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2016-17 Pistons review: ‘Potential’ is nearly out on Andre Drummond descriptions

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Andre Drummond and the Detroit Pistons disappointed this season. Is there hope moving forward?

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Houston Rockets Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

What could possibly be said about Andre Drummond on this site that won’t lead to a red panda? In my ultra short time on DBB (I started lurking in early 2015), every facet of Drummond’s personality and performance has been assessed, diagnosed, and spit out for public consumption. It’s not a knock rather it’s the entire purpose of the site.

The 2016-17 season saw an abundance of less-than-stellar Yelp reviews for Drummond and his Pistons’ team mostly due to high expectations for both based on the relative success of last year.

People see an immensely athletic seven-footer and demand production.

They’re right.

People see the 130 million dollar price tag and insist on instant conductor know-how.

They’re right, too.

People see the sub-40 percent free throw shooting and take their jokes and disgust to Twitter or message boards.

Well, they’re not wrong.

Expectations are funny like that. If Drummond had just completed his second year in the pros after staying put at the University of Connecticut AND still on a rookie salary, we’d all be singing a profoundly different tune. Unfortunately for Drummond, most of the Pistons’ fanbase along with Stan Van Gundy, don’t care about that hypothetical story line.

Hesitantly, Drummond has only test driven the leadership role and the 13 and 13 career average is more Boy Wonder than Batman so.....

Just where the hell do we go from here?

The past

Doesn’t matter.

The present

2016-17 per game averages: a shade under 30 minutes, 13.6 points, 13.8 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 1.1 blocks, 1.1 assists, 1.9 turnovers, 53 percent from the field and 39 percent from the free throw line.

2016-17 nerd numbers (per nba.com): negative 6.3 NETRTG, 52 TS%, 25 REB%, 22 USG%, 20.9 PER (basketball-reference.com), 1.7 VORP (basketball-reference.com).

Ok, lemme see here. Boring numbers, check.

Now lets get rid of some dull talking points:

  • Horribly inefficient in the post.
  • Languid body language.
  • Questionable basketball IQ.

All three points have been made throughout his career and unquestionably during this past season. Through extensive DBB posts and the comment section, it’s been brought up a gazillion times. There is concrete merit to all three but lets not dwell on any one of those singular points.

In sixth grade, when no one wanted to participate in Social Studies, my teacher would close her eyes, run her finger up and down the attendance sheet and pick a student at random to answer whatever seemingly sinister question she had. It became known as “The Fickle Finger of Fate” and it scared the shit out of us.

It’s going to be my method of choice for Andre Drummond’s season. Pick one quarter of one game - at random - and try to paint a picture of the ups and downs from this past season. You’re going to have to show some internet trust and assume the game was in fact, chosen by my very own Fickle Finger of Fate (Mrs. McIntyre would be proud).

And the winner is:

First quarter of March 28th, 2017 game at home vs the Miami Heat.

Context - Heat (35-38) and Pistons (34-40) still both “technically” mathematically alive for postseason play.

(Hope you’re not afraid of some video. If so, you need to do some heavy scrolling)

Damn, rough start.

First defensive possession of the game saw Drummond showcase genuinely elite abilities:

He chases Rodney McGruder away from the paint and smoothly contests a Josh Richardson jump shot. The fact Miami ends up with a three points is besides the point, Dre did his job and did it well.

Next came a healthy dose of pick-and-roll coverage.

Dre casually negates Goran Dragic’s line to the hoop and defends a Hassan Whiteside hook.

He gets in trouble when falling into his comfort zone of letting the ball handler dictate movement:

And again:

Dragic simply misses the shot as Whiteside wrestles the rebound away.

After two straight lethargic defensive trips, Drummond finally looks primed to defend:

Per Synery, Andre Drummond graded out slightly below “shitty” allowing .951 PPP to ball handlers as the big defender in a pick and roll. A emphatically large reason why is due to his preference to sag rather than attack the PNR.

Offensive rebounding has always been a positive of Dre’s game:

But, even if he completes the pass to a cutting Ish Smith, what is the six-foot-nothing and hundred-and-nothing pound Smith going to do with it that far in the paint? He doesn’t have Richardson beat and Whiteside is ready to pounce. No need to force feed Smith.

Now, for two sequences that drive Pistons’ fans nuts:

Horrible closeout:

Not prepared to defend let alone compete.

And an airball hook shot:

He tries to post up twice with both feet outside the paint which usually doesn’t bold well. The big guy settles for poor positioning too much and if he (or SVG) is dead set on running an offense through a Drummond post up, it only makes sense to be closer to the basket. .734 PPP (per Synergy) in Drummond post up attempts is laughably dreadful.

Below, Miami goes back to the PNR as Drummond lets McGruder get to the dotted line and only a bad pass kept Dragic away from a wide open look:

Heading into next year, I’d love to see him get more aggressive with defending the pick-and-roll. I mean, if Papa Nene can muster the energy to do it surely so can AD.

Dre collecting his second offensive rebound:

The rushed, awkward looking put back could be/should be slowed down a tad. There is no way he called glass; sometimes the sporadic spectacular finishes give him a false sense of security. K.I.S.S

After the two man game between Ish Smith and Marcus Morris breaks down, Miami loses track of Drummond:

Drummond, like earlier the quarter, switches onto Rodney McGruder and shoos him out of the paint:

And effortlessly switches onto James Johnson for the block:

Both were assertive, high level plays.

One of the biggest problems with the Pistons offense on the year was the failure to see one or two passes ahead of a rotating defense as Stanley Johnson so kindly demonstrates:

Johnson’s window to make that pass is only a fraction of a second but it’s there for the taking.

Above, Drummond half-heartedly defends the PNR, secures the rebound and tosses an amazingly bad outlet pass.

And finally, an offensive rebound followed by a patient kickout. He checks off the cutting Smith (proper read unlike earlier in the quarter) and finds a wide open Stanley Johnson:

With 3:56 remaining in the first quarter, Aron Baynes checks in. Miami would end winning 97-96 on a Hassan Whiteside put-back as time expired.

In just over eight minutes of activity Drummond’s fingerprints are all over the place for good and bad. If Detroit is going to contend - like really contend - anytime soon, then Drummond must clean up a handful of lousy habits and quirks.

For immediate, subtle improvements to his game, Andre Drummond needs to look no further than his own teammates (for now) Aron Baynes and Boban “Toothpaste” Marjanovic.

Could you imagine the non-conventional box score damage Drummond could do with Baynes’ ability to use verticality?

Or the conventional box score damage done with Marjanovic’s positioning?

Andre Drummond doesn’t have to be Superman for the Pistons to win, he just can’t be The Invisible Man.

The future

This is the fun part, right?

He’ll be a young 24 year old when next season kicks off later this fall and the most important numbers he’s racked up over the past four years has been 81, 82, 81 and 81 as in: games played. The utmost important ability in today’s game is avail-ability and knock on wood, Dre has been injury free since his rookie year, something that can’t be said for numerous stars throughout the league.

Assuming health, Drummond can pick up where his 2015-16 All Star and All NBA season left off with obvious work on the court and reassessing his off-the-court mentality.

The first part of that process is to stop looking for extrinsic motivating factors, it’s lame and reeks of middle school seeking vengeance.

“Grrrrr. I’m gonna show you, Bleacher Report” - Andre Drummond, probably

What have you done in your five years as a pro to disprove Bleacher Report’s headline? Do you think 13 points and a 13 rebound career average with zero playoff wins qualifies for the centerpiece label? Either there is an inflated ego or it’s a case of thin skin or both. Actions will always speak louder than emojis ever will.

Had the Pistons won 50 games and made it to the Eastern Conference semifinals, there is no Bleacher Report headline. Instead, the Pistons are keeping their fingers crossed for good Draft Day lottery luck. Michael Jordan, the golden standard of competitiveness, seemed to always pursue motivation from his surroundings. Only he did after becoming a champion and for a long while kept it to himself. You’re not quite on that level.

Along these very same lines is Andre Drummond’s apparent lack of self awareness. The undeniable physical tools Drummond has been gifted might’ve produced a camouflaged disservice in his demeanor to the game of basketball.

To be self-aware, you need to show the capacity to know one’s:

  • Individual strengths and weaknesses
  • Emotions, motivations and behaviors
  • Habits
  • Values and beliefs

The definition can be found in any Psychology 101 book; believe me, I took the class three times, it’s there.

Based on the criteria above, would you consider Andre Drummond to be self-aware? More importantly, does Andre Drummond consider himself to be self-aware? If you’re looking for leadership qualities, EQ - emotional intelligence - is just as meaningful and in some cases more valuable than IQ or ability.

The last time I was on a plane, I actually listened to the stewardess’ safety announcement. Paraphrasing the end of her lazy spiel went something like this: In the event of an emergency, put your own oxygen mask on before helping others.

We’re not 10,000 feet in the air, but Andre Drummond can’t properly lead these Pistons until he he can lead himself. Maturity usually helps in these cases and, again, Drummond will only be 24 at the start of next season meaning there is a ton-o-room to grow the mental side of basketball.

What were you doing at 24? How self-aware are you?

It doesn’t make much sense to compare the fantasy world of the NBA to the day-by-day goings on from the regular folk like myself. I can’t fathom being that young, rich and all the boisterous distractions that come with it just as Drummond would have a hard time fitting in my compact cubicle. I do, however, know what it’s like to be young, immature and without pinpoint direction. With respect to the “no excuses” crowd, it doesn’t matter what profession you’re in, there is no escaping basic human development. It may take a bit longer than we anticipated but hopefully “it” clicks soon for Andre Drummond.

But I get it, he’s seven feet tall with a $130 million in the bank and shoots 40 percent from the free throw line. It’s a business.

The conclusion

So where do we go from here?

Andre Drummond ought to never accept limitations to his game and while the coaching staff should always continue to push him, they must remain realistic. The sooner the Pistons’ braintrust accepts his performance based short-comings, the better.

Can he be the best player on a true contender? Probably not. But an athletic big who can average a double-double in his sleep has a prominent role on any team. It would be nice see him live up to the expectations we’ve slapped on him but Detroit can still turn this thing around with an efficient 13 and 13 average from their big man.

There is no one size fits all leadership quote to magically turn Drummond into George Patton and you can’t force someone into playing the part. He doesn’t need to come into next season with guns-a-blazing as sometimes all it takes is to show the holster.

On-the-court, it’ll be up to Stan Van Gundy to put him in a position to succeed. Off-the-court it’ll be up to Andre Drummond to put himself in a position to lead.