Do Drummond, Monroe form league's best young frontcourt?

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

A tantalizing possibility existed for the Pistons heading into last season, one that was somewhat lost in the frustration of another losing year. With the course clear for Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond starting alongside each other, the potential seemed ripe for the team to have the best young frontcourt in the league.

Plenty of questions existed heading into the season about the pair's fit, Monroe's position, and Drummond's ability to maintain his production with increased minutes. We didn't get much that we asked for this year, but we did at least get answers to these questions.

The duo went on to account for over 2,300 points and 1,800 rebounds with 696 on the offensive end. That's more offensive rebounds than the Heat collected as a team on the season. They appeared in every game but one, which Drummond missed with a neck injury. That puts their combined average at 28.7 points on only 21.9 shots and 22.4 rebounds.

So with an average age between the two of only 21.5 years old, are they the best young frontcourt in the league? Let's look at the numbers.

I attempted to compile the top frontcourt pairing for every team in the league. In cases where combo forwards like LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony may have spent significant time at power forward in a smallball lineup, I included their actual big men - as the goal isn't to find wings who can play power forward under some circumstances, but taking a look at actual post players.

When weighing a balance between a player with better numbers or a younger option, I favored youth. For instance, even though Josh McRoberts provided more production, Cody Zeller provides a more accurate read on where Charlotte stands in regards to best young frontcourt. And although 29, Jefferson's prolific production tells us more than including Biyombo would have. In the end, the two average out to an age of 25 years old with 26.9 points per game and 14.8 rebounds.

I stuck with overall totals rather than averages, as durability matters. I want to see what a pair produced for the team over the course of a full season, not just that what they did during the 25 games when they were healthy. Horford and Millsap would have put up some impressive numbers on a per-game basis, but I think it's relevant that Horford didn't crack 30 games for the second time in three years.

Feel free to ask me any additional rationale in the comments. The key point is that we're looking for an accurate read on the most productive young frontcourt in the league. You can check out the full data here in a Google Doc.

Age

The results show Drumroe as one of the youngest combinations in the league at a combined 43 years old, tied with Utah's pair of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors and Boston's Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk.

Other promising young pairings are New Orleans' Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson and Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams at 44 years old combined, and Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Williams at 45 years old combined.

You can see the full results in this here fancy dancy high tech graph.

age

Scoring

points

Monroe and Drummond come out to the fourth highest scoring combination, behind Minnesota's Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic, the Clippers' Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and Portland's Robin Lopez and LaMarcus Aldridge. Sacramento is the only team near the Detroit duo's age in this category, and checks in at eighth.

Rebounding

rebounds

The Pistons are second in rebounds only to the Clippers. Both teams tower above the rest of the league.

orebounds

As Detroit searches for its core competency as a team, offensive rebounding offers a great opportunity to build around. The level of dominance shown by Monroe and Drummond is stark, as only one team came within 200 offensive rebounds of the pair's 696 offensive rebounds. 21 of the league's team were not within 300.

Did Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith contribute to Drumroe padding their lead? Perhaps. But Greg Monroe has finished in the top ten in the league in three of his four seasons, and Drummond's season on the offensive boards was the 15th best all time.

It's clear that this is a skill for each of the two. And it helped them to each finish in the top three in the league in shot attempts within five feet from the rim, the most efficient shot in the game - which, subsequently, the Pistons finished second in the league in shots from the distance.

Defense

blocks

Detroit had the eighth most blocks, which seemed a bit surprising considering Drummond's blocked shot numbers declined significantly from his rookie season and Monroe has never been much of a shot blocker.

steals

But the pair led in steals, with only Philadelphia close thanks to Thaddeus Young finishing second in the league in category - and his inclusion on this list is a bit questionable due to his combo forward status. While the team's defense struggled this season and each had their individual difficulties, Drummond and Monroe have each consistently shown quick hands and the ability to generate turnovers.

Summary

winsproduced

I'm generally not a big fan of stats that attempt to compile a bunch of numbers then chug out some comprehensive view. But Wins Produced does a pretty good job here, I think - especially after looking at each of these other categories. Detroit comes out as number two, but well behind Griffin and Jordan of the Clippers. The two helped lead the Clippers to 57 wins this year and both showed significant improvements, especially Jordan. Each checking at 25 years old, they probably deserve the title of the league's best young frontcourt.

But still seven combined years younger than Jordan and Griffin, the Drummond and Monroe are in a league of their own for their age. They combine for 22.8 wins produced, a significant chunk of the team's 29 wins. Ibaka and Adams are the team within a year or two that come within 50 percent of their Win Shares total.

Even without proper spacing around them, even in their first full seasons in new roles, even going through two new coaches, the two still made a strong argument for the best young frontcourt in the league.

Though it's been a difficult six years, building around these two has the makings of a very bright future.

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