2018-19 Season in Review: Andre Drummond

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Dwane Casey’s first season as Pistons coach delivered them to the playoffs after a two-season absence. The Pistons have 11 of the 15 players who finished the season either under contract for next season or holding team options to retain them.

With the No. 15 and 45 picks in the June 20 draft and the mid-level and biannual exceptions available to supplement the roster, there will be several new additions on board when they gather in September to open training camp.

But as Casey said after the Pistons were eliminated by Milwaukee in the first round, “We’re going to have to grow from within. We have a lot of talent with our young guys, but they have some areas they can get much better.”

Blake Griffin emphatically returned to All-Star status, Andre Drummond likely would have joined him there had the Pistons not slumped during injury-riddled months of December and January, and Reggie Jackson bounced back from two injury-plagued seasons. They again figure to be central to the 2019-20 Pistons.

Then comes the group of young players that played major roles during the playoff stretch drive: rookie Bruce Brown and former lottery picks Luke Kennard and Thon Maker, the latter acquired in February from Milwaukee. The Pistons also will have two other 2018-19 rookies who did most of their work behind the scenes, in practices and the G League in Khyri Thomas and Svi Mykhailiuk.

In our 2018-19 Season in Review series, we’ll take a look at the key players returning for the Pistons in Dwane Casey’s second season.

PLAYER: Andre Drummond
PROFILE: 6-foot-11 center/25 years old/7 NBA seasons
2018-19 STATS: 17.3 points and 15.6 rebounds in 33.5 minutes a game
STATUS: Drummond has two years remaining on the five-year contract he signed in July 2016 but can opt out in July 2020

DID YOU KNOW?: By averaging 17.3 points and 15.6 rebounds, Drummond became the first NBA player since Moses Malone in 1978 and ’79 to average at least 15 points and 15 rebounds in consecutive seasons. Drummond led the NBA in rebounding for the third time in the past four seasons.

A LOOK BACK: Drummond has been asked to alter his style of play multiple times in the past two seasons. To start the 2017-18 season, Drummond operated as the hub of Stan Van Gundy’s offense and averaged a career-high 3.6 assists per game prior to the acquisition of Blake Griffin. Once Griffin arrived, Drummond had to learn how to play off of a power player serving as the focal point of the offense. Then Dwane Casey took over to start the 2018-19 season and his role changed again. Drummond, by all accounts, had his finest all-around season in year seven and likely would have made his third All-Star appearance if not for a 9-22 stretch the Pistons endured beginning in early December when injuries struck. Drummond was especially good after the All-Star break when the Pistons made their push to the playoffs, averaging 17.2 points and 16.8 rebounds with a true shooting percentage of .581, an offensive rating of 121 and a team-best plus/minus of 7.5 while playing nearly 35 minutes a game. Drummond overtook Dennis Rodman and Ben Wallace on the franchise’s career rebound list, now sitting third behind Bill Laimbeer and Bob Lanier with 7,424. At his current rate, Drummond will surpass Laimbeer’s 9,430 rebounds in the 2020-21 season to become No. 1. He already ranks No. 1 on the career offensive rebounding list with 2,608, overtaking Laimbeer during the season. Drummond’s 5.4 offensive rebounds per game in 2018-19 matched his career high, established in 2013-14.

A LOOK AHEAD: Casey insisted all season that at 25 – despite his seven seasons of NBA experience – Drummond still should be considered in a group with Luke Kennard and other Pistons young players as those with vast room for improvement. As the season progressed, Casey touted Drummond’s growth in nuances such as setting consistently effective screens and becoming a more aware team defender, especially in pick-and-roll situations in which his lateral movement gives him elite ability to blunt effectiveness. Casey began the season suggesting Drummond would become a 3-point shooter, but he wound up taking only 38 – 25 of them before January. Casey expects Drummond to become more comfortable with the shot over time. Drummond has become much more conscientious of conditioning and nutrition over the years and improved endurance has contributed to his ability to affect games with consistent effort plays from start to finish – and also to maintaining his effectiveness in back to backs or periods of relatively few off days. As he’s matured and gotten stronger, the effects of his devotion to proper nutrition and conditioning figure to become more pronounced.

MONEY QUOTE: “He’s done stuff like that all year. I always say this, but his effect on the game goes well beyond the stat sheet. He’s the epitome of that. I think the guys in the locker room, he knows that we appreciate that. It’s a selfless thing to do, those types of things.” – Blake Griffin after Drummond made several big plays down the stretch of an important March win over Toronto

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