Camp Questions: Dre’s Next Step

With expanded responsibilities, can Drummond maintain level of impact?

Andre Drummond
(Editor’s note: We’ll count down the remaining days until the opening of training camp with a critical question the Pistons will be looking to address during the preseason. Today: Can Andre Drummond absorb added responsibility and still maintain his rookie level of impact?)

As much as Pistons fans took to Andre Drummond during an eye-opening rookie year that exceeded even the fondest expectations of the No. 9 pick, the advanced stats devotees loved him even more. Drummond’s impact was reflected loudly in his per-36 minute numbers, his rebounding percentages, his PER and just about every other obscure numerical representation of his body of work.

Had Drummond not suffered a lower back injury that cost him two months just as he was on the verge of moving into the starting lineup early last February, the Pistons probably would have a better handle today on what effect an increased workload might have on Drummond’s ability to maintain his level of impact over time.

Not only are the Pistons expecting Drummond to start and play more than the 21 minutes a game he logged as a rookie – 26 to 30 minutes a game is a reasonable estimate for Drummond in year two – they’re expecting to see glimpses of new facets of his game.

They started accelerating his growth curve during July’s Summer League play, where Drummond touched the ball in the post to a far greater degree than he did during his rookie season. It wasn’t always pretty. Drummond committed too many turnovers, but there were also flashes of what could be. His rare combination of strength, quickness, footwork, explosive leaping and the girth to shield defenders from the ball could make him a low-post force even without refined moves.

Those moves gained a little more refinement, though, through August and September as he worked diligently with new Pistons assistant coach Rasheed Wallace on half-hooks, drop steps, pivots and assertive rip moves from the elbows. A little further down the road, perhaps, Drummond hopes to develop a 12- to 15-foot jump shot to complement his post repertoire.

One other less glamorous skill also will be important for Drummond to improve: free-throw shooting. His strength-quickness-size package means opponents are going to frequently foul him, intentionally or otherwise, to prevent easy dunks and put-backs. In tight games, he’ll also be targeted for intentional fouls away from the ball to make him shoot two free throws. He’ll have to improve his 37 percent rookie accuracy over time to make teams pay. And he worked on that, as well, at the end of every summer workout.

As those tools are added to his belt, Drummond could blossom into a high-level star. In the meantime, the Pistons need him to continue doing what he does best – for longer stretches. Toward that end, Drummond comes to training camp remarkably fit, leaner at about 285 pounds than a year ago with a body-fat index hovering between 4 and 5 percent.

If he never quite perfects a signature move or two, he can always be a game-changer for his ability to dominate the glass and dissuade drivers from attacking the rim. The Pistons expect to be a dramatically better team this season, and a big reason for that is they expect to be a dramatically better defensive team – with Drummond at the heart of it.

That brings us to Saturday’s Camp Question: With eight new faces on the team and the likelihood that they’ll need time to gel offensively, can their defense carry the Pistons through the transition period?