Friday, October 18, 2013

Previewing '13-'14: Andre Drummond

This is a series previewing every player on the Pistons roster before the season kicks into gear. Previously: Jonas JerebkoJosh Harrellson, (I wrote a Luigi Datome preview that was lost to the internet; RIP Datome preview), Peyton SivaTony MitchellCharlie VillanuevaRodney StuckeyKyle SinglerChauncey Billups, Will Bynum, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith

'12-'13 stats

It is no coincidence that Andre Drummond is the last player previewed in this series. Drummond is a franchise-changing player. If you need convincing, Google "Andre Dummond highlight" and you'll get something like this:

Highlight plays are nice, but numbers talk and the ones above are not particularly impressive. That is until you look at the advanced stats:

Reb% OReb% Block% Steal% OffRating DefRating

To put that in perspective, Drummond, whose minutes didn't qualify him for Basketball Reference leaderboards, would have been 3rd in the league in rebound percentage, 2nd in offensive rebound percentage, 5th in block percentage, 17th in steal percentage, and 10th in defensive rating. In other words, bonkers. The only thing holding Drummond back last season was a back injury and Lawrence Frank's inexplicable refusal to play him.

No one is quite sure what to expect from year two. Barring injury, the sky is the limit for Drummond, who could either dominate the league and catapult the Pistons or show more of the raw offensive and defensive skills that typified his rookie season. If the preseason is any indication, Drummond will spend more time posting up defenders to mixed results, while offering the same high-motor, shot-blocking defense that enraptured the league.

Mo Cheeks is intent on finding out what the franchise has in Drummond, though. He has openly stated that Drummond will get as many minutes as he can handle. How that affects Greg Monroe's minutes could cause friction in the frontcourt, but with the revamped Pistons roster, it's the right move to make. Concerns arise about Drummond's spinal injury from last season, but given the myriad issues that led to the injury (bad posture, an increased workload, etc), I'm cautiously optimistic that Drummond is not an injury-prone big man.

He has the potential to be a program-defining player. Drummond has a combination of size and athleticism that only Dwight Howard can match. Maximizing his skills, playing time, and on-court impact this season will determine whether or not he can truly be the franchise player Pistons fans are yearning for.

Projected '13-'14 role: Starting center
No debates here. Drummond will start at center unless injury holds him out of the lineup. With relatively thin frontcourt depth, Drummond should see significant minutes, with only Greg Monroe spelling him for a rest.

Projected '13-'14 stats

What does this mean for the team?
Regardless of who is playing next to Drummond in the frontcourt, the team should have an intimidating back line. Drummond's hands are unprecedented for a big man, making him one of the best rebounders in the league, allowing the Pistons to get out in transition (a stated goal of Mo Cheeks) as well as find second-chance points. The preseason has already shown the difficulty of playing Monroe, Drummond, and Smith together, but Drummond is the untouchable player in that trio: he will get his minutes as long as he's healthy. I expect Drummond to lead the league in rebounding this year, and if his gradually improving free throwing shooting (he's 12-21 in the preseason, a far cry from the 37% he shot last year) is any indication, Drummond could quickly become the most dominant center in the league.

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