
Going into training camp, I expected Drummond to be a quality shot blocker and a more consistent rebounder than he was in college. But in the Pistons' eight preseason games, Drummond showed a surprisingly effective offensive game thanks in large part to his terrific hands, which allowed him to convert the easy opportunities his teammates served up to him. And he was also able to take a lot of the many missed jumpers and turn them into put backs.
In preseason, Drummond shot 62.3 percent and scored 9 points per game, to go with 5.9 rebounds in just 16.5 minutes. I'd love to expand that to the DBB patent-pending per 36 discussion but NBA.com has preseason stats in per-40 and per-48 varieties but not per 36. I don't feel like doing the math but you can feel free to go ahead and adjust accordingly.
Drummond's per-48 scoring average of 26.1 is second in the NBA among rookies playing at least 10 minutes per game. His 3.99 blocks per 48 ranks fourth and 17.1 rebounds per 48 ranks fourth.
In August, I spent more than 1,500 words trying to temper expectations of Drummond's rookie year, but his preseason has turned me into a true believer.
No, Andre Drummond will not propel the Pistons into the playoffs. No, expecting a rookie of the year type season out of him is optimistic beyond reason and no, he might not even average 20 minutes per game much less start. Lets take this top 10 and average it out and pretend that is the final line for Andre Drummond's first season in Detroit.
I'm decidedly more bullish on Drummond's rookie season. Now if he doesn't better Favor's averages of roughly 20 minutes, 5 rebounds and 7 points I'll be pretty disappointed. Because there is no reason that Drummond should be limited to 20 minutes per game this season.
He has been a difference-maker whenever he steps on the floor for Detroit because he gives them things they don't get anywhere else -- shot blocking, easy dump-off opportunities under the hoop, a running mate down the floor in transition and a great ability at grabbing offensive boards and creating second-chance opportunities.
He might not force himself into the starting lineup right away but he is going to force himself on the floor for big minutes from the beginning thanks to his defense and the lack of quality defenders around him.
12 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 52% shooting, 45% free-throw shooting, 26.6 minutes per game
Andre Drummond has earned a spot in the Pistons starting lineup. He is a perfect complement to Monroe and has shown a lot more ability so far as a Piston than he ever did in UConn. Whether it was the level of competition or just a fluke or the natural maturation of a young, highly skilled player (remember, he is still only 19) remains to be seen. But Detroit hasn't had a player this exciting to watch since drafting Grant Hill.
He clearly has a role on this team, and if he regularly gets 25-30 minutes per game then the Pistons defense, which rose to decidedly mediocre in the second half of last season, might actually turn into a quality NBA defense. And with a quality defense, great offensive rebounds like Drummond and Monroe, who will provide a lot of second-chance opportunities, the offense could be greatly improved as well.
And if he shows continual improvement as the year goes on he should get enough minutes, touches, highlight-reel plays and the team should show enough improvement that Drummond could merit serious Rookie of the Year consideration.