Drummond was out on the floor hours before the game, too, working with an animated Rasheed Wallace (is there any other kind?) on his post game. That’s the next big weapon for Drummond, and it is coming along nicely.
"He’s definitely been a big help for me," Drummond said. "He’s taught me a lot. My back-to-the-basket game is getting better. I’ve learned a lot of moves that before, I wasn’t doing. I’m actually doing — last night, or the night before, I think it was — I did a drop-step spin move into a layup. I haven’t done that, ever. It’s working on things like that, that get me really excited."
"My back-to-the-basket game, and my pick-and-roll defense," Drummond said of his biggest current challenges.
On a basic level, those two are just better than Drummond right now at post-ups, and that’s why Maurice Cheeks calls their number more often. Here’s how many post-ups and points per post-up each player has had this season, according to MySynergySports:
- Monroe: 201, 0.79
- Smith: 163, 0.75
- Drummond: 51, 0.73
For a team trying to win right now, it makes sense to give more post-ups to Monroe, and when the matchup dictates, Smith. Drummond might have the highest ceiling for that type of play, but the Pistons’ margin for error is too small to let him correct his mistakes during games.
The other issue is the Pistons’ well-documented spacing issues when Smith, Monroe and Drummond play together – which has happened for 57 percent of Drummond’s minutes this season.
Post-ups generally are not a reliable way to score efficiently, though I believe it’s possible Drummond some day becomes an exception to the rule. But they are helpful for getting the defense to collapse and kicking to open shooters. Drummond, a solid passer, can make that play.
Unfortunately, the defenses already collapses against the Pistons’ jumbo front line, and Drummond has few, if any, shooters to kick to.
I really like Drummond’s potential as a back-to-the-basket player. He’s looked brilliant posting up at times this season. But he’s also looked horrid, and it will be a while until that becomes a reliable part of his game.
As far as Drummond’s other focus, pick-and-roll defense, Synergy rates him very well already. He ranks 38th in the NBA in defending the roll man this and was 36th last year. This is an area where I believe Synergy’s numbers don’t tell the whole story, as there have been numerous cases of confusion in pick-and-roll coverage that would leave Drummond free of blame in the database but not reality. However, the numbers at least indicate someone with big potential here, too – which completely matches the eye test when you see such a huge man move so quickly.
If you read Megdal’s piece, much wider reaching than the part I excerpted, he tries to explain why Drummond has succeeded in the NBA despite so many doubting him entering the league. There are a lot of factors, but Monroe explains a prominent one:
"He’s just been putting in the work," Greg Monroe explained to me, sitting at his locker prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. "From the outside, you guys don’t understand it. But being around him every day, we’re not surprised within the organization."
At this point, none of us should be surprised anymore. And for that reason, we shouldn’t be surprised when Drummond steadily improves his back-to-the-basket offense and pick-and-roll defense, either.