Last year was another solid year statistically for Drummond as he averaged 17.3 pointers per game, and once again lead the league in rebounds with an astounding 15.7 per game, his third time leading the league in the last four seasons. But this year seems different than all his previous seasons. Drummond seems more focused and poised to establish himself as one of the top centers in the NBA. He took it hard last year when he was not selected to participate in the 2019 NBA All-Star Game. After that snub, Drummond went on a tear after the All-Star Weekend, until the end of the regular season. But once the Pistons played the Bucks in the playoffs, his performances were underwhelming and his presence on the court shrunk, and he was even met with boos from the hometown crowd during Game 3.
The team is currently at a crossroads with their All-Star Center. Drummond remains to be the only well-known commodity on the free-agent market, as some younger, more valued players are signing extensions with their current teams. The Pistons would love to have Drummond back for future years, but at the price of $190 million over 5 years, potentially, that is a huge commitment for a team to make. Especially, for a player that isn’t even, on average, a twenty-point per night scorer who also plays arguably the least important position in the league. Drummond will need to show the organization that he can be a dominant yet mature force when on the court. More than ever with the arrival of Christian Wood, who looked competent as a cheap center option for Detroit. The Pistons now have options on what to do if Drummond decides to leave them in free agency. Wood is a young and exciting player at the backup-center position – he can score from long-range and runs the floor with purpose. He offers a lot offensively that Drummond doesn’t and at a much cheaper price. If talks between Drummond and the Pistons start to head south and Wood is continuing to be uber-productive, it won’t be surprising to see the team try to shop Drummond’s contract around the league and insert Wood in his place as their starting new center, at least for the rest of the season.
Normally players raise their level of competitive play during “contract years” in hopes of securing a larger, more lucrative contract for the following year. I don’t expect it to be any different with Drummond. The Pistons need Dre to be more engaged and focus when he’s playing this season. Even in some preseason games this year, he has exhibited some good passing skills and consistency when scoring down low in the post. He seems more relaxed and no longer easily frustrated when things don’t go his way. Blake Griffin may be the star of the team, but Drummond is the heart and soul – he has been here the longest and has come to adopt Detroit as his home. I don’t doubt that the Pistons will do everything in their power to retain him for future years to come, but Dre needs to hold up his end of the bargain if he wants to be gifted with a larger contract. He must show that night in, and night out, he can play within himself. He has to become that player who can affect the game even when his shot isn’t falling. Dre needs to allow his whole repertoire of skills to be on full display this season. He especially needs that for himself, in a critical contact year.
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