The Pistons have undergone a radical transformation since Stan Van Gundy took over. After experimenting with three-big lineups during the time Josh Smith was there, now the team is finally ready to modernize its offense and spread the floor. Marksmen have been added at the wing positions and at power forward and the team has made a huge commitment with Reggie Jackson to be their point guard of the future. All of those changes have been done in an attempt to build around Andre Drummond, who’s now in prime position to become a star.
Last season Drummond and Stan Van Gundy were getting to know each other. The coach wanted his young star to develop his post skills, which artificially deflated his efficiency by putting him in an unfamiliar situation. Not only was there an adjustment to his on-court role but also a lot of turmoil in terms of personnel moves. Drummond endured Smith being waived and two multi-player trades. He shared the court with Greg Monroe, who not only plays the same position he does but was vying his time before he could leave Detroit.
Despite not being put in a great position to succeed, Drummond averaged 14 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks on 51 percent shooting. Those would be incredible numbers for anyone, but are especially impressive for a 21-year-old center who had to adjust to a situation that was far from ideal. Now that the team is his, it’s almost impossible to imagine him having anything other than a career year in 2015-16. An All-Star berth wouldn’t be surprising at all.
The Pistons finally have two good stretch power forwards on their roster in Ersan Ilyasova and Anthony Tolliver. That alone could turn Drummond into a beast. Per 48 minutes, he averaged 25 points and 22 rebounds next to Tolliver last season. Ilyasova is an even better shooter, which means the lane will be cleared for Drummond to overpower his defender in the post. If he develops a little more awareness as a passer in traffic — something he has struggled with so far –he could put the opponent in the bind of helping to prevent him from killing them inside and having to recover quickly, before the Pistons’ shooters rain threes on them:
As mentioned, Drummond was a volume post-up player last season, finishing over 27 percent of his offensive possessions in that setting. Unfortunately, he was among the least efficient volume post threats. Better spacing should result in better results for Drummond in the block, but right now that’s not his game. What he excels at is catching and shooting. He only used 10 percent of his offensive possessions as a pick-and-roll finisher last season despite being extremely efficient in that setting, a number that should increase next season thanks to Jackson.
The five-year, $80 million extension Jackson received after being traded to the Pistons last season was widely derided, but could prove to be more reasonable than many anticipated. In just 27 games as a Piston, Jackson assisted Drummond 71 times. The Jackson-Drummond pick-and-roll could become one of the deadliest weapons in the league, as Jackson excels at creating and scoring in that setting and Drummond is a terrifying finisher:
Here's a summary of the NBA's most productive pick and roll scorers and shot creators of the 2014-2015 season. pic.twitter.com/Oax8dbd7Ya
— Synergy Sports Tech (@SynergySST) April 16, 2015
Defensively is where Drummond will have to improve the most for the Pistons to be successful and for him to emerge as a bona fide star. Last season the team hemorrhaged points when he was on the court and that can’t continue to happen if the playoffs are the goal. Drummond is a good rim protector but not a typical defensive anchor who can plug every leak. The addition of athletic wings and legitimate power forwards to replace small or lumbering players should only help him mask some of his flaws. This will be the first time he’ll be relied upon to have that type of impact and with more maturity and roster stability, he could get there.
Drummond is turning 22 years old on Monday. He’s younger than recent lottery pick Frank Kaminsky but already has three years of NBA experience under his belt. He’s one of 14 players to average a career double-double at age 21. The only reason he’s flown under the radar is because he happens to have been drafted by a Pistons franchise going through a terrible stretch. After a lot of turmoil early in his career, he’s finally in the right position to show just how dominant he can be.