By: Will Burchfield
A quick glance at Andre Drummond’s stats suggests he took a significant step back in his fifth NBA season.
After averaging 16.2 points and 14.8 rebounds per game in 2015-16, both career-highs, he fell to 13.6 points and 13.8 rebounds in 2016-17.
But considering Drummond played about three minutes fewer per game, coach Stan Van Gundy isn’t buying the notion of regression.
“I’ve had a lot of people ask about his regression — he didn’t regress. If you look at his numbers over 36 minutes a game, he was down about a point in scoring but his rebounds were up, his assists were up, his steals were up, his field percentage was up, his free throw percentage was up,” Van Gundy told the Valenti Show on 97.1 The Ticket.
Here are Drummond’s averages, per 36 minutes, in each of the last two seasons.
As Van Gundy mentioned, Drummond also improved his field goal and free throw percentages. He shot 53 percent from the field, up from 52 percent in 2015-16, and 39 percent from the line, up from 36 percent.
“He didn’t regress, but two things happened and the biggest one is this: He went from being a guy on a rookie contract, where those numbers looked good, to a guy on a max contract, where we expect more and they’re not good,” said Van Gundy.
Drummond signed a five-year, $130 million contract last offseason, increasing his yearly salary from $2.6 million to $26 million.
“The second thing that happened was things weren’t the same around him,” Van Gundy went on. “Let’s be honest, he and Reggie Jackson were one of the best pick and roll combinations in the NBA (in 2015-16). Reggie got hurt, missed 30 games and was not nearly himself and that hurt him. Look, Andre’s got a lot to learn, he’s got to be better, no question. But it’s not quite the situation people have painted it to be.”
What’s more, Drummond is still just 23 years old. He’ll turn 24 in August.
“We tend to lose perspective on a guy like him because you see great talent. He hasn’t turned 24 years old yet. There are several guys in this upcoming draft coming who are older than he is,” said Van Gundy.
Drummond played just one season at UConn before entering the NBA in 2012 at the age of 19.
“I’m the most guilty,” Van Gundy admitted. “I expect these huge things from him and it doesn’t happen on a consistent basis. There’s no question it has to, and you’re absolutely right that it’ll define my time here. He’s a guy we’ve gotta be able to get through to and get more consistent, but he’s been better than what people give him credit for.”
Drummond’s most glaring issue, of course, is his ineptitude at the free throw line. In Van Gundy’s eyes, it has contributed to poor shot selection.
“The free throws lead to even bigger problems because I think where he could be more effective is catching the ball deeper, rather than off the lane, so he could make stronger moves to the basket. But I think it becomes a subconscious thing, he doesn’t want to get fouled,” said Van Gundy. “So he’s not trying to seal as deep as he can, he’s not trying to go to the basket as strong as he can and dunk on people. He’s trying to get up shots quickly before he gets fouled.”
At the other end of the floor, Van Gundy simply wants to see more consistent effort.
“This is something Andre and I have talked about…The area where he could make the biggest jump and do it fairly quickly is to be a much more consistent defender. He’s got the capabilities – very quick feet, good intelligence – and he could make those adjustments and be a better defender if he would lock in every night. Regardless of everything else on the offensive end, that’s where he can have a huge impact on the game,” said Van Gundy.