Scaletta’s Summer Top 100 is a ranking of returning NBA players. For a full explanation of our methodology, read our intro.
When Stan Van Gundy was announced as the head coach of the Detroit Pistons, the first thing that jumped to everyone’s mind was “Andre Drummond is the new Dwight Howard.”
Drummond’s massive inside presence was perfect for Van Gundy’s one-in, four-out offense, and nothing that has happened since has dissuaded anyone from that perception. Drummond’s dominance down low has made the Pistons a playoff team, and as Van Gundy continues to surround him with shooters, he becomes even more effective. He led the Pistons to a No. 8 seed and first-round ouster last season; can he bring them further this year?
With 16.2 points and a whopping 14.8 rebounds per game, Drummond’s numbers last year were impressive enough. And it’s nothing new. In fact, he’s averaged 22.7 points and 21.7 rebounds per 100 possessions over the course of his career. Since 1973-74 (as far back as possessions can be tracked on Basketball-Reference), he is the only player to average 20/20 for a career. If you need a guy who can clean the glass and put the ball in the bucket at the rim, you’re not going to get much better than him.
Drummond is at a level now where his ranking is almost determined as much by team success as personal success. If he can push the Pistons into contention for a top-four seed, he should make First-Team or Second-Team All-NBA, giving him credence as a top-10 player in the league.
That would be made easier if Drummond can improve upon his historically bad free three shooting, which sits at an all-time worst 38 percent. He’s been using virtual reality as a tool to help him at the line, and if he could get to a point where he’s hitting even half of his free throw attempts, it would help him hit his and the Pistons’ ceiling.
Now, even if Drummond doesn’t improve his free throw shooting, there’s not much chance that he falls very far. There’s always a chance that the novelty acquisition, Boban Marjanovic, breaks out and takes some minutes away, but that’s unlikely as Drummond was only playing 32.9 minutes a game last year. Barring injury (and Drummond’s missed two games in the last three years), there just isn’t a lot of room for Drummond to fall. He’s about as stable as you can hope for.
(Editor’s note: Soon after this was published, news came out that point guard Reggie Jackson could miss six-to-eight weeks. This could derail Drummond slightly and put him closer to this floor.)
Drummond is not a shooter. That’s a given considering his woeful free throw shooting. His 7.1 points per game in the post placed him fourth-best in the league, and his 8.0 points per touch second-best, according to tracking data at NBA.com. However, he could be much better if he worked on his skills. The Pistons ran 405 post-up plays for him, per Synergy stats, fourth-most in the league. Yet, he only scored .73 points per possession on them, which put him in the 26.9 percentile. His field goal percentage was a disappointing 39.6.
He was more efficient as a roll man, where he scored 1.10 PPP (71.7 percentile), but he had about half as many (194) of those run for him. He also scored 370 points, most of anyone in the league, on putbacks. That accounted for almost a quarter of his offense.
Defensively, he might be a bit underrated. Drummond’s 3.16 Defensive Real Plus-Minus measured as the fourth-best among centers who played at least 30 minutes per game, according to ESPN. The Pistons gave up 3.4 more points per 100 possessions when he was on the bench, per NBA.com. His block numbers weren’t exceptionally prodigious, but he became just the second player (other than 2014-15 DeMarcus Cousins) to average 10 defensive rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals per 36 minutes.
At the same time, when he’s directly defending a play, some of the numbers are less glowing. He was in the 32.9 percentile defending the post-up and gave up more points (151) than anyone defending the roll man (16.9 percentile).
The best way to go after Drummond is to attack him directly.