It's amazing what a little 18-and-18 game can do for your national profile.
Despite being largely forgotten in the rookie of the year debate with Damian Lillard and not having the inherent hype of being the No. 1 overall pick like Anthony Davis, the national media is slowly realizing just how special Andre Drummond has been during his rookie year.
Now, ESPN has a couple of profiles on the prodigiously talented teenager. Both pieces are part of ESPN Insider (completely worth the money for the basketball coverage alone).
The first is David Thorpe analyzing just what Drummond needs to do to reach even close to his full potential. His diagnosis is interesting if not exactly earth-shattering in its originality:
- Improve conditioning and strength
- Value position on the floor
- Have a post plan
- Play with balance
With his enormous upside, Drummond has drawn comparisons to Howard, who has dominated thanks to the same formula that made O'Neal into a legend: (1) incredible agility with a huge body; (2) great power and balance inside; and (3) the disposition to dominate the paint.
Drummond has the first box checked off. And he has shown flashes of the other two. Still, hundreds of talented men have shown glimpses and now reside on benches in the NBA or on rosters in Europe. Drummond is no longer seen as a risk of a prospect, but he needs to make progress in those latter two areas to be the best player he can be. Following the four-step plan above will help him reach stardom sooner rather than later.
Even more exciting, however, is Kevin Pelton's assessment of Drummond. And while DBB and others have brought up comparisons to Dwight Howard, Pelton says an even more apt comparison might be to the most dominating center of my lifetime -- Shaquille O'Neal.
Drummond can't match Shaq's prowess in the low post -- Drummond isn't nearly so skilled or physically dominant (O'Neal has three inches on Drummond, who is listed at 6-10). As with a young Howard, most of Drummond's scoring comes off other players setting him up. And somehow he makes both Howard and O'Neal, known for their free throw follies, look like Steve Nash at the charity stripe.
But the rest of his stat line compares favorably to O'Neal's rookie season -- when Shaq was a year and a half older and had two additional seasons of NCAA experience to polish his game.
As his role grows, Drummond must chart his own path. Maybe he won't get there. But the way he's played so far calls for comparisons to some of the best centers in the NBA over the past three decades. That's heady stuff for a 19-year-old, especially one coming off the bench.
The article also touches on a bunch of other interesting findings. One is win percentage, which Pelton says is the per-minute version of WARP. He charged the win percentage of every rookie with at least 500 minutes played dating back to 1979 (hint: it's a lot of rookies). Pelton is interested in visualizing just how productive Drummond has been compared to how little he has played. I am much more interested in just how few outliers there are on the list -- and Drummond is among them.
The others? David Robinson, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Terry Cummings, Chris Webber, Kenneth Faried and Arvydas Sabonis. Not bad company to keep.
Pelton also puts the lie to the fact that players are only effective in limited minutes and their production drops off when given more minutes. Evidence.
Oh yeah, and he notes the fact that Drummond's current PER ranks 12th among rookies in NBA history. NBD.