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Pistons key trade deadline question: Is Andre Drummond a franchise player?

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And it’s a question that should determine the long-term direction of the Pistons.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

After the first quarter of last night’s, I said screw this team and met up with friends at the climbing gym instead. I’d catch up on it later.

Andre Drummond was the key figure for my disgust with the team. Drummond’s lack of energy and awareness on the defensive end along with his penchant for taking bad shots were on full display. Some highlights.

Bradley burnt while Drummond watches

Yeah, Avery Bradley got burnt out of his shoes, but Drummond watches the entire thing develop and doesn’t even move.

DeRozan shreds Dre and Bitcoin

Both Drummond and Bitcoin Bradley give up on playing defense after they don’t get the steal. Against, you know, the guy who is sixth in the league in points. It inspires a time out where Stan Van Gundy immediately goes after Dre.

WTF Dre

Andre Drummond with the WTFloater.

Know how you get to be 30th in the league in blocked shots? This is how you get to be 30th in the league blocked shots.

Bradley burnt again.

Drummond sees the cut, sees that Bradley is badly burnt yet again, yet thanks to some pretty amazingly bad footwork is unable to put himself in position to do anything to contest DeRozan’s shot.

Bad double team

I don’t know what the idea was with that double team, but whatever it was, it was a bad one. Yes, Ish Smith is smaller than DeRozan, but standing directly behind Ish while you’re man is wide open under the basket isn’t helping anything.

After yet another Drummond miscue on defense, SVG had seen enough. Drummond out, Boban in. And yeah, I had too. I’ll take running on the treadmill over watching that stuff.

Catching up on the game later, Drummond was a different player after he came back out in the second quarter. He helped lead a Pistons run in the final two minutes of the half that put them firmly back in the game and kept it up throughout. In those final three quarters, Drummond put up 23 points on 11-13 shooting, had 14 rebounds including 6 on the offensive end, four steals, and a pair of assists. He was terrific.

What was the difference?

How does a player go from looking like it was the first time they’d stepped on a basketball court to an absolutely dominant force?

It’s tough to say. But that question highlights the most important question the Detroit Pistons face as they head into the trade deadline: Is Andre Drummond a franchise player? Is he a guy who can lead a team to a championship?

I don’t know the answer to that question. On one hand, he’s a very unique player who is able to be physically dominant, the best rebounder on the planet, and made clear improvements this season.

On the other hand, his effort remains inconsistent, his defense is improved but still not good, and despite the overall improvements he remains a guy who is just the best player on a .500 team.

I liked the way Sean put it in his buyers or sellers article earlier this week:

He is not the issue. That being said, if a franchise takes on the traits of its most important player, the Pistons’ erratic, unreliable play can be laid at the feet of Drummond and a change might be needed.

While Drummond may still have some room for improvement, at 24 years old his potential looks differently than it did when he was 20 years old. Especially when it comes to mental maturity. He deserves credit for his strides he’s made this year - that free throw shooting increase is a strong testament to him.

But it has to be concerning that he’s still not a guy who you can trust to play hard every night. Steps in the right direction beat the alternative of steps in the wrong direction, but if it’s still not to a baseline of “plays hard,” is this really someone to be trusted as a franchise player?

There’s also the matter that since Reggie Jackson went down to injury, the Pistons have gone 3-7 - thanks in a large part to the lowest scoring fourth quarter offense in the league over that stretch.

Which begs the question: would the Pistons be better off with a franchise player who is able to serve as a go-to guy in the stretch?

This isn’t pressing the panic button

It also isn’t an advocacy to trade Andre Drummond. It’s just acknowledging that this team is on a treadmill on its own and it started when Drummond was placed as the centerpiece.

It’s trade talk season. Most of trade suggestions coming up on DBB or Pistons Twitter just feel like shuffling the chairs - though not necessarily on the Titanic, rather more like on Tommy Callahan’s boat.

So how do we get a little wind here? It seems that the Pistons are faced with two options.

The first is incremental change. Perhaps using the trade deadline to shore up the backup point guard, making some moves that shift around some roles, get some value out of Avery Bradley. All the while, keeping an ear on the ground for another Reggie Jackson or Tobias Harris type of move.

The other option is using Andre Drummond to acquire the guy who could be that franchise player type of guy who could be better suited to lead a team to the title.

Here’s the spot where I suppose I’m supposed to offer some trade suggestions. We can save that for the comments. Rather than a specific trade suggestion, I think the bigger issue is the philosophical decision for the front office staff. To stay or to go on the Andre Drummond as Franchise Player Era.

It’s a situation where there’s no right or wrong move. Either could work out or either could come back to bite. Much of it comes down to what Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower see in Drummond.

So far the front office has seemed content to allow Drummond the opportunity to grow into the role. But with four years in, time is running out for both of them.