Can he really do this for a full season?
That was the question of the offseason for Detroit Pistons fans as they wrestled with the reality of the dominant, frustrating, puzzling, maddening Andre Drummond.
Drummond was coming off the best basketball of his career in the second half of the 2018-19 season. Drummond was elite — he had taken the step — and he was performing at such a high level even his biggest doubters were forced to do a double take.
It all started, strangely, with a concussion.
After suffering a concussion in January, Drummond came back a new man. From Jan. 25 to the end of the season, Drummond averaged 18.6 points, 16.5 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 1.8 blocks, and 1.7 steals. And for the anti-counting stats crowd, he did it with a true shooting percentage of 61.1.
High volume, high efficiency and quality defense.
Contract Year Dre
Now, he’s heading into a contract year and Drummond needs to prove that his play during that stretch is not just sustainable but the new normal. Especially if he wants a max contract.
Nine games into the season there are no definitive answers. Early returns, however, are encouraging.
His numbers this season: 21.9 points, 18.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.2 blocks, and 1.7 steals with a true shooting percentage of 60.6.
Drummond has been playing out of his frickin’ mind so far this season.
Without Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson, Derrick Rose, or, really, any point guard, he sort of has to. Absent all that firepower, most people would peg the Pistons for a 1-8 record right about now. However, due to Drummond’s sheer dominance, the Pistons sit at 4-5.
Griffin is, thankfully, close to a return, but in the meantime Drummond has kept the Pistons competitive and afloat with nothing but duct tape and sticky glue.
Drummond is dominating in ways no Pistons fan could’ve imagined even three years ago.
Without Jackson and Griffin, there’s no one on the Pistons that is especially adept at making Drummond’s life on offense easier — nobody to throw lobs his way or give him an easy look near the basket. In Detroit’s previous game against the Knicks, Langston Galloway threw a lob to Drummond and it almost sent #PistonsTwitter into cardiac arrest.
Setting a New Standard
With the absence of all of Detroit’s primary creators and ball handlers, Drummond has been forced to not only be the main initiator of offense for his teammates, but he’s also been forced to create offense for himself.
Along with having a career-high usage rate of 26.5%, Drummond is being assisted on only 57% of his made baskets. Compare this to some of the most offensively skilled big men, and he’s below them.
Karl Anthony Towns is being assisted on 60% of his field goals while Nikola Vucevic is being assisted on 80% of his baskets. Historically, you’d look at Drummond, see how much he’s trying to get for himself and just sigh.
However, Drummond has been shockingly efficient. His true shooting percentage of 60.6 is a career-high. If you told anyone that giving Drummond more responsibility in the offense would result in career-high efficiency in the summer, you’d get laughed out of town.
But, that’s exactly what’s happened.
Drummond has shown an improved ball-handle and ability to get to the rim that he only flashed in previous seasons. Shooting a career-high from the free throw line, 67.3% (following seasons of 60% and 59%, respectively), has given Drummond confidence to attack physically and aggressively, with no worries of being fouled.
Which, in and of itself, is quite insane. This dude was shooting 38% from the free-throw line just four years ago. To raise that percentage by 30 points is almost unheard of and deserves more than just a pat on the back.
Without the concern of getting sent to the foul the line the kind of ugly, rushed shots are mostly a thing of the past. We’re seeing a player gather himself, move players out the way with his strength, and finishing over or through them.
Once again, this is on a decimated team missing all it’s offensive firepower and leaving Drummond as, gulp, maybe the best offensive option. And defenses are aware of this.
Not only is Drummond having a career year efficiency wise while also having more responsibility than ever, he’s doing it with players that are no more than role players.
His starting point guard is Bruce Brown, like, come on people.
Brown has shown that point guard could be his natural position in the future, but this is his second year and first time playing point guard in the NBA.
Drummond doesn’t have the luxury of playing alongside Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, and Al Horford in a lineup with him.
Protecting the Paint
Oh, and did I mention that Drummond currently leads the NBA in total deflections?
Yeah, we’ve been only discussing his offensive surge. Don’t think the defense has been forgotten.
Along with averaging a career-high 2.2 blocks per game, Drummond has 37 deflections on the year, seven more than the second place Lonzo Ball. Drummond has been an absolute lunatic in pick-and-roll defense.
There are not many players in the entire NBA who can consistently play drop coverage, and:
Cover the ball-handler while also taking away away lob threats.
And also disrupt passes to cause fast break opportunities.
This is while playing alongside some of the worst perimeter defense in the entire NBA. Drummond has defended more shots than anyone else in the NBA. Of the 25 players who have defended the most shots within six feet of the basket, Drummond ranks 7th, allowing opponents to hit 49.3%. That is right below Al Horford and right above Aron Baynes in the rankings.
Drummond is no doubt rotating and contesting shots, timing wise, better than ever. But, this also shows that the perimeter defense of the Pistons guards is the equivalent of a third base coach waving his players in at all times.
The Pistons defense rating is 110.1 which ranks 22nd, but this is not due to Drummond’s efforts. Drummond is currently top three in both block and steals in the NBA.
Outside of Brown, who has struggled on the defensive end so far this year, the Pistons lack any plus defender on the perimeter. The Pistons also turn the ball over 17.4 times per game, which leads to easy offense for the opposing team.
no matter how good Drummond is on defense, it wont change until the Pistons perimeter defense shores up and the turnover number gets cut down.
The Best Ability is Availability
And because this author knows it’s coming ...
No. Effort has not been a problem.
Let Dwane Casey tell it, it has never been a problem with Drummond.
“I think sometimes his body language gives you the (impression) that he’s not playing hard, which is unfair ... I’ve never questioned Andre’s effort ... sometimes his mistakes, not his effort.”
You wanna know what effort and hard work looks like?
Averaging close to a 20-20 per game, averaging 2.2 blocks and two steals a game, while playing THE MOST minutes in the NBA.
The best ability is availability, and Drummond has been more than available for the Pistons this season and throughout his career.
Drummond doesn’t miss games due to sore knees and sicknesses.
Drummond doesn’t miss games due to load management.
Since 2014, Drummond has only missed nine(!) games.
Combine this with Casey acknowledging that, “every year, (Drummond) is going to bring something new to the table.” Players don’t play the most minutes in the NBA, improve each season of their career, if they don’t have “effort” or aren’t “hard-working.”
Drummond shows up and he plays almost every game for the Detroit Pistons. He’s been a superstar this season and is putting the league on notice. He already recorded three straight 20-20 games, when the rest of the league has only had one such game.
He’s having the best and most efficient season of his eight-year career.
He’s combining his quick hands on defense with timing around the rim, showcasing the best defensive play we’ve seen in his career.
After recently being robbed of the season’s first Player of the Week honors, Drummond was straight to the point.
“I don’t really even care about none of that (expletive), to be honest,” he told the media. “As long as my teammates and my staff feel like I can get the job done, what the media or anybody else says doesn’t matter me.”
So, no, Andre Drummond doesn’t need your respect.
But he damn sure deserves it.