As a parent, we immediately see potential in our children. Maybe they will be a doctor. Maybe they will be a lawyer. Maybe they will become President. They get good marks in primary school and show a desire to learn. But at some point down the line, they decide that they want to own a landscaping business.
Now do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with owning your own business and there is nothing wrong with a landscaping career. If someone has a passion for doing something for their career, they should pursue it. But it makes you wonder: are they missing out on reaching their true potential?
In the NBA every year, there is a draft held which allows every team who has an available pick to acquire young talent from all over the world. In some cases, the teams draft by best fit. But in a lot of cases, teams draft on potential. Andre Drummond fit both of those scenarios when the Detroit Pistons drafted him ninth in 2012. They were getting a 6'11" 19 year old who could leap buildings in a single bound and run the floor side by side with Usain Bolt. Ok, maybe those last two tidbits are exaggerations, but you get the point, the kid had amazing potential.
Drummond is only in his third year in the NBA. He is also playing for his fourth coach. He is also only 21 years old. And while he is second in the league in rebounding, among the top of the league in dunks, and number one in many of our hearts, we have to wonder if he is on progress to reaching his potential.
Prior to the Pistons hiring Stan Van Gundy to be the coach for the next five years, there were comparisons between Drummond and Dwight Howard. There have been many great discussions here going over the stats comparing the two, even comparing him to JaVale McGee, DeAndre Jordan and Shaquille O'Neal. Howard and O'Neal are players who have made progress in their careers to the point one could argue that they have reached their potential. On the other hand, McGee and Jordan could be argued to be good as they are, but will likely never reach their true potential (though they are both still "young" and have more years left). Where will Drummond end up at the end of his career?
This is actually a very important question for the Pistons. And it is not an important question for another year, but right now.
Van Gundy is fond of using a 4-in-1-out system just like he did in his Orlando days. Right now he is using Drummond and Greg Monroe together for only around 16 minutes a game after the roster was lightened. This means that the other 32 minutes have Monroe or Drummond at center with either Anthony Tolliver or Jonas Jerebko stretching the floor. Both Monroe and Drummond are averaging around 30 minutes per game in the post-Smith era (PSE). But when?
Monroe and Drummond have started each of the last 10 games. Drummond is currently averaging 7.8 minutes in the first quarter whereas Monroe is up to 10.7. The role reverses in the second quarter when Drummond averages 8.5 minutes and Monroe only 5.1 (also, there are two games in the last 10 where Monroe did not even play in the second quarter). In the third quarter, both players average right around nine minutes. But in the fourth quarter, Van Gundy prefers to use Monroe to close out the game. Drummond is averaging 5.6 minutes in the fourth quarter over the last 10 games and Monroe is at 7.8 (in two games, Monroe did not play in the fourth -- three games for Drummond).
There are very good reasons for this. Monroe is more polished offensively than Drummond is (right now). While Monroe is having his second-worst shooting year of his career, he is still more dependable because of his free throw shooting (which is the best of his career). Drummond is a high percentage shooter (though he also is having a career worst year), but at the end of games you run the risk of teams using Hack-a-Dre. No, this is not used often and has only been used once to my knowledge during the last 10 games. It has only been used once because in quite a few of the games, we were blowing the teams out and Drummond did not need to be on the floor. In the other games that were close, I think Van Gundy intentionally went with Monroe to avoid Hack-a-Dre.
Looking at the stats, it does not appear that Drummond has improved much since his rookie season. Now, I say this with warning. It is difficult to improve when you have 3.5 different coaching staffs (four different coaches, three different staffs). It is also difficult to improve when Josh Smith (not Smith's fault) causes lineup problems. Also, Van Gundy has not had a full season with Drummond yet. Here are his stats on a per 36 basis.
|Career W/ Smoove
|Career W/O Smoove
Drummond may be better defensively though, but in the minds of his opponents. Drummond still needs to box out more and better. If he were to, I am very sure he could average 20 rebounds a game. Also, Andre is not getting as many blocks as his athletic ability would have you believe. However, part of that is timing and that will get better with a consistent team defensive scheme in place. But at the same time, teams are more concerned about going inside against him.
Last year Drummond allowed players to shoot 60.5-percent within 5 feet of the basket on 20.9 attempts per game. This year that is down to 57.3-percent on only 17.4 attempts per game. If you actually take that sample size down to the last 10 (since Smith is no longer freelancing the paint), opponents are shooting 56.5-percent on only 17.7 attempts per game. Teams know what Drummond is capable of when you go in the paint, and they are doing it less frequently and less efficiently. These numbers even include the 14-for-15 game Jonas Valanciunas had last night (which was not all against Drummond).
Based on these provided splits, it does not appear that Drummond has made any significant progress in any area of his game other than rebounding and getting into the minds of his opponents. Is Andre Drummond already what he will be?
Yes and no. I personally do not believe that Andre needs to develop a back to the basket game. I think Andre could average 20/15 easily just off of put-backs, lobs and fast break attempts. But even if Andre were to average 20/15, that does not mean he is not a liability in the fourth quarter, and that is where Monroe comes in.
Monroe is a quality starting power forward. At the same time, he is a quality starting center. Drummond is only a quality starting center. By having both of them, you have stretches where you can have both of them on the floor if needed, and then Stan can run the rest of the game with his familiar 4-in-1-out scheme. Monroe allows for nice post ups combined with great passing out to the open wings. Drummond allows for pick and rolls where they have to cover the roller. It is a perfect two headed snake.
Stan tried early this season to get Drummond more involved in the offense. And it has helped some as Drummond is developing a nice little baby hook. But even still, it is not something that should be pushed down his (or the Pistons) throat right now.
If Monroe can be re-signed, it would go a long way to giving Drummond more time to develop and eventually reach his potential. Without Monroe (or a player of his caliber), it could seriously hinder Drummond's development and the longterm viability of the Pistons winning.