Andre Drummond Insiders
Would anybody be willing to share these? I'm a huge Pistons fan and would greatly appreciate it. Thanks ahead
David Thorpe's article
Kevin Pelton's article
Andre Drummond has been a revelation. Not only is he playing like someone who should have been the second pick in the draft (instead of the ninth), but he has executives and coaches thinking he can be the best player from this class. Yes, better than No. 1 pick and national collegiate player of the year Anthony Davis.
But as amazing as Drummond has been, and as bright as the future looks in Detroit, there is still a huge learning curve for him to undergo if he is going to be an All-Star-level performer, which is absolutely in his wheelhouse. (That's what an 18-point, 18-rebound game as a 19-year-old will do for your projected future.)
Being as young as he is gives both the Pistons and him time to develop his game the right way. But if they want to get back into playoff contention sooner, Detroit will need him to improve faster and to higher heights than most.
So how can Detroit do that with Drummond? Here's a four-step manual:
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1 Damian Lillard
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4 Andrew Nicholson
5 Bradley Beal
6 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
7 Jared Sullinger
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1. Improve conditioning and strength
The conditioning aspect of the game is typically as much a mental hurdle as it is a physical one. Being able to run, spring, push, pull, jump and shoot for three quarters of the game and still have the energy to produce late in games certainly takes a finely conditioned athlete. In time, Drummond can get to that level. But he must be able to think for that amount of time, too. And that is more often the problem with young players, and possibly a reason why he averaged only 22.2 minutes in January.
Bobby Knight once said concentration was the single most important thing for a basketball player. For Drummond to be able to handle 100 to 180 more minutes per month, he'll first need to prepare himself for that task. So incorporating better eating habits and off-day workouts will be in order. Concentration is impossible for tired athletes. Once he is in fine shape, he'll be better able to handle the increased mental workload, which also will improve with experience.
Increased strength is a necessity as well, as the more punishment he can dish out, the more energy he'll save; it takes less energy to dish out than to receive. I'd be wary of adding weight and instead focus on increased lean muscle mass. Think Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard -- lean and strong rather than big and bulky.
2. Value position on the floor
Earlier in their careers, LeBron James and Kevin Durant felt as though they could score wherever they first caught a pass. While they were right at times, they didn't score so efficiently when they started their offense far from the basket.
It's a lesson most players have to learn, including Drummond, if he ever wants to be a scorer. He loves to fly to the rim on offensive putbacks and lobs in transition, or catch a sweet dime from a teammate driving and dropping. But he typically doesn't even try to catch passes in the paint when he's being defended -- he either chooses to just walk away from the paint or allows himself to be shoved out.
As James and Durant learned, every step closer to the rim that they catch the ball increases their chances of getting to the rim, drawing a foul or both. When Drummond begins to punish guys inside, sealing them on his butt or pinning them to one side of his hips or the other, all while he's in the paint, his scoring numbers will soar. The prime real estate on a basketball court is the land directly under and around the rim.
3. Have a post plan
Duncan attacks the middle repeatedly from the low post -- I once heard that he went middle on his post moves 175 consecutive times. Whether that's accurate, the point remains: Attacking middle is the best move for a posting player. By going middle first, the post player has passing options anywhere on the floor rather than only to the corner if he turns baseline first. It also means he has a counter to the baseline, where there is rarely help waiting, as opposed to countering middle into the teeth of the defense. Duncan knows this, puts it into his scoring plan and then executes it.
Asking Drummond to finish shots at a high rate when he's being defended well is not fair at this point in his career, but asking him to understand the best way to attack a defender is. His plan can change from game to game and possession to possession, but it should include things such as: attack middle, use quick attacks, show shot fakes, take sharp angles, build one counter, then add a second.
Once Drummond creates his plan of attack from the post, he will give himself a better foundation to read and react to the defense, and even the ability to dictate his offense, which is the key to any great post scorer. As he adds moves to his arsenal he can edit his plan, but it should begin with being simple yet powerful. Being indecisive or making a baseline move initially are recipes for turnovers and missed shots. Because of that, Drummond does not hunt post position as he could.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Go up strong, big man!
4. Play with balance
Picture this: A center grabbing the ball inside off of a rebound or a pass, shot-faking violently while staying in the exact same spot, then exploding straight up and dunking the ball powerfully straight down. It's something we've seen Shaquille O'Neal and Howard do countless times.
The reason that image is ingrained in our minds is that most big men don't make that play enough. Many bigs just twist while off-balance to get a shot off quickly or quick-jump back up as opposed to gathering and powerfully going up.
But Drummond is a physical force. If he were to hold the ball tightly, use his body and arms to shield it from prying hands, then lift off the way a rocket takes off from a launching pad, he'd be mostly untouchable as he dunked or finished over the rim. He'd probably earn more free throws as well.
Drummond makes less than 45 percent of his shots close to the rim, a number certain to rise when he starts his shot with a better foundation -- legs spread, knees bent, ball protected. It's one reason why I like shot fakes for players inside -- it slows them down and helps them gather before they make their move.
In time, Drummond should have improved strength and power to play with more balance even on quick action plays. He will be even more dangerous if he adds a violent fake because the defender will be hyper-aware of Drummond's ability to finish that first move.
With his enormous upside, Drummond has drawn comparisons to Howard, who has dominated thanks to the same formula that made O'Neal into a legend: (1) incredible agility with a huge body; (2) great power and balance inside; and (3) the disposition to dominate the paint.
Drummond has the first box checked off. And he has shown flashes of the other two. Still, hundreds of talented men have shown glimpses and now reside on benches in the NBA or on rosters in Europe. Drummond is no longer seen as a risk of a prospect, but he needs to make progress in those latter two areas to be the best player he can be. Following the four-step plan above will help him reach stardom sooner rather than later.
Andre Drummond put up 18 points and 18 rebounds in just 28 minutes on Tuesday, the latest in a series of big stat lines in short minutes for the 19-year-old rookie. Pistons fans, enduring what looks like a fourth straight season without De-troit Bas-ket-ball in the postseason, are clamoring to see more of the prodigiously talented young center -- and to make their case, they point to his stats.
Yet on the national scene, it's hard for a guy averaging 7.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game to make a big impression while coming off the bench for a team that's never on ESPN or TNT. A few dunks, a few YouTube clips, sure -- but lots of players have those items on their résumé.
At just 20 minutes per game, it's hard to get folks to take Drummond seriously as a rookie of the year candidate or as player who matters much. What's so great about averaging 8 and 8 for a bad team?
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Here's the thing: When we dig just below the surface, we can see the numbers suggest the NBA's next great center may be disguised as a role player for a lottery team. In fact, Drummond's first 46 games have put him in the conversation with Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal.
Yes, Shaq. The Big Penguin could become Superman III.
So what's going on in the Palace?
The way Detroit uses Drummond puts the lie to a basketball truism, which is that the best players play the most minutes. The relationship between performance and playing time isn't perfect, which is why statistical analysts look at per-minute or per-possession stats to put players on a level playing field. Still, it's hard to find examples of players who combine elite performance with limited minutes the way Drummond has during his rookie season.
Let's take a look specifically at rookies. I've charted win percentage, the per-minute version of my WARP ratings, against minutes per game for every rookie with at least 500 minutes played dating back to 1979-80, the first season of the three-point line.
In this chart, the vertical line shows production and the horizontal line shows minutes. For instance, David Robinson had fantastic production as a 24-year-old rookie in 37 minutes per game, while Tim Duncan, as a 21-year-old rookie, produced a little less than Robinson per minute, but played even more (39 minutes per game).
Most of the rookies, as you can see, cluster around a normal range of playing time and performance. But it's easy to see on this chart that Drummond is producing at an elite level while getting relatively little playing time.
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So why hasn't Drummond played more minutes? Only Pistons coach Lawrence Frank can really answer that question, and from his replies to the frequent queries from observers in Detroit, it seems there that are several reasons. For one thing, like most other teenagers, Drummond is prone to occasional defensive lapses. Furthermore, Drummond's high-energy style of play can tire him out.
But the biggest problem is that Drummond plays more or less the same position as Detroit's top veteran, Greg Monroe, although their skills might be complementary -- Frank has slowly ramped up their minutes together with positive results.
Drummond skeptics can point to the way Frank has used his young center as the reason for his success. He mostly plays against other backups, for example. Yet, as logical as this argument sounds on the surface, the evidence says it's really not -- research has generally found that strong performance in a smaller role does not decline when players ramp up their minutes.
This was one of the main points made over the years by John Hollinger, who showed in "Pro Basketball Prospectus 2002-03" that players were actually more effective when their minutes increased due to factors outside their control, like injuries to teammates. Several years later, Tom Ziller of SBNation.com and I updated that study and found similar results.
We even coined a term for the theory -- the Millsap Doctrine, named after the Utah Jazz forward.
Back then, Paul Millsap was still playing behind Carlos Boozer. Now he's a veteran starter, and his prodigious play off the bench has been just as great as the numbers predicted it would be. In fact, Millsap's best two seasons have been the last two -- as a starter.
A similar story has played out this season in Houston. The Rockets signed Omer Asik to a lavish contract as a restricted free agent on the strength of his strong performance behind Joakim Noah in Chicago. As a full-time starter, Asik has more than doubled his minutes per game (from 14.7 mpg to about 30). Aside from a curious drop in his blocked shot rate, Asik's stats per possession have increased across the board. He's grabbing more rebounds, shooting more frequently and making a better percentage of his shots, and he has cut down on his fouls.
There are no guarantees in life, and there is no guarantee Drummond will play just as well when he becomes a starter. But there's also no particular need to be skeptical of his statistics just because they have come in limited minutes.
Actually, the biggest reason Drummond might come back to Earth is simply because he's playing at such an incredible level -- a level reached by very few rookies, regardless of their minutes. Drummond's combination of a high shooting percentage (he's one of a handful of NBA players shooting better than 60 percent from the field), dominant rebounding and lots of blocks and steals is catnip for advanced metrics.
Drummond's PER ranks 12th among rookies in NBA history according to Basketball-Reference.com, which estimates ratings for players before full box-score stats were tracked starting in 1978. The list of names ahead of him is littered with Hall of Famers, most of them much older when they debuted because they spent four years in college. In fact, as Tom Haberstroh wrote here recently, he's outplaying every other teenager in NBA history.
In the WARP era, Drummond trails just three rookies in per-minute productivity: Michael Jordan, David Robinson and Arvydas Sabonis. The Lithuanian center occupies a similar spot to Drummond's on the chart above, but that comes with a catch -- Sabonis was already 30, a Euroleague MVP and an Olympic gold medalist by the time he arrived in the NBA. (Sabonis had also dealt with injuries, which is why Portland kept his minutes low despite how well he played.) At age 24, Robinson was also old for a rookie -- he served two years in the Navy before joining the Spurs.
That leaves just one center in NBA history who has been as instantly productive as Drummond at a similar age. No, it's not Dwight Howard, whom Haberstroh rightly compared to Drummond; it took Howard until his third season to push his PER above 20. Instead, Drummond might be most similar to Shaquille O'Neal as a rookie.
Comparing Stats: Drummond, Howard and O'Neal
Player Pts/36 2P% FT% TS% Usage Reb% Blk% Win% PER
Drummond 13.3 .604 .385 .579 .165 .215 .064 .719 22.8
Howard 13.2 .521 .671 .571 .168 .172 .036 .556 17.2
O'Neal 22.2 .562 .592 .584 .270 .202 .057 .710 22.9
Drummond can't match Shaq's prowess in the low post -- Drummond isn't nearly so skilled or physically dominant (O'Neal has three inches on Drummond, who is listed at 6-10). As with a young Howard, most of Drummond's scoring comes off other players setting him up. And somehow he makes both Howard and O'Neal, known for their free throw follies, look like Steve Nash at the charity stripe.
But the rest of his stat line compares favorably to O'Neal's rookie season -- when Shaq was a year and a half older and had two additional seasons of NCAA experience to polish his game.
As his role grows, Drummond must chart his own path. Maybe he won't get there. But the way he's played so far calls for comparisons to some of the best centers in the NBA over the past three decades. That's heady stuff for a 19-year-old, especially one coming off the bench.