I’ve always considered myself a crusader against making outlandish comparisons for young players to established stars, setting the bar too high before they’ve even had a chance to develop. Last season, because of his size and amazing athleticism, Andre Drummond drew frequent Dwight Howard comparisons and I mostly resisted because, come on … it’s Dwight freaking Howard, a top five player in the league who has already had a couple of near-MVP-worthy seasons and led a team featuring himself and a bunch of shooting guards to the NBA Finals.
Well, Drummond now has a full year under his belt and, as we all know, had monster production on a per-minute basis. This offseason, he’s reportedly “attacked” the team’s offseason conditioning program, working on his biggest non-free throw shooting weakness, his conditioning. So with Drummond putting up insane per-minute numbers, with another year of experience, with more talent around him and, hopefully, improved conditioning that allows him to stay on the court for extended minutes, it’s time to call this what it is. There’s at least a decent chance that after this season is over, Drummond is better after two seasons in the league than Howard was at this point in his career. I wrote about the exciting potential of a Monroe-Drummond frontcourt in today’s Detroit Free Press column:
Last month, I discussed how Greg Monroe’s offensive progression and skill set is remarkably similar to Gasol’s. And in Drummond, the Pistons have their Howard. In fact, as preposterous as it would’ve sounded when eight teams were passing on Drummond because of the all-too-famous and mysterious “red flags” he had coming out of college, there is a sound case that Drummond actually is better than Howard was at this point in their careers.
I was hesitant to say that while Drummond was putting together stretches of great play during his rookie season, but the results are undeniable. Howard made incremental improvements from his first year to his second year. They were noticeable but not huge leaps statistically, simply because he handled a large workload as a rookie.
Drummond doesn’t have to prove he can fill up a stat sheet, he has to figure out how to stay on the court. If he can do that, it’s not out of the question to envision him playing at an All-Star level as soon as this season, even as he works to refine the more fundamental elements of his game.