The Drummond Dynamic

Blueprint for Pistons future starts with shooting around their young big men

Andre Drummond has given the Pistons every reason to believe he can become the ideal player to build around.
Allen Einstein (NBAE/Gett)
Coaches of teams in search of the winning formula tinker with playing combinations until they’re satisfied they’ve exhausted all possibilities in attempting to wring every ounce of potential out of their rosters.

Lawrence Frank has found something with the second unit the Pistons have put together recently: rookie Andre Drummond at center with lanky shooters Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva on either side of him and attacking guards Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey in the backcourt.

“Andre has functioned very effectively with shooting around him and a pick-and-roll point guard,” Frank said the other day. “Now, if he doesn’t have shooting around him, he’s not getting those lobs.”

So that’s a coach’s perspective, thinking in the ways a coach thinks: the present, dealing with the players at his disposal right now.

But what about from a general manager’s perspective?

It’s pretty fair to guess that if you gave the 30 GMs across the league their choice of the ideal player to build around – not a name, but an ideal – an athletic 7-footer with dominant defensive potential would be high on the list and quite possibly the No. 1 vote getter.

Through his first two months as an NBA player and still barely 19, Drummond has given the Pistons every reason to believe he can become that player. So it’s also pretty fair to guess that when Joe Dumars and his staff envision the future, it’s with a roster built to complement Drummond’s skill set.

Greg Monroe is a versatile player with terrific passing skills and a blossoming all-around set of scoring skills. His nose for the ball as an offensive rebounder means he should find plenty of other ways to score against defenses spread out to stop shooting. But one thing he’ll likely never be is a stretch four – a power forward who represents a consistent 3-point threat.

That likely means the Pistons are going to want to find above-average shooters at two of the three other positions, at minimum, to go along with an efficient pick-and-roll operator. Brandon Knight, 21, is a career .385 3-point shooter, an area in which players usually improve as their careers unfold. He clearly qualifies as one of the shooters.

Daye and Villanueva began the season out of the rotation and with contracts – Daye is potentially an unrestricted free agent, though the Pistons could make him restricted by extending a qualifying offer to him after the season, and Villanueva, who has a year left, is the only Piston other than Greg Monroe eligible to have the amnesty provision invoked – that raised legitimate questions about their place in the organization’s future.

But their recent elevation to the rotation and the success of that second unit puts them in a new light from an outsider’s viewpoint, at least. Just as their recent play likely makes them attractive to potential trade partners, it also increases their value to a Pistons team that will want to surround its 19-year-old building block center with shooters.

Pistons Mailbag participants frequently ask me what players the Pistons will pursue as free agents or whether a player with a contract nearing termination will be traded or re-signed. My standard response is those types of decisions are never really made until they must be made. Front offices spend all season in evaluation mode to best inform their choices. So no matter how much public sentiment there seemed to be that Daye would be allowed to leave as a free agent or Villanueva amnestied in July, it would be foolish to think the Pistons had reached any conclusions about those players or any others prematurely.

Because things can change. And, as we’ve seen, they surely have for the Pistons in the past month or so.

One thing that isn’t likely to change is Drummond’s prominence in the franchise’s future – or the blueprint to build a winner around him.