In a uniformly excellent piece on The Ringer, Danny Chau tells one of my favorite/least favorite Andre Drummond anecdotes. When going through the gauntlet of NBA draft vetting, it seemed the young UConn big man said we wanted to model his game after Kevin Durant.
Many laughed at the time, and the amusing morsel was used to explain away how such a preternaturally gifted big man, with the ability to catch any carom in the gym, fell all the way to ninth in the 2012 NBA Draft.
The anecdote seemed to get less and less amusing over the years, as it seemed Drummond just wasn’t ever going to GET IT. Suddenly, the Durant quote looked more like the Rosetta Stone in charting Drummond’s wasted potential.
Funny thing, maybe Drummond was right all along.
No, he can’t play like Kevin Durant, but it turns out he’s a hell of a lot more useful out on the perimeter than he is down in the post. Chau’s column is crafted around the concept of Drummond trying and failing to turn himself into a prototypical big man in an era suited for anything but.
Unfortunately for all involved, the transformation from ineffective post player to “point Drummond” has been particularly slow and particularly painful.
Stan Van Gundy came to Detroit with a pedigree of taking the immense skills of Dwight Howard and crafting him into a perennial All-Star who made the NBA Finals.
Van Gundy fed Howard in the post a lot, whether because he felt it helped his offense or because he thought it helped Howard lock in on defense, I do not know. He tried the same thing in Detroit with Drummond, but the offensive output was even worse and the offensive frustrations seemed to impact his defensive effort.
In 2015-16, Drummond attempted 405 post-ups (ranked third in the NBA), and they accounted for a full 27.5 percent of his offensive possessions. he generated a measly 0.73 points per possession on these attempts, ranking in the 26th percentile.
For the non-statistically inclined, of the 17 NBA players to attempt even 200 post-ups, Drummond was worse than all but poor Alex Len, and Dre had nearly 150 additional (bad) attempts than Len.
Last season was even worse. Drummond attempted 335 post-ups and of the 27 players with 200 attempts, he ranked dead last in the NBA in getting them in the basket.
This presented a conundrum for Van Gundy’s offensively challenged team. If the post-ups aren’t working then how do you use a big with absolutely no range?
You don’t want to play four-on-five basketball and you want to keep the lane clear for driving, cutting and passing.
Van Gundy’s elegant solution? Let Drummond unlock his inner Durant as a facilitator in the high post.
Drummond is still an integral cog in the Pistons’ offensive sets, but now he is doing it as a dribble hand-off king and occasionally making opponents pay with a face-up game that allows him to coast to the rim when a defender cheats off of him too much.
Drummond’s post-ups have plummeted to just 34 this year, the same number as Khris Middelton. The post makes up only 10 percent of Drummond’s game. Instead, he has formed a nice synergy with Avery Bradley, who has lapped the competition in hand off possessions.
It would be hard to imagine the Pistons’ motion offense working so well without Bradley’s influence. While Drummond has increasingly been the pilot behind the wheel on offense, Bradley is the team’s navigation system, getting a full read of the defense with every rip through a curl. He is a human gyroscope, and some of the Pistons’ best plays simply wouldn’t work without Bradley’s decisive, full-momentum cuts creating both avenues for the offense and misdirections for the defense.
And don’t forget about Tobias Harris, who has been an offensive revelation this year in Detroit as the Pistons have moved to a motion offense and Harris has discovered a lightning quick release and accuracy from distance. Chau has it in another GIF:
Seriously, read the entire Chau piece. He is a hell of a writer and it really crystalizes just how close Drummond was to irrelevance and tracking his growth this season.
Chau is not the only national writer to shower praise on Drummond and our beloved Pistons. Zach Lowe featured Detroit’s less predictable offense in his latest column and called them the best story in the NBA this season, a comment he also made on national TV on The Jump.
Lowe mostly talks up Bradley’s hard cuts — also something Greg Kelser has noted in recent games.
Bradley might be the league's fastest, most fearsome cutter. He zigzags in sudden diagonal jolts; his sheer speed unnerves defenders. If Bradley spooks one help defender into lurching toward him, a teammate will have daylight: