Summer Review: Drummond

Dominant Summer League run sets up Drummond for breakout 2nd season

Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond wasn’t supposed to play nearly all of the Summer League schedule, but when circumstances changed he not only played, he dominated.
Fernando Medina (NBAE/Getty)

(Editor’s note: Fourth in a series that looks at the five first- or second-year Pistons who participated in Summer League practices or games last month. Next: Peyton Siva.)

Andre Drummond might not have participated in more than one Summer League game if not for the major chunk of his rookie season he missed recovering from a back injury. He probably wouldn’t have suited up for more than a couple if not for the need to get in peak shape for the Team USA minicamp later in July. And he surely wouldn’t have played in all but one of the five but for the groin injury that limited Slava Kravtsov to just two games.

But once Drummond was all in, he figured he might as well go ahead and dominate Summer League.

And so he did.

“What I said to him after Summer League was, ‘You went down and did what you were supposed to do. You’re supposed to go down and be a presence and every time you step on the floor, you have to be a presence,’ ” Joe Dumars said. “He’s growing. We want to see him continue to grow, but he’s taken all the right steps.”

Drummond stuffed the stat sheet prodigiously in Orlando, averaging 15.5 points, 14.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2.0 blocked shots a game. The Pistons asked him to stretch his boundaries there, giving him more post touches in a week than he probably got all of his rookie season, and it resulted in 20 turnovers over his four games, all part of the learning process.

“He has to get used to it,” Dumars said. “I really like what Maz (Trakh, the Maurice Cheeks assistant coach who ran the Summer League team) and the coaching staff did down there – put him in a position where he has to make a lot of decisions with the ball. He has to start getting comfortable with getting double teams, a lot of postups. It was the right thing to do with him down there. He made some mistakes, but he also grew and learned from those things. Sometimes you have to throw ’em out there and let them make mistakes and grow from those mistakes.”

“Summer League was a good experience for Andre to have a chance to see the fruits of his labor and see how some of the things he’s been working on, how they work in a game,” Pistons assistant general manager George David said. “What was important with Andre – and this is a very, very difficult thing to do – he worked on that in Summer League games but he didn’t work on it at the expense of what he really does well already: defend, rebound, alter shots, block shots.”

Drummond’s presence in Summer League offered a reminder of how far he’s come in the past year. At Orlando a year earlier, Drummond registered three or four eyebrow-raising plays in every game but often struggled to fill in the gaps between those moments. He gave the Pistons glimpses of greatness, but they left Orlando in July 2012 still unsure if he would be ready to handle rotation minutes in an NBA regular season.

This year, he was consistently the best player on the floor in Orlando, his impact felt on virtually every possession at both ends.

“Our whole mind-set with Andre going down in his second year of Summer League was it should appear easier than the year before,” David said. “What made us feel really good, it didn’t just appear easier – it appeared easy for him. And there’s a difference. There are guys who make small strides and guys who come back and all of a sudden the game looks easy to them. Andre was able to impact the game in a dominant way.

“It does something for your confidence when you do that and I think it definitely helps his confidence and sets the bar higher for you. We are always pushing that bar higher for him. That pushed it higher again. Especially at his age, you want to be able to push the bar and put him in position where he can see how great he has a chance to be.”

Drummond extolled the benefits of Summer League on multiple levels. He felt it allowed him to grow as a leader – he interacted often with advice for Tony Mitchell, the rare athlete in Drummond’s class; urged Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to keep shooting even when he struggled early in Summer League from the perimeter; and bonded with point guard Peyton Siva. He also felt it honed his competitive spirit for the USA Basketball minicamp.

“We’re in pretty good condition,” Drummond said of he and Monroe in Las Vegas. “Running up and down the floor wasn’t going to be an issue for us. It was good for both of us that we went down to Summer League to play with the guys and get up and down the floor.”

Dumars was as pleased with the enthusiasm Drummond showed on the court in Orlando as he was in the dominance he displayed.

“Andre has an infectious personality,” Dumars said. “He brings a certain spirit to the floor when he plays. The thought initially was that he would sit out (some games), but Slava got hurt and that changed things. It was never an issue with him. He was happy to go out and be with his teammates.”

It will be just as tough keeping him off the floor in the 2013-14 regular season. And beyond.