Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
1. The Pistons are spiraling, and it seems that the popular opinion is that this current stretch of stink is the fault of either Joe Dumars, Maurice Cheeks, Greg Monroe, Brandon Jennings or Josh Smith. Why is Andre Drummond immune to that kind of criticism?
Dan Feldman: Because he’s the biggest bright spot — by far — this team has had since the Chauncey Billups-Allen Iverson trade. Drummond probably shouldn’t get such a long leash, but I get it (and probably extended it myself). It’s also because Drummond still isn’t fully credited for what he does well, so until that happens, there won’t be a rush to decry his flaws.
Patrick Hayes: Drummond still has flaws in his game, obviously, but things like, “Hey, don’t bite so hard on pump fakes,” or, “Get better at shooting free throws,” seem infinitely more correctable than, say, trying to explain to your highest paid player in franchise history the difference between a good shot and a bad shot. Or trying to teach your point guard when to hold for the last shot. Or trying to teach Monroe to play anything remotely resembling defense. And don’t even get me started on Dumars’ or Cheeks’ faults. In short, Drummond’s flaws look correctable and relatively minor. The other flaws the Pistons are dealing with … not so much.
Brady Fredericksen: Beats me. I think people see what they want to see. Drummond serves as a sort of guiding light for Pistons fans — he’s exciting, fun and still pretty frickin’ good — but why look at the faults of your (perceived) favorite player when you can just do it to everyone else? The Pistons problems aren’t something you can pin to just one player because they’re a team issue. To think any of the key guys on this team are immune from criticism is extremely naive.
2. Where can Drummond shore up his play to hopefully help pull the Pistons out of this funk?
Dan Feldman: He must defend better. His physical attributes negate a lot of deficiencies, but his help defense falls way below the level of the rim protector the Pistons need him to eventually become. Even excluding the Josh Smith-Greg Monroe-Drummond lineups — which cause defensive issues so deep, it’s unfair to pin them on Drummond — the Pistons defend better when Drummond is on the bench. That shouldn’t happen.
Patrick Hayes: I think improving at the free throw line is likely an offseason task, so I’ll put that obvious area on hold. But in the interim, he can work on being a bit more disciplined when it comes to leaving his feet (as Dwight Howard showed, Drummond is very susceptible to the pump fake). He also has a ways to go when it comes to understanding team defense and his role as a help defender. I certainly think he can and will improve in those areas, perhaps even by the end of the season. But Drummond is already doing far more than was reasonably expected of him — remember the post-draft comments from team officials suggesting Drummond might not be a key contributor for two-three seasons? Him shoring up a few sloppy areas in his game would be nice and isn’t unreasonable, but let’s not pretend that the more experienced key players who should know better are the ones who are far more responsible for the team’s awful play.
Brady Fredericksen: Defense. Drummond is already an elite rebounder, athletic freak and above average shot blocker, but his defense is still far, far, far from a finished product. The funny thing about comparing Drummond to a guy like Dwight Howard is that, while the cosmetic numbers match up favorably, the overall on-court impact isn’t really Dwight-esque. Drummond’s still not the defender Howard was early in his career, and he’s still got that nagging habit of biting on almost every shot fake thrown his way. Compared to some teammates, many of his issues are miniscule. He just doesn’t have a great grasp of defensive rotations and how to correctly position himself in those 1-on-1 situations. That should come in time.
3. Do people give young players like Drummond a little too much leeway when it comes to turning a blind eye to their individual struggles when it comes to the faults of their team?
Dan Feldman: Absolutely. See Kentavious Caldwell-Pope this year or Brandon Knight the last couple years — and at least those two have shown potential during meaningful stretches. There are plenty of Pistons fans who believe Tony Mitchell and/or Peyton Siva can save Detroit’s season. As they develop a fatigue of veterans, many fans get infatuated with young players whose deficiencies they haven’t yet seen.
Patrick Hayes: Sure. Young players are always easier to forgive. They typically play with higher energy than veteran counterparts, they play harder if they’re fighting for minutes and they give fans of bottom-feeding teams like the Pistons have been a chance, even a slight one, to hope that the future will be brighter if these players develop. Drummond is in a good position right now. His higher paid teammates bring a lot of negative attention upon themselves with their more than occasional baffling decision-making, and that allows for greater appreciation of the way Drummond just goes out, rebounds, blocks shots and dunks most every night. But Drummond is also one of the most physically gifted players in the league. So that leeway won’t last very long. At some point, he’ll face even greater pressure than his teammates to become one of the league’s elite players. The jump from good to great player in this league is difficult, and if it doesn’t go smoothly for Drummond, he’ll face his detractors. That’s just how sports are. But for now, just enjoy him. There’s not much else to like about this team.
Brady Fredericksen: Of course, we all do. Remember all the ‘sacred cow’ stuff from Dumars back in 2008? That’s what Drummond is in the fans’ eye today. He’s immune to criticism because it’s hard to hate on the guy you like. Fantasizing that Drummond is antithesis of the Pistons struggles makes dealing with the struggles easier. I can’t argue that because turning a blind eye usually does make things easier to swallow. But if you’re going to talk about the Pistons’ shortcomings and what can be done to fix them, there are no sacred cows — Drummond included.