Stan Van Gundy wants to focus on developing the youth. The cornerstone of that youth is Andre Drummond. When you have a player as young as Drummond who has shown rather consistent improvement with even more untapped potential, you plan the building of your team around such a player.
Tom Gores started that plan by hiring Van Gundy as the head coach and President of Basketball Operations. Van Gundy took the next step by adding shooters in free agency this past offseason. Another step will need to be made after this season ends, and Greg Monroe and Jonas Jerebko both have major roles in it.
Both Monroe and Jerebko are going to be unrestricted free agents when this season is over. With the release of Josh Smith on Monday, that means when this season ends, the Pistons could be without their top three options at power forward going into this season. Tony Mitchell will also be a free agent, but unless Van Gundy does something drastic such as trade Jerebko or Monroe (where no comparable PF comes back), or a major injury, it's very unlikely that Mitchell will get much, if any, playing time to factor into any free agency or draft decisions.
So when this season ends, the Pistons will likely not have a power forward on their roster.
Drafted in 2009 with the 39th overall pick, Jerebko has performed as well as expected for an early second rounder, maybe even better. In his rookie year Jerebko started 73 games while averaging 9.3 points on 54.5-percent true-shooting percentage to go along with six boards a game. All of this in just under 28 minutes per game. Unfortunately, he suffered a season ending injury in the 2010-11 preseason. Since then, everything has dropped every year: minutes, shots, boards, points, etc. Part of the reason for the drop was the injury. Another was the drafting of Greg Monroe. And sadly, issues with a
hobbit coach further limited his play.
Until this year. Even with having both Smith and Monroe on the roster, Jerebko has seen an uptick in minutes and shots. He is also shooting better going 47.3-percent (career second best) from the floor and 36.6-percent (also career second best) from deep. Though a small sample size, after averaging 75.2-percent from the free throw line prior to this year, he is currently perfect from the line going 18-for-18. His rebounds are still lower than would be preferred from a power forward, but that's a difficult stat to pad when you're playing with either Drummond or Monroe all of the time.
What Jerebko provides Van Gundy that Monroe does not is an outside shot. A "stretch four" is a real thing, but rather rare. Players like Dirk Nowitzki, Ryan Anderson and even Chris Bosh are hard to come by. Jerebko could possibly fill that role if that is the route Van Gundy wants to go in (which he has in the past). Van Gundy has already tried to establish Drummond in the post this year and having outside shooters would help. However, featuring Drummond in the post has not worked out as well as I'm sure Stan would have hoped. So maybe that is not the direction to go with Drummond, at least not yet.
Monroe was drafted the year Jerebko sat due to injury, being picked 7th overall. Monroe, like Jerebko, had a great rookie campaign. He started 48 games, averaged 9.4 points on 57.5-percent true-shooting percentage to go with 7.5 rebounds. And just like Jerebko, this was also in just under 28 minutes a game.
In the next two seasons, unlike Jerebko, Monroe continued to improve. As is often the case, with more usage Monroe's efficiency decreased some. However, by the end of the 2012-13, Monroe was averaging 16.0 points to go with 9.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. Unfortunately, his turnovers also continued to climb, averaging just under three per game.
When Drummond was drafted in 2012, some were quite concerned that he could end up being a bust. Due to injury and a coach who did not want to bring Drummond along too fast (I cannot say that was right or wrong), Drummond and Monroe didn't really get much playing time together until the last 10 games of that 2012-13 season. Though it was a small sample size, many fans had high hopes that this duo could be a force to be reckoned with. Going into that offseason, many fans could not wait to see a full season of Drummond and Monroe (Drumroe) starting. Unfortunately, when free agency opened up a little while later, Joe Dumars tossed a bunch of money at Smith.
Since Smith signed on with the Pistons, Monroe's stats were negatively affected. Shots per game went down, but field-goal percentage increased. Rebounds, assists and points took a hit. This was not all Smith's fault, let me make that clear. Smith was used wrong, which put all of the Pistons in a bad position to succeed. That issue is now resolved. Monroe will not have to worry about occupying the area where Smith is/was most efficient (which still was not that efficient). Monroe is a back-to-the-basket player.
Playing with Andre Drummond
Van Gundy now has 54 games to determine which type of player plays best with Drummond. The NBA does not play the same style that it did when Van Gundy last coached. What used to be successful for him may not be anymore. Jerebko and Monroe provide a look at both options. It is very likely that we are going to see more of Drummond and Monroe on the floor than we will Drummond and Jerebko, but I hope there is a rather good mix of it.
Not only will it be important for Van Gundy to determine which player is offensively better with Drummond and allows Drummond's offense to flourish, but it'll also be on him to determine which player plays defense best with Drummond. Monroe and Jerebko are not above average defenders. They are not horrible defenders, but they have areas that could use work. Jerebko is only an inch shorter and 20 pounds lighter than Monroe, but he has some athleticism on Monroe. Until those areas have been worked on though, it is best to pair Drummond with whichever player covers up his defensive lapses and he can cover theirs.
I'm of the personal opinion that Jerebko should be a backup power forward, but should also see plenty of time at small forward. If Dumars really wanted to see a big lineup while everyone else was going small, Jerebko probably would have possibly been the better (and cheaper) option compared to Smith. So far this year, a lineup with Monroe, Drummond and Jerebko have seen less than a minute on the floor -- but they are 1-for-1 from the free throw line!
How these two play the rest of this season with Drummond will also have implications on who the Pistons draft and who they go after in free agency. Answer the poll with your prediction of who will play better with Drummond and then tell us your thoughts in the comments.