Taking a look at Andre Drummond’s legacy with the Detroit Pistons

Detroit Pistons Andre Drummond. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons Andre Drummond. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Andre Drummond was always a subject of controversy during his time with the Detroit Pistons. What will his lasting legacy be?

February 6th 2020 saw the end of Andre Drummond‘s time with the Detroit Pistons. He leaves the franchise as the second all time rebounder, top five all time in steals, and as perhaps one of the most controversial players in the eyes of fans since Dennis Rodman.

With the significant impact he had on the Pistons franchise, it’s worth asking: what’s his legacy with the Pistons?

Drummond was drafted to the Pistons at a rather trying time in the franchise. After consecutive years of eastern conference finals runs and lots of winning, Detroit fell back down to reality and was seeing consecutive times in the draft lottery.

The Pistons draft success around this time was not great, with picks in the last few years highlighting Austin Daye, Greg Monroe, and Brandon Knight.

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After a few drafts that did not inspire a whole lot of enthusiasm when it comes to draft prospects, Andre Drummond falls down to the ninth pick.

Drummond was considered to be a top five talent in this draft, but the one question with multiple scouts was his passion for the game. Detroit took advantage of the opportunity, despite the obvious problems it created: Monroe and Drummond were not a good fit together on the court.

Drummond’s rookie season saw a Pistons squad that simply struggled, finishing the year at 29-53. Drummond finished the season with an average of 7.9 points per game and and 7.6 rebounds.

This season was ultimately one that Pistons fans would just like to forget happened, and was the beginning of some significant changes to the Pistons roster.

The next season saw the arrival of Josh Smith, which brought disastrous spacing on the court with Monroe and Drummond both in the starting lineup. The Pistons had another campaign with the record of 29-53, but Drummond showed signs of significant improvement.

He saw his averages double, putting up 13.5 points per game and 13.2 rebounds per game.

The 2014-15 season was the beginning of the next phase of Pistons basketball. Even though they finished 32-50 on the year, the Pistons made a trade for Thunders back up point guard Reggie Jackson, and built the franchise on the premise of a Jackson-Drummond pick and roll offense.

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Drummond’s statistics were identical to his sophomore year, with 13.8 points per game and 13.5 rebounds per game.

The 2015-16 season saw the rise of Drummond, with an average of 16.2 points per game and 14.8 rebounds per game, and a first career all star appearance that lead to a Pistons playoff appearance for the first time of Drummond’s career, and the first playoff appearance for the Pistons since 2008.

The Pistons finished 44-38, and played the LeBron lead Cavaliers in the first round, which lead to a four game sweep by the Cavs.

Not only did this season bring a playoff birth, but it also brought pieces to the Pistons roster such as Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris, which added to the Pistons core, but also brought higher expectations to the Pistons.

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Detroit also drafted Stanley Johnson, and Reggie Jackson showed a lot of improvement and promise that season as well. This Pistons roster brought with them expectations to the next season, and it was the best roster Drummond has had around him in his career.

The 2016-17 season proved that the expectations for this Pistons roster might’ve been too lofty, as the Pistons had a year of regression due to an injury to Jackson, and a struggle to fit Harris and Morris on the same team.

This season also saw regression for Drummond as well, as he went back to averaging 13.6 points per game and 13.8 rebounds per game.

Drummond’s next season with the Pistons saw another all star appearance for Andre with a bounce back season, averaging 15 points per game and 16 rebounds per game.

Drummond’s all star performance, however, was not enough to see the Pistons outside of the playoff picture again. Stan Van Gundy, who was on the hot seat, made a major change, bringing in Blake Griffin from the Clippers near the trade deadline.

This move did not prove to be enough to save Van Gundy’s job, as he was out of the front office/coaching role, and the Pistons failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row. Jackson failed to stay healthy again, and questions began to rise about what the potential of this roster could be.

The 2018-19 season brought out the best career performances out of both Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, as Griffin went on to average 24.5 points per game and Drummond averaged 17.3 points per game and 15.6 rebounds per game as well. Griffin and Drummond willed the team to a playoff run, where they faced the Milwaukee Bucks.

This playoff series proved to be very telling of the potential of this Pistons roster, and started to give the franchise a sense of where the Pistons were going.

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Drummond was a shell of himself, averaging 14.3 points per game in the series, as he struggled to be much of a presence in the paint both on the offensive and defensive end.

Brook Lopez‘s shooting and length proved to be a very difficult challenge fro Drummond, and the series even saw Chauncey Billups question Drummond’s effort as he was doing commentary for the ESPN broadcast.

After this disappointing performance by the Pistons in the playoffs, it became pretty clear that it was time for Detroit to start making decisions about what their future was going to look like.

Eighth seed playoff runs were not going to cut it for much longer, and this team was only getting more expensive and older.

The Pistons front office brought in veterans Derrick Rose and Markieff Morris to try and help make a deeper run in the playoffs, and with Reggie Jackson, Blake Griffin, Luke Kennard, and the rest of the roster as constructed, there was hopes within the Pistons fan base that this roster could make a deeper playoff push, or at the very least, get a playoff win.

However, this season has not been what Pistons fans have been hopeful for. In fact, the only true way to describe it is that it’s been a disaster.

The first half of the 2019-20 season provided even better numbers from Drummond, as he has been averaging 17.8 points and 15.8 rebounds per game. Derrick Rose has even been seeing a career resurgence, but that has not proven to make up for the injury ridden Pistons roster.

Going into the trade deadline, it was clear that the Pistons were sitting comfortably out of the playoff picture, with a 19-34 record and four and a half games behind Orlando for the eighth seed in the eastern conference.

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Detroit decided that they could only tread water for so long, and made it clear to the rest of the league that every player on the roster was available on the trading block.

This brings us to the events that transpired Thursday afternoon, as Andre Drummond’s career with the Pistons came to an end due to a Trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the expiring contracts of Brandon Knight, John Henson, and a 2023 second round pick.

It is clear Detroit did not want to extend Drummond, and it was better for them to receive a small return rather than having the risk of Drummond picking up his $27.5 million player option.

After two all star appearances, two playoff appearances, and impressive rebounding stats, the question that begs to be asked is what should Drummond’s legacy be with the Pistons? Well, there’s a pretty clear divide on this issue.

If you weren’t a Drummond supporter all along, you’re going to see Drummond’s time in Detroit as a dark time in the history of the Pistons. If you’re a supporter, Drummond was a bright spot in the past decade of Pistons basketball that never quite had the supporting cast around him to truly compete.

There’s no disputing the fact that he excelled at the regular double double, and that his rebounding numbers were always stellar. He is the best rebounder in the past two decades, but he is the leader in a stat that has lost its importance.

This reality is an unfortunate metaphor with the career of Drummond. If he had entered the league ten years earlier, he would’ve been an elite NBA talent sought after by the entire league.

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The lack of a sizable return for Drummond doesn’t speak to a lack of talent, it speaks to the fact that the style of his play is a dying breed, and the Pistons were not willing to accept this reality until it was perhaps too late.

The Pistons were adamant on building around Drummond and a rotation of fellow big men. When the rest of the league was zigging, the Pistons were zagging.

The NBA went small, and the Pistons went big in the era of three point shooting and the dominance of the Warriors.

Being a fan of Drummond’s time in Detroit wasn’t easy. There were moments that you could see how badly he wanted to win, but there were also the times that he looked dejected and emotionally checked out from the action on the court.

However, you can’t take away Drummond’s place on the all time Pistons leaderboard, and the good that he did for the franchise in his eight year tenure.

This new chapter for the Pistons and for Drummond alike is exactly what both sides need. The Pistons need to clear cap space and to acquire assets towards the future.

Drummond needs an opportunity to shine on a young roster that is willing to showcase him alongside talented guards that can give him good scoring opportunities.

With this new chapter for both sides, there will be discussions about what Drummond’s place in the history books of the Pistons should be.

Even though Andre Drummond was never able to secure a playoff win in Detroit, it was not due to a lack of trying. His time was not short of controversy and the highs and lows, but Drummond loved being a Piston.

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If there’s anything that we can remember him by, it’s his commitment to being in Detroit and his passion for winning for the Pistons fan base. That’s something I will remember him by, and we all should too.