In an era where the big bruising center has been replaced with the lithe seven-foot shooter, Andre Drummond continues to be a remnant of a time long past that really was not that long ago. Drummond gets a lot of hate, and some of it has been deserved in the past. His motor wavers seemingly from game to game. His attention dips at times and he is occasionally unplayable because of it. His shortcomings become glaringly clear too, like his inability to shoot completing stagnating the offense.
And despite that, Detroit needs him. The era of centers only being rebound vacuums and put back specialists may be over, but while the rest of the league zigs the Pistons must zag. The 25-year-old is still coming into his own and is coming off a tremendous season.
Drummond finished the 2018-2019 campaign with career-high per-game averages in points, offensive rebounds, and steals. He led the league in total rebounds per game. His net rating was a career-high 3.4, and his offensive rating was a career-best 111.2. What do all of those numbers mean? Andre Drummond, for the whole season, produced more points per 100 possessions than he gave up. Compared to all other starting centers who played at least 79 games, Drummond was only behind Brook Lopez (!!!), Rudy Gobert, Steven Adams, Nikola Jokic, and Nikola Vucevic. That’s a few All-Stars and an MVP candidate.
Does that make Drummond elite among centers? Well in rebounding, for sure. He had a higher rebounding percentage, 22.8% than all of those other centers and by a healthy margin. He grabbed more offensive rebounds per game than any other player in the league period, resetting possessions or going back up for a put back. Offensive rebounding is a critical aspect in today’s “shoot-first” league and got average guys like Tristian Thompson massive contracts. Drummond does that and plenty more.
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Offensively, he was more efficient than he ever has been. Drummond had the seventh-most field goal makes per game last season among starting centers who played at least 70 games. No, these are not coming off of three-pointers as much as people would love to see. He makes his money in the paint and that will likely not be changing.
Drummond maintained the higher efficiency offense while still being a solid defensive player. His defensive rating is good for tenth-best among starting centers who played at least 70 games. It was a downgrade over the past few seasons, but enough was done on the offensive end to outweigh the defensive inefficiencies.
So the rampant request around roughly one-third of Pistons fans on Twitter have asked for is to trade Andre Drummond. And in a way, I understand where that is coming from. Drummond is due to make $27.093 million next season with a player option the following year for $28.75 million. He will more than likely pick that option up too. He is expensive and does not do the thing that seemingly every center can do – shoot threes and space out an offense. Most of the teams who won a playoff series had a center who could do just that, like Jokic, Lopez, Joel Embiid, Marc Gasol, and Al Horford. The trend is shooting big man, that is the reality.
But here is the same reality: Detroit is not going to be able to get rid of Drummond and his contract without incentivizing the other team with an additional asset. The Pistons do not have a cupboard of assets like Boston and Philadelphia do (or, used to have at least) to play around with. Attaching a Luke Kennard-level piece to Drummond sets the team back, no matter how nice it may make you feel to not see number zero lumbering around the paint. Rebuilding teams with the cap space to absorb his contract do not want to suffocate their cap sheets without getting a significant piece to make the pain tolerable.
This may sound like me telling you, the reader and probable Pistons fan, to suck it up. And in a way, I am. Having a dominant center who gobbles rebounds at an elite level and just posted the most efficient offensive season of his career is very promising. The reason the Pistons did not win a playoff game stretches beyond Drummond, to the poor roster construction and salary cap situation. Blake Griffin and Drummond are one of the more intriguing frontcourts in the NBA. It may be tough to watch at times, and his lack of an outside game may be frustrating, but Andre Drummond was an elite level center this past season.
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