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Andre Drummond is making an early case for Defensive Player Of The Year

Andre Drummond has taken his defensive ability up a level to start the year

Atlanta Hawks v Detroit Pistons Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

Andre Drummond has had a wonderful start to the new NBA season. Other than his performance against Philadelphia, Drummond has been able to showcase some of his offensive abilities. In his four games so far this season, Drummond has posted up an average of 21 points per game, 16.3 rebounds, 1.8 steals, and 2.3 blocks on a high 60 percent shooting from the field.

But something significant has stuck out with Drummond in the last four games. No, it isn’t his Kyrie Irving-esque layup attempts. It’s the positive defensive impact he has had for the team to start the season. If you’ve been watching the Pistons play, the eye test should immediately tell you how well Drummond has played defensively. Whether it’s help-side defense or on-ball defense, Drummond has been able to make offense difficult for the opposing team.

If you don’t believe Drummond has been good defensively with the eye test, let the stats talk for themselves. With his 2.3 blocks and 1.8 steals in the first four games, Andre is one of only two players in the entire league (joining Karl-Anthony Towns) to average at least 1.5 steals and 2.0 blocks to start the season.

“Well, blocks and steals don’t really tell the whole story.” You’re sorta right about that, so let’s go deeper into the stats.

Last year, Drummond was able to end the season strong defensively. In the last 34 games of the season, the team had a defensive rating of 107.6 when Drummond was on the court versus a 110.3 defensive rating when Drummond was off the court. This season, the Pistons have a defensive rating of 104.7 when Drummond is on the court versus a 110.4 defensive rating when Drummond is off the court. This is pretty significant due to the fact that Drummond has been forced to play a load of minutes (he’s up to 35 minutes a night, and ninth in the league in total minutes), and those minutes have been with both good and bad defensive lineups that Dwane Casey put on the court.

“This defensive rating numbers could be misleading sometimes. I still don’t believe Drummond has been good defensively.” Sure. Lets look at a few simpler stats that might change your mind. Last year, Andre Drummond led all centers in deflections with 225. That ranked him sixth in the entire league last season. The next center (Nikola Jokic) barely cracked the top 20 list with 195 total deflections. This season Drummond ranks third in total deflections this season with 16, trailing only Lonzo Ball and Patrick Beverley.

Still not buying in? Well here is probably my favorite defensive stat that I’ve found. Drummond has done a pretty good job of containing opponent players around that painted area. But how well has he actually defended it? Well, players being guarded by Andre Drummond are shooting 18.8% on 8 field goal attempts a game on shots 5-9 feet from the basket. Overall, Pistons opponents have shot 27.1% in that field goal range. This is a big improvement over last season, where the Pistons allowed opponents to shoot 41.7% in that area, sixth-worst in the league.

Obviously that 27.1% number isn’t sustainable. But if Drummond can help the Pistons stay somewhere under 35%, it would be a huge improvement from last season.

Now, I don’t think Andre Drummond will win Defensive Player Of The Year. Not because his defense hasn’t been good enough, because of a couple other things that will set him back in voting. The first one is the voters. Drummond doesn’t have the reputation of being an elite defender. He’s never been in talks for the award in prior seasons. So it would be hard for voters to put him up there immediately. Second is that he’s never made an All Defensive Team. And third is that the Pistons might not win many games. The Pistons would probably have to win somewhere around 45-47 wins to even be considered for the award.

Even if Andre doesn’t win Defensive Player of the Year, though, if he maintains the gains he’s made in the steal and block categories, keeps his deflections at a league-high for centers, and the Pistons continue to be a great defensive team when he’s on the floor, an All-Defense appearance isn’t out of the question. An All-Defense spot would help Andre out in his contract negotiations this offseason, too.