The Detroit Pistons know what they’re going to get from Andre Drummond every night – a handful of highlight-worthy dunks and a ton of rebounds, offensive and defensive.
As has been the case since getting his first consistent minutes in the 2013-’14 season, the Pistons’ big man has been dominating inside and on the glass through the first half of the season. While Drummond has always been a pain to handle on the boards with his 6’11, 280-pound frame, he has done so much more for the team than just gobble up rebounds and finish lobs this season. Drummond’s current statistics of 14.3 points and 15 rebounds (as of December 29th) don’t exactly scream improvement over his first All-Star year in 2016 – 16.3 points and 14.8 rebounds – and could even be looked at as a step back for those that haven’t watched the star center; however, many of the things Drummond has improved upon to help the Pistons this season haven’t shown up in the scorebook.
When it comes to improvements, let’s start with the most obvious one – free throws. After becoming the worst qualified free throw shooter in the history of the NBA last season, Drummond has improved his accuracy at the stripe by over twenty-four percent. That significant of a jump is unheard of in the league and an improvement that seems so simple at its core makes a much bigger impact than just extra points on the board. In fact, even with the skyrocketing percentages, Drummond isn’t actually getting more points from the line (2.6 in 2015-’16 to 3.1 in 2017-’18) due to a large decrease in attempts. (7.2 in 2015-’16 to 4.9 in 2017-’18) How the improvement does benefit the Pistons, however, is by giving the team more possessions, keeping the game from slowing down and killing momentum, and keeping Drummond from getting into his own head while also allowing him to stay on the floor in late-game situations.
Drummond’s role in the offense has changed dramatically this season, and while some of it can be credited to coaching, not every big man can become the playmaker that Dre has become in this new offense. In this new offense where he is given the ball at the high post, leading to either a hand-off or a pass to a backdoor-cutter, Drummond has plenty more opportunities to assist his teammates – and takes advantage. His assist numbers rival his free throws for the biggest improvement Drummond has made this year – jumping from a lackluster 0.8 assists per game in 2015-’16 to an astounding 3.6 in 2017-’18; to put this in perspective, Drummond assists nearly 18 percent of the Pistons’ field goals while he is on the floor this season, compared to just 4.4 percent in 2015-’16.
Here is just one of the highlight-worthy dimes from the big man this season:
The best way to describe Dre’s offensive improvements this season is ‘doing more with less’, considering his usage is down three percent, (24.1 percent in 2015-’16 to 21.1 percent in 2017-’18) yet his offensive rating has skyrocketed ten points since his last All-Star campaign. In other words, Drummond is being used in fewer plays than previous seasons but is producing ten more points for the team, per 100 possessions.
However, Drummond’s road to All-Stardom is being faced with what could become a huge roadblock:
After looking much healthier for the majority of the new season, Reggie Jackson went down with a grade 3 ankle sprain against the Indiana Pacers last week, sidelining him until March, at the earliest. We saw what happened to Drummond’s play when Jackson was out with knee tendinitis last season, and it was not pretty. With Drummond’s role in the new offensive scheme coach Stan Van Gundy has implemented, however, I am confident that Drummond will be able to keep the team and his All-Star chances alive, as he is no longer a center that is entirely helpless on offense without a playmaker – because he is the playmaker. Jackson’s injury most likely won’t help Drummond, but unlike last season, he won’t entirely collapse.
Andre Drummond is a smarter, more skilled basketball player than he was two seasons ago, and even with the emergence of young big men such as Kristaps Porzingis and Joel Embiid, Dre will find a spot for himself at All-Star weekend.
Featured Image – (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)