Confidence, perimeter shooting figures to speed Drummond’s post development

Andre Drummond showed signs of a blossoming post game last season and that can only be helped by the shooters Stan Van Gundy has added over the off-season.
Scott Cunningham (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

The last glimpse Pistons fans got of Andre Drummond – at least before Friday’s abbreviated nationally televised USA Basketball scrimmage in his quest to qualify for the national team – offered a hint of his future. Among the 22 points he scored at Oklahoma City in the regular-season finale, Drummond scored three times on hook shots against the sturdy defense of Kendrick Perkins, once with his left hand.

In their first sit-down meeting after Stan Van Gundy was hired in May, the new Pistons coach laid out his vision for remaking the team. It involved surrounding Drummond with shooters and giving him a chance to continue to show he can do the things he put on display against the Thunder that night.

The fact Van Gundy already has built a team along those lines in Orlando with a center, Dwight Howard, who bears striking similarities to Drummond can’t help but accelerate the process with the Pistons.

“A caution, first, because all players are different, but the ways that can be utilized for Andre to be successful within the scheme of a team offensively, there’ll be many, many similar approaches,” Pistons general manager Jeff Bower said. “The way they blend ball movement and the angles of trying to get the ball to Andre at exactly the right time where he can be at his most effective state are all things that are going to be there. The experience of developing and designing an offensive system of play that takes advantage of a center with that type of size, skill, ability to impact a game is becoming less and less a part of today’s game and so that firsthand experience is crucial for both Andre to look at and for our entire team to understand that this has worked in the past and will work for us if we execute.”

Drummond will be playing for his fourth head coach in Van Gundy as he starts his third NBA season. He’ll also have a new assistant coach with whom he spends the bulk of his time in Brendan Malone. Malone twice has traveled to Los Angeles, where Drummond has been training since early June, in addition to working with him for nearly a week in Orlando during practices that preceded Summer League play. The two are off to a fast start and Bower likes what he’s seen of their chemistry.

“It’s a tremendous resource for the Pistons to have and for Andre to be able to tap into,” he said. “Brendan’s been around the game for so long and worked with so many different types of players and teams that Andre can only benefit just by the time he spends with him. Brendan’s a phenomenal teacher and has a history of working with players and bringing out the best in them and it’s a great opportunity.’

Maybe the biggest takeaway from the hook shot Drummond started to flash in the 2013-14 season’s final phase was that he felt comfortable enough to attempt it. Drummond’s first position coach, Roy Rogers, said it took him several NBA seasons before he reached that point. Bower has observed much the same over his NBA career as a coach and executive.

“The sheer number of repetitions it takes to develop a scoring move under pressure against an NBA opponent is such that it’s going to take time,” he said. “It’s going to take trial and error and it’s going to take failing a number of times before that scar becomes a star. That’s what the development plan is all about – understanding that until you can gain confidence under pressure in tight moments of a game, it hasn’t become your new habit. You have to just stay with it and keep working at it and be willing to try without regard to the consequences if you come up a little bit short, but eventually it’s going to be there.”

Doing that within a system that puts a premium on perimeter shooting to limit the number of times Drummond can be attacked from the blind side by sagging defenders should help speed his development as a post scoring threat.

“The hardest thing for a big man to do, and probably even more a young big man, is to operate without space,” Bower said. “He’s such a physical player, and to have to play against two and three bodies all the time just raises the degree of difficulty. Now, if there are people who have to make decisions on going in to double, it could increase the ease of the game for him and give him a little bit more time to gather and process and make decisions as to how he’s going to attack the defender against him or get to the basket. It may open up more space, it may open up more time, it may allow him to process the possession faster and quicker. It can have an impact in a variety of ways.”