Best and worst case scenarios for Andre Drummond

DETROIT, MI - MAY 16: Andre Drummond
DETROIT, MI - MAY 16: Andre Drummond /

Coming off a promising 2015-16 campaign, last season was disappointing for Andre Drummond and the Detroit Pistons. The coming year will be pivotal for both.

Andre Drummond had a breakout 2015-16 season for the Detroit Pistons and hopes were at an all-time high for the young big man coming into last season. Looking back on the 2016-17 campaign, it almost seems preordained that Drummond would take a shot to the face from Jonas Valanciunas in the season opener against the Toronto Raptors and ended up struggling in spite of a favorable matchup.

We found out after the season ended that Drummond had been playing his entire career with a deviated septum, and that it had flared up worse than ever last season in combination with allergies. Thanks to our Shameek Mohile’s research, we also learned about the painful inflammation that can develop in sufferers of deviated septums after flights. This theory seems to check out when his season numbers were compared against his performance in back-to-backs in games after having flown the night before.

With Drummond not at his peak ability to perform, his play faltered and he often showed signs of low energy on the floor. With this injury now treated and dealt with, we should see a new Andre Drummond in 2017-18.

In theory, at least.

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Some of his issues stem from a poor motor, but he struggles with awareness, particularly on the defensive end. His ability to overcome this is a big question going into the upcoming season, and it could be pivotal in what may be a make-or-break season for the core of this Detroit Pistons’ roster and Stan Van Gundy’s regime.

The best case scenario for the Pistons is that Drummond comes forth with an enthusiasm we have only seen in doses so far through his NBA career. When he’s engaged and dialed in, he’s a ferocious game-changing force on both ends.

For Drummond’s greatest success (and thus that of the Detroit Pistons), he’ll need to take responsibility for protecting the rim and be a deterrent for opponents. Last season he neither deterred nor protected, and opposing wings and big men attacked the paint at will particularly when an ineffective Reggie Jackson was on the floor.

He’ll also need to reduce his post ups, and entirely eliminate his long-range post game. One of the biggest reasons the Pistons had an inept offense last season with Drummond on the floor is that their highest-usage player took the bulk of his shots from a spot in which he scored just .734 points per possession. No player can overcome that kind of ineptitude, and no team can overcome that level of inefficiency.

If he can do this, even if the team around him struggles like it did last season, Drummond alone can drag this team into the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference. Perhaps more than any player in the NBA who has tools but hasn’t yet put the pieces together, Andre Drummond has the pieces to be a star and could be among the most dominant big men in the paint if he can simply put them together.

The downside to this is stark. If Drummond’s rim protection doesn’t take a leap forward, a starting lineup in flux (with only two or three starters returning from last season) will be without a reliable anchor, and Reggie Jackson will remain a glaring weakness on the perimeter. Teams will continue to be able to attack the paint with abandon.

If Drummond’s post possessions remain high (27.5 percent of his possessions have come in the post in both of the last two seasons), the offense will inevitably flounder. An inept offense due to a high rate of inefficient possessions and a defense incapable of stopping or deterring opponents in the paint will both bog down, and the responsibility will fall heavily on Andre Drummond’s broad shoulders.

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Every rotational player on this roster has best and worst-case scenarios, but only Drummond’s can make or break his team’s fortunes and either redeem or doom his coach’s tenure.