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Shining light on Detroit’s underappreciated star, Andre Drummond

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Enough is enough. Andre Drummond needs some extended love.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

With a little help from his size 18, and non-signature, Nike shoes, Andre Drummond might eclipse the seven-foot-tall marker. A two-time All-Star with six years of statistically consistent professional basketball under his belt, and still a relative baby at just 25-years-old. He could sleepwalk into a double-double without breaking a sweat. Off the court, he’s a rapper and actor (to varying degrees) while keeping “trouble” completely clueless to his whereabouts. Quiet as a church mouse in regards to prestige, he’s collected 19 points and 16 rebounds per contest and already produced six(!) 20-20 games in the young season.

So, where is the love?

Name another player in the league whose prowess gets swept under the rug more often than Drummond? The reluctance to properly acknowledge Drummond happens on both the local and national scene, and at some point, there needs to be a market correction.

Well, this is that.

Look, I understand it’s hard to feel sorry a millionaire hoopster who flirts with a seemingly perfect life, but he also flirts with historical greatness on a nightly basis. I’m not suggesting that we collectively tweet gratitude haikus or tightly hold hands while singing songs of Drummond praise, but we (myself, 100 percent included) could, and probably should, do better.

The loudest Drummond critics certainly have a case. His less-than-optimal body language and the sometimes overall game day aloofness are constantly, and rightfully, questioned. Same goes for his drive, effort, and most other non-quantifiable measurables. Shot selection shortcomings and issues with his needlessly high degree-of-difficulty attempts are fair takes, too.

In short, he’s far from perfect.

The problem, though, is we continue to view him based on the perception of what we think he should be instead of judging him on the more appropriate scale, which is reality. We see a highly-paid larger-than-life human with Olympian athleticism and get frustrated with the Robin results - because we keep expecting and dreaming of a Batman outcome. I’m not smart enough to know whether that’s fair or not, but it’s the truth.

To his credit, Drummond doesn’t seem to be worried about the lack of recognition:

“Nothing satisfies them.”

I’m not smart enough to know whether that’s fair or not, but it’s the truth. If you were offended by Drummond’s statement, buckle up, life gets much more difficult. Again, I’m not telling you what to do, criticize him as you see fit. But me? I’m going start mixing in a bit more affection in-between my drivel of Drummond complaints.

What makes him an imperfect star? If you’ve come this far, maybe you’re willing to come a little further. Below, we’ll go over the successful hows and whys on both sides of the ball. Or, if you prefer, head straight to the comments and let me know how much of a homerism idiot I’ve become. I’m a big boy, I can take it.

Either way, just remember: yes, he’s imperfect, but Andre Drummond is, without a doubt, a star, too.

Offense

At times, Detroit’s best offensive scheme revolves around the sheer hope that Drummond will clean up his teammates’ ugly messes:

Seriously, it takes a small army to keep Drummond off the offensive glass, and sometimes, even small armies lack the necessary artillery:

It is, quite literally, an offense in and of itself. 16 rebounds per game, with six of those coming via the offensive glass, is nothing to take lightly.

Crashing the glass gives Drummond ample opportunities to score close to the basket, which is clearly his bucket-getting strength. Now, I could certainly go into detail about how he needs get better at throwing his weight around and finishing at the rim (65 percent within four feet of the basket), but then I’d falling knee-deep into the same trap I was bitching about earlier.

Over the summer, Drummond received the green light from Dwane Casey to shoot threes as long as it’s within the offense. This “WTF-are-you-thinking strategy” was highly debatedround these parts during the off-season, but I think we can all agree the experiment hasn’t been nearly the disaster some fearlessly predicted.

Instead of bombs away beyond the arc, and on the rare occasions in which the big fella doesn’t inhale a defensive rebound, Drummond can be found sprinting towards the offensive block in an effort to establish positioning leading to early offense through the post (look at the shot clock):

As a reminder, save your post-up inefficiency jokes, we get it. This is a happy article :)

Other early offense two-man games featuring Drummond are plentiful:

In the halfcourt, Drummond’s fingerprints can easily be found on every offensive possession, even if he doesn’t touch the ball. His vertical influence, much like offense rebounding, could be considered a legit Pistons’ offense all by its lonesome:

The acquisition of Blake Griffin in late-January of this year required another new variable of which Drummond had to adapt to. Griffin, a bully-ball specialist, operated in the same offensive vicinity Drummond did and “OH MY GOD, what about the spacing?” became a default internet talking point for Pistons fans far and wide.

Like the Dre fear-mongering three-point green light talk, the Drummond/Griffin spacing concerns haven’t really panned out. Both are enjoying a variety of uncrowded touches. When Detroit struggles on offense (a scenario that happens far too often), it’s usually because of faulty perimeter shooting by the non-Drummond/non-Griffin guys on the roster.

Defense

For better or worse, the success of Detroit’s defense is a reflection of Andre Drummond. Rightfully, the mountain-high expectations come with the territory of being the biggest dude on the court for a majority of nights.

As we briefly discussed earlier, Drummond’s defensive motor and IQ are a staple of the Drummond-centric hate. There is absolutely merit to those accusations, but the frequency of his half-hearted play continues to shrink.

The conservative approach to defense is gaining steam throughout the league, and it’s something Dwane Casey sincerely subscribes to. Just because it’s described as “conservative,” however, doesn’t mean it’s any less challenging to execute.

For his part, Drummond has been saddled with a laundry list of defensive responsibilities, and we’ll start with the pick-and-roll.

The drop coverage Detroit employs to corral PNRs accomplishes a handful of defensive goals. First, it essentially concedes a non-paint field goal attempt, which, in the era of Morey Ball and shot spectrums, should be considered a win on a possession-to-possession basis:

The Pistons, and Drummond in particular, get into trouble when the on-ball defender (*coughReggieJacksoncough*) either dies on the screen or is late to recover. The result is an offensive two-on-one with a back-peddling Drummond trying to keep both the ball and his check in front of him:

As the anchor and chief rim protector, Drummond needs to do a bett…..hold on, I caught myself. This is a positive article :) It’s just so easy to go down that path.

The drop coverage, with no aggressive hedge or outright switch, also allows Detroit to keep their defensive matchup integrity, limit lengthy rotations, and provides the non-involved PNR defenders a chance to stay home on their checks.

The PNR is the most common action throughout the NBA and teams must navigate their way through between 75 - 100 PNRs per game. Some of those looks end up in shots while others get completely nixed. For their troubles, and per Cleaning the Glass, opponents take more mid-range attempts and the second-fewest shots at the rim against the Pistons than any other team. Make no mistake, Andre Drummond is the unsung hero to those numbers.

The use of drop coverage, as it pertains to Drummond, was something I railed against early on, but it’s hard to argue with the results. And, in the back of my head, I know this this type of smothering ability is still a viable option:

But only when needed.

With any free-flowing game, though, there are times the drop coverage won’t be on the menu. Drummond, like few others his size, can relatively stay with the best ball-handlers in the league. Even though sometimes, sadly, it doesn’t end in his favor:

He’s always up for the challenge.

All it takes is a simple reminder to use Casey’s emphasized stick arm approach to right his wrongs:

How many true bigs can do that on a consistent basis?

Speaking of incredible defensive endeavors, Caris LeVert found out first-hand about Drummond’s super human recovery:

The (normally) two-foot-jumper Drummond rejected LeVert’s shot from his weak (jumping) leg and with the use of his off-hand. If you’re not impressed, you should be.

As we discussed earlier, getting to the rim against Detroit is a tough chore, but finishing is much simpler. Pistons’ opponents are shooting nearly 70-percent from within four feet of the cup. Again, like it or not, it’s a reflection on Drummond. Unlike previous seasons, however, the sense of urgency doesn’t seem to be lost on Andre. During the Pistons’ overtime win against Houston, Drummond rejected five of James Harden’s shots:

I mean, what do you say to that?

Andre Drummond will never be the best player on a championship team. The sooner we all accept that faith, the sooner we can appreciate the man for what he actually is, and that’s one helluva player. Our perception of what we think he could be is not reality.

(Blake, if you’re reading this, don’t read too much into all the love. You’re still my guy and still my Piston. Please call me back.)