Stan Van Gundy: Drummond could "start pushing 60%" from the charity stripe as soon as this year
David Hopla joined assistant coach Malik Allen in California just over a month ago to help rectify Andre Drummond's free throw woes, and Stan Van Gundy is confident that the shooting coach's efforts could yield Drummond's first +50-percent free throw shooting season. The big man, who turns 22 on August 10, has averaged 39.7 percent from the line so far in his three year career, with his best season coming in 2014, where he hit 41.8 percent of his freebies. Teams have started exploiting the former Husky's issues, adopting a hacking approach that has plagued other notorious poor free throw shooters such as Ben Wallace, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard. In an interview with Zach Lowe, as relayed by The Detroit Free Press' Vince Ellis, Stan Van Gundy explains why he isn't worried about teams targeting his star center's shooting issues.
"We had teams do it. Quite honestly if we get better we'll see it more. I had Dwight Howard and I also had Shaq (Shaquille O'Neal) so I've been through this before. In terms of wins and losses it just hasn't been that effective. It might be effective for a possession or two. I don't think it's hopeless,'' said Van Gundy. "I think my hope would be that this year we could get him up over 50% and we could start pushing 60%. If you get him over 50% then it's not really an effective strategy. If you get to 52% then you're having a quality possession.''
52 percent doesn't seem like a large increase, especially with a shooting coach of Hopla's pedigree on the staff, and could prove to help Drummond take a step towards unlocking the rest of his potential. Should Van Gundy's hopes be dashed (knock on wood), he has made sure to have a backup plan, which comes in the form of a 6-foot-10 Australian with an 84.7 percent success rate from the line for his career. SVG recently opened up to Pistons.com's Keith Langlois to explain the role Aron Baynes would be fulfilling.
"What we saw was a real physical guy at both ends of the floor - a good, solid rebounder and an offensively skilled guy who can shoot the ball, who can post, who's comfortable putting the ball on the floor and going to dribble handoffs and playing that way. He knows, even though he's in a backup spot, I don't think it's so much the minutes but when he's in the game the ball will be in his hands more than he's had the opportunity to play," Van Gundy said.
Adding Baynes certainly adds to the Pistons' versatility up front, and, as Ellis points out in the same piece, the former-Spur could replace Drummond in crunch time should the team need an offensive presence in the middle. Don't rule out a situational lineup that could see both big men on the floor at the same time, with Aron providing some good floor spacing at the 4. This goes to show that the 2015-2016 roster has been constructed with careful care to complement everyone's specific game; Detroit will boast an amount of versatility the team hasn't experienced in a very long time, and with a specialized coaching staff concentrated on player development, Motown could surprise a few teams this year.
Revisiting the 2013 draft: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the right pick at number 8
The booing was audible at The Palace when Joe Dumars selected Kentavious Caldwell-Pope eighth overall in the 2013 draft with hometown hero Trey Burke still available. Burke himself didn't think he'd slide past the Pistons, and the fan base was irked that the Michigan product would play for the Utah Jazz for at least the first portion of his career. Over the course of their rookie season, their names were linked throughout the press and fan forums, with both being compared at lengths. Now entering their third season, both players seem to have crawled out of each other's shadows.
Trey Burke logged the second-most minutes on the Jazz last year (2288), and over 400 more than fellow point guard Dante Exum, this despite him coming off the bench. Trey seems poised to repeat that next season with Exum sidelined with an ACL tear suffered in a FIBA exhibition game. In 2015, Burke averaged 15.3 points 5.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds per 36, on a shooting slash of .368/.318/.752. He is part of a young core of exciting players that in many ways aren't unlike the Pistons, with an imposing frontcourt consisting of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert, and a very talented Gordon Hayward on the wing.
That isn't to say Kentavious isn't surrounded by talent. The former Bulldog plays alongside the likes of Andre Drummond, Ersan Ilyasova, Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson, a team built for playoff contention and looking to make an impression on the League during the upcoming season. Pope led his team in minutes last year with 2587, a testament to how much coach/executive Stan Van Gundy appreciates his defense and attitude. Per 36, KCP averaged 14.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals whilst shooting .401/.345/.696, and started all 82 games he played in last season.
Apart from their shooting splits, there isn't much to differentiate both players, apart from one thing -- role. Kentavious has started in 123 of 162 career games, and was given the nod from the coaching staff to log major minutes as the team's primary shooting guard. Granted, he played at the expense of a poor-shooting Jodie Meeks and under-performing Cartier Martin, but the second-year man out of Georgia certainly made the best of his opportunities. Burke's career in Utah has had its various ups and downs, the team drafted Exum fifth overall in 2014 despite having traded for Trey the year before, and recently signed point guards Bryce Cotton and Raul Neto during the offseason, not to mention drafting another point guard in Boston College's Olivier Hanlan during last month's draft. Burke was expected to carry the load offensively for the Jazz's second unit last year, but poor shot selection and an even worse shooting season has turned many within Utah's fanbase against him.
It is worth reminding that these two players have only been in the League for two seasons, and there is still a lot of potential waiting to be unlocked, but some are putting a lot of pressure on the Michigan product to perform well this upcoming season, with the team's projected point guard of the future, Exum, possibly ruled out for the season. Would the roles be reversed had Dumars selected Burke over Pope? With many years of their careers ahead of them, there is still a lot of pages to be written, but who would you rather have at this point? The relatively unknown kid from Thomaston, Georgia? Or the hometown hero with multiple college accolades?
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