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By: Mike McCann
Well, if there is one thing we’ve learned about the Pistons so far, it’s this: expect a show at halftime. Only kidding, of course…actually, not really. This version of the Pistons would make the Riddler proud. They are as enigmatic as ever. One night, they look awful in a bad loss, and most fans reminisce about the good ole’ days. The next night, they play inspired and win by twenty against a team that you thought should have beat them. That’s how it’s gone for most of the year.
The Pistons are 17-28, four and a half games out of the final playoff spot in the East, as they visit the Pacers tonight. Unfortunately for him, but lucky for the Pistons, Rajon Rondo and the Celtics are the team the Pistons are chasing. I guess now it’s just the Celtics, since Rondo is on the shelf for the rest of the year, due to a torn ACL. When that happened, admittedly, I thought the Pistons playoff chances got a nice push forward. Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, one thing is clear on this team: Andre Drummond is (going to be) a star. The parentheses are there because half the time, Drummond puts up All-NBA numbers. Take last night, for example, when he went for eighteen points and eighteen rebounds. If he doesn’t take the cake, he’s right up there with the most pleasant surprises in Detroit sports since the Wings got Kris Draper for a dollar.
I consider myself a big college basketball fan. With that said, I had no idea who Drummond was when the Pistons selected him ninth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. He went to Uconn, so common sense tells you he has to be halfway decent. He’s played halfway decent about three or four times this season. Other than that, he’s been exceptional. Drummond has outperformed my expectations, and my guess is he’s out performed yours, too. He’s been a breath of fresh air for a team that has needed his energy. But he’s still not there, just yet.
Drummond plays as hard as any young big man in the league. He probably plays as hard as any old big man in the league. He’s as exciting as they come for a young center. When Will Bynum is out there with him, that’s the part of the game where you don’t get up to refill your drink. Batman and Robin (as Drummond calls the duo) off the bench have been tremendous. On another team, they may be the missing link. On this team, they have played a integral role in close to half of the Pistons’ wins. The other half they’ve also impacted, whether it’s clutch shots or big blocks. But there is room for more, especially from Drummond.
That’s not to say Andre is doing anything wrong; he’s not. Quite the contrary, he’s done most everything right. There are still a few things he can improve. First thing is first: he needs to be better from the free throw line. This is stereotyping, so I apologize, but most centers are not great free throw shooters. I’m not expecting Drummond to go shoot 80% from the stripe. But he’s at 40% right now. That number can (and should) go up. You have to remember he is a rookie, and the game is probably still moving pretty quickly for him, whether it shows or not. Free throws are an easy fix, though—repetition, repetition, repetition. He should be better next year.
The other aspect I’d like to see Drummond improve is his play around the rim. Now yes, he can jump out of the gym and dunk the ball anytime Bynum (or anyone else) throws it up. No debate there, his hops are right where they need to be. But he isn’t quite to the point where he can get the ball on the low block and go to work. That takes some time, and while he has made some improvements, he still needs to work at that. An offseason will help tremendously.
As good as he has been, Drummond should stay on the bench, at least for a little while. The realization is this: Andre Drummond is not going to make or break the Pistons’ playoff chances. He is a rare talent, yes. He was a steal at number nine, and he’s a franchise player. But it’s going to be Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight who determine whether or not the Pistons get to the playoffs. Those are the guys who must produce on a consistent basis. Those are the guys that must help solve this riddle.