This one player has been the engine fueling the Detroit Pistons success this year.
The Detroit Pistons are the fifth seed in the East right now, tied for the fourth seed.
Doesn’t it feel weird reading that? The Pistons weren’t a team many people thought could compete in the Eastern Conference.
This year, the Pistons are on their way to the franchise’s second playoff appearance since 2009. Currently sitting at 18-14, the Pistons have propelled into legitimate status. It’s safe to say Andre Drummond has had quite a bit to do with this hot start.
The New & Improved Andre
Basketball fans everywhere have likely seen or heard about the rejuvenated and polished Drummond. Whether Drummond looked himself in the mirror after this past year and told himself, “I can be 10 times better,” or the Pistons coaching staff made all the right tweaks to Drummond’s game, he is back to All-Star status and it’s clear to see.
The ninth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Drummond was talked up by many as having superstar potential. Now five seasons in, Drummond’s numbers haven’t ascended year-by-year as most thought they would.
Now that a solid amount of film has been captured, and Drummond’s statistical production has plateaued, many were skeptical Drummond could be the centerpiece of a top-tier winning team.
So far this year, Drummond is proving all of those opinions wrong.
Drummond is on pace to break an abundance of his career bests. Right now, Drummond is averaging career-bests in player impact estimate — a measure of player efficiency — (15.3), rebounds per game (14.8), and offensive rating (112).
The two biggest keys to Drummond’s ascension have been his brand-new free throw motion and the way he’s starting to learn how to pass the ball effectively.
Drummond’s free-throw percentage has skyrocketed to a career-best 62.3%. After shooting a porous 38.6% from the line last year, many coaches had a fallback plan to use when game planning for the Pistons. Last season, coaches would use the hack-a-Drummond strategy to get an upper hand on the Pistons.
Drummond has silenced any thoughts of doing so this year. More use of his legs, a better follow-through, and an emphasis on not bringing the ball backward has been the major difference in the efficiency of Drummond’s free throws.
Drummond is also on pace to shatter his career high in assists per game. Drummond is currently averaging 3.6 assists per game. That may not seem like a whole lot, but considering Drummond’s old career high was last year at just 1.1 assists per game, this shows the immense progress Drummond has gained.
Drummond has been an exceptional passer out of the high post for the Pistons. He is accurately hitting backdoor cuts, and drive and kick-outs have been where Drummond gets most of his assists in the offense.
Many around the league are starting to notice Drummond’s playmaking abilities.
Andre Drummond is averaging more assists per 100 possessions than Victor Oladipo. His offensive playmaking transformation has been insane this year.— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) December 7, 2017
The passes in the video below are just a few small highlights of Drummond’s passing. All the assists he is getting aren’t just typical kick-out to shooter type assists, he’s also shown the ability to throw difficult lob and bounce passes in traffic.
Keeping His Defensive Mentality
Drummond has also made a case for himself as the early Defensive Player of the Year. Drummond leads the NBA in defensive box plus/minus (5.4) and ranks second in the league in defensive rating (99.4), and defensive win shares (2.0).
Drummond has anchored the paint as the primary rim protector and defensive rebounder for the Pistons. He has been a huge reason the Pistons rank sixth-best in opponents points in the paint (41.3). Drummond also currently sits at third in the NBA in defensive rebounds per game (10.0), which has fueled a Piston’s defense that is tied for second in the NBA in fewest opponents’ second-chance points.
Drummond has shown textbook defense multiple times on some of the league’s best players. That includes this game-sealing block earlier this year on New York Knicks’ star Kristaps Porzingis.
Drummond knew his teammates planned to hard hedge the pick at the top of the key. So, Drummond takes a step away from his original matchup (Kyle O’Quinn) and rotates to the help side until his teammate Anthony Toliver can get back on Porzingis. Toliver is a tad late since Porzingis slips the screen and fades to the wing. But, Toliver then does a good job getting back and running Porzingis off the line forcing him into the interior help which is Drummond. Drummond immediately makes sure to get both feet outside the paint while taking away Porzingis dribble to the middle. Drummond then does an excellent job of keeping his base without leaning, and his hands high to contest the Porzingis spin move. Drummond then perfectly times up the block to seal the game.
Offensively or defensively Drummond is a force to be reckoned with. With the play he’s shown this year, Drummond could very well be on his way to earning his second career All-NBA appearance.
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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