An open letter to Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond

Detroit Pistons Andre Drummond. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons Andre Drummond. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With rumors that he plans to opt out of his contract’s player option, Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond will enter the free agent market next summer. I offer a plea to the big man on why he should stay in Detroit.

Dear Andre Drummond,

We’ll start with the elephant in the room: you’re divisive. Every comment section, every Detroit Pistons discussion board, every Twitter post is split between the camp that’s excited you’ve hinted at opting out of your player option and plan to test free agency, and the camp that’s worried you’ve got wandering eyes after an offseason where large, coastal markets won out.

I’m with the latter.

People are worried you’ll be overpaid if given a max contract. You, I’m sure, feel you’ve earned one. I get that you wouldn’t want to be around a fan base that feels that way about you. But that’s a loud camp and is not how all of us feel. I’m here to fight through that noise and tell you that we need you in Detroit.

Not since Chauncey Billups has our fan base had such a consistent centerpiece. The risk in being that centerpiece, however, is that you are either credited with the team’s success or with its failures. Chauncey helped lead us to a championship and a string of winning seasons, and he was rightly idolized for it.

This decade, as you know, the team has been less than satisfactory. The last time we won a playoff game, you were still in high school. The city wants to return to the success and notoriety the Bad Boys and Goin’ To Work crews brought. As the only player that’s been around for most of that decade, you’ve been hit with the blame and the criticism of that failure. No amount of All-Star appearances or seasons leading the league in rebounding is going to change those throwing that blame.

looking back. Ten years of Pistons basketball reviewed. light

But, and as I’ll be bashed for arguing (don’t worry, I’ll face it with you), you have the potential to become as beloved as a Chauncey.

You’ve been through a lot of downs in your seven years in Detroit, and things finally seem to be turning around. If this year’s team finds an end to Detroit’s playoff-win drought (across all its sports), there’s no doubt you’ll be loved and applauded for your dedication to the city and the team. If you re-sign here, and that growth continues, you’ll be lauded as a Detroit legend.

You’re often pegged as nothing more than a rebounder and a center too traditional for today’s game, and that seems unfair to you. My favorite statistic of yours is your record for most seasons (four) with 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 100 steals, and 100 blocks. I think it shows a versatility of your game that often goes overlooked. Your goal for Defensive Player of the Year does not seem so outlandish, and, if anything, is a productive ambition. It fits the work you’ve put in to improve as a free-throw shooter, a 3-point shooter, and a ball handler.

This is an attitude this team needs, and one that shows the development of your leadership alongside Blake Griffin. If Griffin leaves, it’ll be you that leads this team, and what an asset for a team to have a leader with such a mindset.

I think people forget that you’re only 26. You’re maybe not even at your prime (although you are damn good).

We have the space next year to take on a big contract, and if you hit your prime, or continue to approach it, you’ll be more than worth the expense for years to come. Especially as you continue to expand your game.

Without you, Andre, we have no center. Literally. We couldn’t even find a clear backup for you this offseason. You’re, quite literally, irreplaceable.

Who will step in if you leave? Will Anthony Davis avoid extending his contract with the Lakers and leave a potential championship team to come to Detroit? Will Ed Stefanski settle for a 35 year-old Marc Gasol? Will Serge Ibaka, at 31, reunite with his former coach?

Probably not.

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And even if they did, I don’t want them. I want you, Andre. You’ve embraced this city. You’ve never asked, or even hinted at wanting, out. You’re young, and you have a potential that you seem to grow into more and more each season. You’re someone we can continue building around and who is capable of mentoring our promising young core.

This season, as you travel around to other arenas, meet other coaches and front offices, and side-eye other systems, I hope you also keep an eye out for what’s at home.

Check the stands.

If the team’s success matches the offseason hype, watch attendance grow. Find the kids wearing your jersey. Notice how people engage with you when they see you on the street. Look into the rafters of Little Caesars Arena and imagine your jersey up there. Think about Barry Sanders, Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Al Kaline – some of the all-time greats who dedicated their careers to the city and who are all the more loved for it.

Next. 3 questions surrounding Andre Drummond's free agency. dark

This is your team, Andre. It’s your city.