Andre Drummond: NBA’s elite center of the present?

Andre Drummond might be the NBA’s most promising center or the league’s best center in five years, but how does he stack up for the upcoming season?

Bradford Doolittle of ESPN is projecting players for the 2013-14 season using his statistical system called ATH, and that rates Drummond as the NBA’s No. 2 center, behind only Dwight Howard:

Drummond was a monster in limited minutes last year and he was a monster during the Orlando Summer League. Obviously, the ATH system is highly enamored of his abilities. Much of his projected value stems from huge block and rebound rates. He’s also a standout in foul-drawing and steals, which makes him 4-for-4 in the categories ATH looks at as athletic markers. Like many a raw, athletic big man before him, Drummond’s weak spot is at the line, where he is forecast to hit just 37 percent of his free throws this season.

Drummond’s playing time projection also is murky. I’ve got him as the starting center on Detroit’s depth chart, with Greg Monroe moving over to the 4 and Josh Smith to the 3. If that alignment doesn’t work out because of spacing problems, new coach Maurice Cheeks will have some hard decisions to make.

I think it’s a bit early to project Drummond that high, though it’s certainly possible he ends the year No. 2. I don’t know all the ins and outs of ATH, but I wonder whether Drummond’s foul-drawing, used as indicator of his athleticism, is inflated due to the times teams intentionally foul him. That obviously doesn’t reflect on his athleticism, just his inability to make free throws.

Anyway, Doolittle has mostly projected players based on the position they played last year, so Greg Monroe also landed center. ATH has Monroe No. 6 in the league with a projected WARP (Wins Above Replacement) of 8.0:

We’re still trying to figure out what Monroe will be, and with Drummond ready to break out, this is the time to find out. Monroe’s WARP totals in three seasons thus far have been 6.6, 12.3 and 8.4 respectively. Last season, Monroe’s efficiency fell because of his lack of a consistent face-up shot and insistence on trying more of them. Over a third of Monroe’s attempts as a pro have come outside the vicinity of the rim, and he’s hit just 32 percent of those shots. He needs to become a midrange threat to fit with Drummond and take advantage of his solid passing skills. Monroe improving his stroke might be the most important piece of Detroit’s puzzle.

Here’s a list of the other teams with two centers in Doolittle’s top 15:

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OK, that’s everyone.

For my money, center is still the NBA’s most important position. That means the Pistons have two very valuable pieces. How well they fit together remains an important question, but for now, simply having both Drummond and Monroe is great for the Pistons.

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Tags: Andre Drummond Dwight Howard Greg Monroe

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