Why I’m done writing about Drummond’s minutes for now
As I noted, we have a large enough body of work to suggest that Drummond deserves more than the 15-18 minutes per game he’s been playing this season. But we also have a large enough body of work to suggest that Frank is not going to increase those minutes in the immediate future. Frank gives non-answers to the question when he’s asked about it and doesn’t really explain why. From a fan’s perspective, it’s certainly frustrating. But for right now, I’m just going to treat Drummond as what he is — the team’s primary backup center. I could devote words every game making a case that Drummond could’ve helped in certain points when the defense faltered, but that will get old to read. It certainly gets old to write.
I don’t know what will become of Frank or the Pistons this season. Tonight was certainly a good sign that the team hasn’t tuned him out — thanks to the John Kuester era, it should be clear to everyone what it looks like when a losing team tunes out its coach. They played better and more physical defense tonight than they have at any point this season. They have a more favorable schedule coming up than the one they started the season with. I think it’s conceivable that the team wasn’t as bad as they looked through the first eight games of the season. I’m still an advocate of Drummond playing more. His numbers back it up, his effort has been good and he’s been better than the other non-Monroe options up front. But if Drummond continues in the 15-18 minute range and the Pistons begin to play more competitively, win more games and improve defensively, there will hopefully be better things to write about in the coming weeks than doing the equivalent of facepalming at the lack of time for Drummond in these recaps.
How Drummond develops very well could be the difference between the Pistons contending for a championship and not winning a playoff series until the next rebuild. He’s that important, and his future has that much variance.
So, no, I’m not done obsessively worrying about how many minutes Drummond plays each game.
A couple minutes here and there likely won’t matter, but fundamentally, it matters a great deal what role the Pistons give Drummond. So far, Drummond has played well in his limited playing time against backups, and because of that, he deserves a larger role. I see no reason to baby him, especially when doing so very well could stunt his growth.
The Pistons should reward Drummond’s quality production because, among other reasons, accelerating Drummond’s development only benefits the Pistons. However, if Drummond doesn’t continue to perform well in his current role, he doesn’t necessarily deserve to take minutes from Jason Maxiell and/or Jonas Jerebko. Increased playing time should come with merit, but it should come when there is merit.
This is a situation that deserves close attention. This isn’t the Damien Wilkins-Austin Daye debate of last season, where a subpar veteran kept a subpar young player glued to the bench. Drummond is so much more than that, both for his play and his importance to the franchise. I’m excited about Drummond, in part because I still don’t know what path he’s headed down.
But, game by game, as we get clues about his direction, I’m going to write about it, and I’m frequently going to praise or criticize Lawrence Frank for how he handles Drummond’s playing time. I’m too hopeful and too nervous about Drummond’s development to drop the issue.