clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The complicated tenure of Andre Drummond

New, comments

With Drummond gone, and the fan base awash in mixed emotions, it’s time to reflect on the player he truly was

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Los Angeles Clippers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

We all had the feeling this day was coming:

Andre Drummond, Cleveland Cavaliers’ center.

Pretty much that.

OK, the Cleveland Cavaliers part isn’t true. No one legitimately thought Cleveland would take a two-month flyer on the two-time All-Star. But they did.

Anyway, quite long ago we saw the day coming that Andre Drummond would no longer be a Detroit Piston.

The Drummond-Pistons relationship had run its course. It had been over for a while, actually. It’s just that the paperwork had not been filed yet. Most of us had already begun to deal with it and comes to terms.

However, as Pistons fans, the ick factor we are all currently feeling about this basketball breakup is a direct result of due return not exchanging hands, right?

Even with realizing the frightening chances of Andre opting in and how the Pistons, above all else, just frankly wanted to end the relationship, I think most of us are still in shock over how little Detroit received in exchange.

Based on the paltry return, it’s clear that Detroit was wary of the chances Drummond would opt into his contract and soak up about $28 million of its cap space.

Paltry return, indeed. The Pistons got in return for Andre maybe one end-of-the-rotation player (John Henson). Plus, don’t get too excited, they received a 2023 second-round pick. And, who could forget former Piston Brandon Knight, who is just barely hanging on in the NBA and is dealing with knee trouble this season.

I almost want to shout out ‘Fake News!’ to anyone within earshot. That return can’t be true, can it? Can you even call it a return?

‘...Fake News!’ *looks around*

After settling down and taking a deep breathe — or nap — logical Pistons fans can determine that what the Pistons got in return for Andre Drummond was freedom. Immediate freedom.

And maybe some peace of mind too.

As I wrote, the relationship had run its course. There’s enough blame to go around, so take solace in that.

———

ANDRE CAME A LONG WAY

During seven-plus seasons in the NBA, Andre made himself into a very good player. He’s improved in almost every facet of the game. Sure, he’s improved in certain facets much more than in others. Do you remember Andre in his first two years? If you searched “raw” in the NBA dictionary at that time, it was a clip of Andre on the court.

Free-throw shooting: After five seasons of sub 42% shooting from the foul line, each of the past three seasons he’s been shooting above 58%. This is secretly one of the biggest turnarounds at the line in NBA history. Andre worked hard to make free-throw shooting an area of is game where it wasn’t a colossal weakness. His form completely changed, and for the most part it has worked. Props must be given.

Any other type of shooting: Both the stats and the eye test are not going to be kind. Moving on.

Offensive repertoire: Andre’s offense still isn’t a strength of his, but it’s much more fluid and refined than it was when he came into the league. He will still gladly overpower people —which often works — and he will go around people as well. His jump hook has its moments too.

There was evidence of Andre’s offensive capability WAAYYYY back in 2014/15 (his third season):

Now back to opening night in 2019, where Andre displayed his touch:

There are times when Andre creating for himself or for others just isn’t a wise decision. Outlet to a guard, Andre. Other times, you see the finesse and ball handling ability and it gets you giddy:

Andre’s been improving at this more and more over the last few seasons. Essentially, if you’re as agile as Andre and as capable of a finisher as he is, facing up and going downhill one-on-one will make the defender make a split second choice on how to defend. Advantage: offensive player.

Defense: Andre has excellent physical ability. He’s a phenomenal athlete for his size. He’s agile. His hands are alarmingly quick. They are also soft and nimble. He’s a quick and powerful jumper. Andre’s instincts on the glass are some of the best you’ll see. The big issue with Andre’s defense is partly, well...

ANDRE’S EFFORT:

Quarter to quarter, no one knew what to expect from the big man in terms of effort. Was he going to give 70% effort? 95%? 100%?

Plays like this were commonplace several times a game:

Here’s another half-assed effort. No playoff wins in seven full seasons, you don’t say?

This wasn’t a one-season thing either. It’s been going on for years. Call it lack of effort, lack of focus, lack of whatever, it’s been a problem and to some extent maybe it always will be. Perhaps Andre being in a mostly perpetual losing environment is largely to blame for consistent lapses in effort and focus. Frustrating that there’s so many questions and so few answers.

If you are going to be a defensive anchor, you must be consistent. Andre was not. The extremely frustrating aspect is that Andre has most of the physical and mental tools to be a defensive anchor: that encompasses team defense and individual, one-on-one defense. Although he likely never had all the tools to be a defensive force like Rudy Gobert is, he could easily have a better defensive reputation and receive more publicity for his stretches of strong defense like he did early this season.

Nice defensive stats do not make for a good or great defensive player. Make no mistake, Andre’s stats are largely pretty darn good. We are all aware. But how about, as I alluded to above, the countless unaccounted for plays where the other team gets a free pass to the hoop with no rim protection or even a possible contest to be seen for miles, or when Andre’s man is scoring bucket after bucket in the paint on him. Where are the stats for those plays? Say, I think those are called buckets for the other team. Simply, the non-casuals among us can clearly see the issue — you must look at the stats AND watch the games.

For Pistons fans that often had a negative perception of Andre, the effort question was the main reason why. Can you blame them?

VERY LITTLE HELP IN DETROIT

During Andre’s tenure in Detroit, help was a naughty word. He never had an All-Star to go to battle with (besides Blake Griffin last season). He barely had any fringe All-Star caliber players to go to battle with. No players who could both score and defend at a solid rate. This isn’t Andre’s fault. It’s just a shame. There was no quality framework in place for Andre to grow. As neither a number one banana or number two banana type of talent, Andre desperately needed more structure, talent and a balanced system around him to rightfully grow.

Just in case your memory is fuzzy, remember Sean Corp’s Ranking Every Single Detroit Pistons Player of the Past Decade piece published on the last day of 2019? I know most of us had to sit down for it.

WHAT NOW FOR ANDRE?

Andre either flounders in Cleveland or flourishes somewhere else that already has a winning environment. It could be very depressing to watch or it could be exciting and gratifying, depending on how it shakes out. If the pieces are not put around Andre in Cleveland, then there likely won’t be much of a change from what resulted in Detroit. He’ll get his gaudy stats among the pile up of losses and meaningless games. It won’t be all his fault. The Cavaliers roster is pretty nonsensical as currently constructed.

———

A month before last season I wrote on Detroit Bad Boys (in our Kool-Aid Stand series) that Andre would be in the running for MVP. My genuine efforts to write and think it into existence fell short.

Though, what I wrote about Andre’s potential, and if it’s been reached, is still relevant.

Does Andre Drummond want to be a great player instead of just a very good player? I don’t know. You don’t know. Probably only very few people know the answer to that — and obviously Andre is one of those people who knows.

Even if Andre truly wants to be one of the all-time greats, he may not get there despite his most pure and stringent efforts. And that’s totally OK. But the Andre Drummond that exists right now has certainly not reached his full potential. I would venture to say he’s not even gotten close to it. And Andre knows that.

Andre playing basketball in a winning environment will be insanely interesting to follow. At this point, wrong or right, it may be the most important thing that helps him reach new heights. An environment in which winning is expected could change his mindset and give him a fresh slate to work with.

This summer I know Pistons fans we’ll be keeping an eye on where Andre lands.