Andre Drummond didn’t have an awful game tonight. His final numbers — eight points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes — were solid. But he also looked like a rookie for the first time in preseason action in the first half while the Miami Heat were still playing their key players in the first half of Thursday’s 105-78 Miami win. Drummond was a step slow on defense for the first time and he picked up five (!) first half fouls in about nine minutes.
To his credit, Drummond played nine more minutes in the second half without picking up another foul, but playing against a fast, active team that defends, attacks the basket and … uh … happens to be pretty good exposed him a bit. He’s fully equipped to play well, or even dominate on occasion, against the league’s mediocre or bad teams. Against a good team, though, that is aggressive, talented and relentless, he’s still behind. LeBron James (13 points, eight assists, four rebounds and four steals), Dwyane Wade (21 points, 9-for-13 shooting) and Chris Bosh (17 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes) all took turns picking Detroit apart early, and this game was really over within the first few minutes.
Drummond was nowhere near the worst Pistons on the court Thursday — plenty of others will vie for that honor. But the game did expose a case against starting him. First and foremost, if he starts, he could pick up early, quick fouls against good teams. He’ll also be facing starting caliber players for most of his court time, rather than coming in off the bench and having a chance to take advantage of the opposing team’s reserves. For a young player who the team wants to build confidence, sometimes a reserve role is best suited to do that.
I’m most interested in seeing how Drummond responds to this game. It should be said that it is great progress for Drummond that he’s raised expectations for himself already to the point that an average outing can be considered a bit sub-par for him. Sometimes, a young player struggling a bit can snowball and become a prolonged thing. Veteran players generally rebound quicker. If Drummond comes back with another strong performance in Detroit’s next game Saturday, that will be a good indication that he’s ready to seize that starting job.
Tonight’s game isn’t worth dwelling on too much, so here’s a few quick-hitting thoughts:
- Corey Maggette left the game with what is reportedly a calf strain in the first half. He didn’t return, but according to the TV broadcast, it’s not thought to be serious.
- Brandon Knight has consistently had turnover problems this preseason. He had three more in 23 minutes Thursday. He shot well again and he continues to get more assists, so it’s easier to overlook, but the Pistons need him to take better care of the basketball.
- Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince are still struggling shooting the ball this preseason. They were a combined 5-for-16 against the Heat.
- At least they aren’t struggling as bad as Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva though. Daye was 0-for-8 and Villanueva was 2-for-6 in limited minutes. I just don’t see how either guy can be considered an option for the regular rotation at this point.
- Jonas Jerebko had his worst performance. No idea why, really. He wasn’t forcing things much or taking shots he didn’t seem comfortable taking. He just looked a bit off. Ben Gulker of DBB points out it may have had something to do with the fact that he was playing in a preseason game in the same arena, against the same team where he tore his Achilles tendon in 2010.
- Slava Kravstov only played four minutes. Not sure why, but he seems to be the only one of the team’s rookies who hasn’t received an extended look this preseason. He hasn’t looked bad in his limited minutes, it just seems strange that we’ve yet to see more of him.
- That about covers it. Just an ugly, ugly game to watch and a performance I hope the Pistons don’t repeat any time soon. Non-competitive games against good teams have been all too familiar in recent years. Hopefully, this was just a result of Lawrence Frank‘s incessant preseason lineup tinkering and not a sign that the team isn’t as far along as we’d hoped.