3 goals: Andre Drummond – An All-Star berth means good things for Pistons
(Editor’s note: Today starts a series looking at the 17 players – 15 under standard contracts, two on two-way deals – who comprise the 2019-20 Pistons roster heading into the home stretch of the off-season. Up first: Andre Drummond. Coming Friday: Thon Maker.)
If Dwane Casey said it once last season, he said it 50 times: Andre Drummond is only 25 and not a finished product.
Whenever a questioner asked Casey about the Pistons cohort of young players, Casey made sure to include Drummond in his assessment of their progress and future.
Drummond turns 26 next week and is about to embark on his eighth – eighth! – NBA season. He’s been a dominant rebounder since his rookie year and that sometimes obscures the progress he’s made in other areas, but Casey’s point is valid. The fact Drummond over each recent season continues to make gains in the subtleties of the game only underscores that contention.
The 2018-19 season was Drummond’s best yet and not because he averaged a career-high 17.3 points and again led the NBA in rebounding at 15.6, making him the first player since Moses Malone in 1978 and ’79 to average at least 15 and 15 in consecutive seasons. “Attention to detail” is a hard thing to quantify, but anyone who’s watched the Pistons often season over season would verify that Drummond is today a more diligent practitioner of basketball’s nuances than he was three or four seasons ago.
Casey’s practice is to give his players their three core values to the team on the night before the first day of training camp. In keeping with that protocol with a slight twist, we’ll look at the three goals for each player on the roster heading into the 2019-20 Pistons season. For Andre Drummond, those are …
MAKE THE ALL-STAR TEAM – That could be a loaded proposition for some players, seemingly elevating individual above team goals. But part of Drummond’s maturation has been a keener understanding of the things that make him valuable to a team – consistently hard screens, consistently forceful rolls to the rim, consistently challenging shots at the rim, consistently suffocating pick-and-roll attacks, consistently running the floor in both directions – and those are the things that opposing coaches filling out the All-Star roster will reward. Making the All-Star team also likely will require the Pistons to have a winning record – the other thing coaches tend to value in doling out All-Star votes. There should be no competing agendas for Drummond in his quest to become an All-Star for a third time.
DIVERSIFY WITH EFFICIENCY – It’s been a delicate balance for Drummond and his many coaches over the course of his career: adding incrementally to his game without losing focus on the meat and potatoes that made him the dominant rebounder of his generation. In 2016-17 – coming off of his first All-Star berth and first playoff appearance – Drummond pushed his boundaries on offense to middling results. Forty two percent of Drummond’s shots that season came from between 3 and 10 feet, easily a career high, but he shot just 38 percent on those attempts. The last two seasons, he’s taken less than 30 percent of his attempts from that distance, upping his shots from 0 to 3 feet from 49 percent of attempts to 66 and 62 percent. Casey has encouraged Drummond to shoot open 3-pointers. After an early flurry last season, Drummond took only 13 from January on. Drummond will always be at his best as a target for lobs or gathering offensive rebounds for put-backs, but Casey remains adamant that he’ll grow comfortable with taking open 3-pointers and when he does it will accentuate his strengths.
MAINTAIN PEAK CONDITIONING – Drummond has embraced the value of optimum nutrition and strength training over recent years, improving his conditioning level by leaps and bounds. If that’s important for every player, it’s especially essential to bringing out the best version of Drummond. When Drummond plays at something less than a fully energetic level, his strengths are dulled. But when he’s fully engaged – running the floor for easy baskets or snuffing out transition opportunities, smothering pick and rolls and then retreating to the rim, crashing the offensive glass, etc. – he’s a unique force. Peak conditioning allows Drummond to perform at that level. It’s one thing to utilize the off-season to get in top form, then there’s another gear the most conscientious veterans find that allows them to maintain that level of conditioning even through the rigors of the 82-game schedule.