Andre Drummond season in review and grade

Apr 12, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) dunks the ball against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 12, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) dunks the ball against the Orlando Magic during the first quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Andre Drummond is one of the most polarizing players in the NBA, particularly after the season he had for the Detroit Pistons. Let’s look deeper and grade.

Almost nothing infuriates fans of the Detroit Pistons more than Andre Drummond these days. After he commented at the Pistons new logo unveiling that the team doesn’t need roster changes but rather improved chemistry, fans went wild. Never mind that most media and informed observers agree that the most reasonable course of action is indeed to bring back the core, and set aside the fact that on-court chemistry was clearly lacking.

Even when Drummond is right, he’s wrong.

There is a prevailing notion that Andre Drummond suffered the greatest regression of any Piston. What might blow the mind of many is that aside from Tobias Harris, Drummond is perhaps the only Piston who didn’t regress. While his rim protection and free throw numbers remained essentially static, he led the NBA in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, and total rebound percentage.

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He also improved his overall field goal percentage from 52.1 percent to 53 percent, and his field goal percentage inside 3′ jumped from 61 percent to 68.6 percent. The tradeoff for that is that he took the lowest frequency from that distance of his entire career, just 49.3 percent.

This is likely due in large part to a less consistent pick and roll game. Reggie Jackson struggled wildly across the board last season and Ish Smith‘s poor shooting allowed defenses to pack the paint. As a result, Drummond was the roll man on only 1.8 possessions per game, down from 2.4 times per game a season ago. The pick and roll is the most effective way to get Drummond involved in the offense as he scored 1.061 points per possession as the roll man this season.

For Drummond to be able to improve in every major offensive efficiency metric without a reliable point guard and without a steady dose of pick and rolls is impressive. What’s less impressive is the NBA-worst free throw shooting, the lack of rim protection and his well-documented low motor.

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Drummond finished the season with a free throw shooting percentage of 38.6 percent. That’s dreadful and it’s been tolerated by the Pistons for far too long. Whatever it takes, that must be improved upon and the organization as a whole is now culpable. If Drummond refuses to do whatever it takes to improve this, you can blame Stan Van Gundy, Jeff Bowers and Tom Gores for enabling him.

For some time the organization has hoped that this is a problem he would simply figure out, but if the Detroit Pistons ever hope to be a truly competitive team, they can’t have Andre Drummond hitting one-third of his free throws. There’s a simple path between Drummond being what he is today and an All Star center capable of averaging 18 points and 16 rebounds per game.

If he could hit 55 percent of his free throws, he wouldn’t avoid contact in the paint like the plague, causing him to move out of the paint for post ups. If he could hit that target, he wouldn’t have to sit for swaths of game time when opponents start hacking him. The additional minutes and increased effectiveness from the paint would be the simplest reactions to Drummond not fearing the free throw line.

The rim protection is another issue without a simple fix. Drummond allowed 62.3 percent at the rim, and opponents weren’t shy about driving at him. While he averaged just 29 minutes per game, he faced 16.5 shots per game inside 5′. He’s big, he’s athletic, he can move quickly, but Drummond has poor instincts and gambles far too much on defense. He has an outstanding steal rate for a big man at 2.6 per 100 possessions, but it’s important to remember that a big man relying on steals is often out of position and no deterrent for opponents driving to the rim.

As for the motor and accusations of low energy, there’s some faint hope that his surgery to repair a deviated septum earlier this month may help. After all, oxygen is a fairly important element in day-to-day life, let alone that of a high-level professional athlete. We’ll see if that brings any improvement in his energy levels, but don’t be shocked if it helps.

It should come as no surprise that on the topic of Andre Drummond, wherever there is good, there is also bad. He does some things that are a real problem, and those things may not be fixable, perhaps because he’s not willing to do what it takes to fix them. However, the things he does well are important, and he does some of those things better than anybody else in the NBA.

Drummond is not a primary (or even secondary) scoring option on a good NBA team in his current state, but he’s important to the Detroit Pistons. With all of that said, this coming season is going to be his make-or-break. We know what he is, we know what he can and cannot do. It’s incumbent on him to make the leap this season that we expected him to make last season. If he fails in that task, then it’s time to start looking to make a move.

Next: The anatomy of a typical Piston first quarter

Grade: D+