I can’t remember a time when the Pistons have had two rookies on the roster at the same time making the kind of impact Andre Drummond and Kyle Singler are. As exciting as it has been to watch them (or plead for them to play more in Drummond’s case), the other positive is their play is getting the Pistons national attention that they haven’t been used to in their recent down years. Rob Mahoney of Sports Illustrated included both players in his rundown of rookies this season.
He included Drummond in his ‘prospects in progress’ section:
The key for players considered to be long-term projects is to find simple ways to stay on the floor. It doesn’t take much; when a team and coach have a vested interest in a player’s development, a few basic skills can go a long way toward validating potential playing time. For some, it may be converting open jumpers. For others, displays of pure effort. For Drummond, his instant validation comes through his rebounding — an area of the game in which Drummond is performing at an elite rate, as evidence by the fact that only two NBA players have posted higher overall rebounding percentages to date. He’s earned his ticket to more playing time through that kind of display alone, and now it’s on Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank to afford Drummond with even more opportunities to play, produce and grow.
And boy, is there a lot of room for growth. Drummond’s about as raw as a reasonably productive player can be, and the few post moves he’s attempted this season have resulted in wild flings in the general direction of the hoop. About a third of Drummond’s field goals have been dunks, and he’s only converted 48 percent of his attempts otherwise — a number that may seem decent until you consider that 96 percent of Drummond’s shot attempts this season have come in the deep paint or the low block. He simply struggles in any situation that requires finesse, and lacks the kind of touch on his interior attempts that would allow him to score over or around defenders. His rebounding and shot-blocking should buy him plenty of time to settle into his offensive and defensive (don’t mistake Drummond’s monster block numbers for defensive nuance) game, but there’s a long road ahead.
Mahoney included Singler in his ‘instant pros’ section (along with one of my favorite non-Piston rookies, Jae Crowder):
Singler doesn’t play at all like a rookie. He genuinely works the perimeter instead of standing around on the weak side, exploits his opponents’ inattention on a consistent basis and already converts his three-point attempts at an incredible clip (47 percent!) thanks to the passing lanes he creates with his off-ball movement. He’s a perfectly decent on-ball defender, does a good job of shuffling to deny dribble penetration and works hard to get over screens and close out on shooters. His game isn’t yet fully developed, but already it holds startling similarity to that of the handyman veteran, capable of filling minutes and actually contributing without giving his team a targetable vulnerability.
He’s far from perfect; as much as I like Singler’s game, he isn’t very quick with the ball and can pretty much only get into the paint off the dribble by way of a very guardable spin move. But he’s exactly the kind of player that the Pistons will be happy to have around in a few years, once Singler’s supporting act is given new meaning within the context of a more effective team.
His analysis of both guys is pretty spot on. No one is rooting for Drummond to play out of a belief that he’ll help the offense. Right now, he’s their best rebounder and shot-blocker. He’s certainly far behind development-wise and skill-wise at the offensive end, to the point where I don’t know that he’ll ever be much of a factor other than a guy who finishes well around the basket, but the rebounding and shot-blocking alone already make him a legitimate rotation player who should be getting more minutes.
As for Singler, as Mike Payne of Detroit Bad Boys wrote about in-depth the other day (a great post that everyone should check out, BTW), he’s simply been easily the biggest surprise on the team this season. He’s emerged from a crowded wing position to not only earn a rotation spot, but a starting spot, and he just keeps improving. It’s hard not to envision him as a long-term member of Detroit’s rotation.