In Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, the Detroit Pistons have two of the best young post players in the NBA. Monroe, 23, and Drummond, 20, enter their second season in the league together with high expectations based on their play during the 2012-13 season.
That inspired a question: Are Monroe and Drummond the best young post combination in recent history? In order to answer that question, I decided to look at all of the young post combos since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, with "young" being defined as any player age 23 or younger.
The pairs were ranked based on the harmonic mean of their regular-season win shares. Why use the harmonic mean rather than the standard arithmetic mean? Because the arithmetic mean will not properly account for vast differences in the two win-share totals.
For example, Shaquille O’Neal had 16.9 win shares in 1993-94, the best figure in NBA history for a player age 21 or younger. Because O’Neal was so dominant, he and Keith Tower — a rookie backup center who played all of 32 minutes — would rank as one of the best young post duos of all time based on the arithmetic mean. The harmonic mean will mitigate the influence of O’Neal’s contribution and increase the influence of Tower’s contribution, pushing the combo toward the bottom of the list.
Kubatko ranked every pair – Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson of the 1992-93 Charlotte Hornets coming out atop – and then returned to Monroe (5.9 win shares last season) and Drummond (4.5).
That performance puts them in the top 20 despite the fact that Monroe slipped a bit after two solid seasons and Drummond missed 22 games and averaged just 20.7 minutes per game.
If Monroe can bounce back to the level he reached his first two seasons and Drummond can increase his minutes with little or no loss in effectiveness, then Detroit’s dynamic duo has a chance to vault to the top of this list.
It will be difficult for Monroe and Drummond to catch Mourning and Johnson, though it’s possible, and that speaks to the optimism you should have for the Pistons.
Monroe will have to shoot more efficiently and cut down on his turnovers, both of which should happen now that the Pistons have more-competent offensive pieces around him. His offensive rebounding also could improve if he spends more time near the basket, because he no longer has to float out to the free-throw line as a hub of the offense. A defensive bump would be nice, too, but maybe merely allowing Josh Smith to guard the opponent’s top forward would be enough.