2018-19 Pistons Profile: Andre Drummond
After failing to make the playoffs last season, Pistons owner Tom Gores made the call to change course. Ed Stefanski was hired to run the front office and his first big move was to hire Dwane Casey, reigning NBA Coach of the Year. The roster is set, a new coaching staff and front office is in place and training camp is around the corner. In the days leading up to its opening we’ll look at each player on the roster and assess how he fits into the puzzle for the 2018-19 season. Today: Andre Drummond. Tuesday: Glenn Robinson III.
ID card:25 years old, entering 7th season, 6-foot-11, center
Last year in review: Drummond is coming off of his finest season, making his second All-Star appearance and leading the NBA in rebounding with a career-best 16.0 a game – the highest total since Dennis Rodman averaged 16.05 in 1996-97 with Chicago. Drummond’s defense was his most consistently effective as he made strides as a more diligent rim protector while also becoming a more disruptive force in pick-and-roll coverage. Drummond’s blocks per game rose from a career-low of 1.1 in 2016-17 to 1.6. On offense, Drummond’s season was split into two distinct segments. Before the late-January trade for Blake Griffin, Drummond was used as the hub of the offense with a heavy dose of dribble handoffs executed from the free-throw line area. In the first 47 games, Drummond averaged 3.9 assists a game – his previous career best was 1.1 in 2016-17 – and in his final 31 games after Griffin joined the team that average fell by more than 50 percent to 1.7 per game. Drummond streamlined his shot selection, too, and largely eliminated deep hook shots. Perhaps the biggest improvement Drummond made came at the free-throw line, improving from a .386 mark in the previous season to .605 last year. That enabled him to up his minutes per game by four over the previous year to a career-best 33.7.
Career at a glance: Drummond was drafted ninth as an 18-year-old in 2012 after one season at Connecticut and established himself as a rebounding force even as a rookie with many rough edges to his game. He suffered the most serious injury of his career in early February of his rookie season – a stress fracture of the lower back – and missed 20 games. Durability has been a staple of his resume ever since. Drummond has played 81, 82, 81, 81 and 78 games the past five seasons. Drummond already ranks fifth on the franchise’s all-time rebounding list behind Bill Laimbeer, Bob Lanier, Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman. With another typical season, Drummond will overtake Rodman and Wallace this season and is on pace to surpass Laimbeer’s career total of 9,430 in the 2020-21 season should he remain with the Pistons through the duration of the five-year contract he signed in July 2016. (Drummond has a player option on the final year.) Drummond has twice made the All-Star team in the past three seasons.
Anticipated role: The only mystery about Drummond’s role for 2018-19 will be how Dwane Casey fits the pieces together. Will he try to keep Drummond and Blake Griffin together for the majority of their minutes or will he instead opt to keep one on the floor at nearly all times when games are in doubt? Will he continue last year’s trend of having Drummond occupy a facilitator’s role or will he be used almost exclusively in the low post and as the roll man in pick and rolls? Drummond created a stir on social media throughout the off-season by showing and suggesting he was working on his perimeter shot. Under Casey, Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas last season shot 74 3-point shots after attempting only four in his first five seasons. Drummond figures to report to training camp in the best physical condition of his career after a summer where he delved more deeply into yoga and altered his diet. The effect was noticeable when Drummond dropped into Las Vegas during Summer League.
It will be a good season if... : Drummond continues his ascent as a defender and inches nearer to becoming a dominant force at that end. As Drummond began to flex his defensive muscles last season, Stan Van Gundy said it should be Drummond’s goal to lead the league in rebounds and blocked shots – a challenge Drummond seemed to embrace. That’s a more elusive quest than it has ever been – and it’s never been easy – in an era with more 3-point shots, fewer chances at the rim and more ground to cover than ever before for big men made necessary by spread offenses that often feature four perimeter players and sometimes five. Drummond’s experimentation with a perimeter jump shot is intriguing, though it will bear watching if a shift in focus threatens to undermine his core strengths and will be a good barometer of how Casey’s reputation for empowering players will be put into practice with the Pistons.