Pump the brakes Pistons’ fans: It’s no time to panic
When Andre Drummond landed in the Pistons’ laps in the 2012 NBA Draft, many of us felt we had a steal on our hands. Detroit had just secured a soon-to-be 19-year-old big man with rare athleticism for his muscular 6-foot-11 frame. That he fell to the Pistons at #9 despite being occasionally discussed as the potential top overall pick made it even sweeter.
And in the early going, Drummond did not disappoint. Despite their being questions about his fit alongside Greg Monroe, himself a third-year center and the incumbent starter, there was hope the Pistons had a twin-towery front court of the future. If the fit was bad? Well, at least they had some options given that they were both young and talented, and sure to have some marketability were the Pistons to look to trade one.
What we didn’t know, or at least, fully comprehend at the time was how much the game was changing. In the past, our best teams had centers that were absolutely crucial in Bill Laimbeer and Ben Wallace. We were conditioned to believe that a top tier big man was an irreplaceable ingredient to a championship team. After all, in the post-Jordan/pre-Lebron era that stretched from 1999 to 2012 (as in, Mike’s last championship until LeBron’s first), Shaquille O’Neal or Tim Duncan had anchored 8 of those 13 championship teams, Wallace was on one, and Pau Gasol a couple more. There was no reason to think that we were going anywhere without an All-NBA caliber player in the middle. Drummond was, hopefully, going to become just that.
Now we know that despite some pretty good years, Drummond didn’t have the impact we had hoped that he would. The NBA was a different playground by the time Andre was ripping rebounds out of the air and throwing up bricks from the free throw line. For all his talent, his weaknesses couldn’t be successfully obscured on a great team; at least, the Pistons never figured out how to do it. Once LeBron broke through with his first championship, the league moved toward a version of itself that leaned heavily into offense. Dominant multi-positional two-way wings were at a premium. The 3-point shot was the new Sky Hook.