The lottery balls have been pulled, players evaluated, mock drafts penciled in, and with 10 days to go, most of the top strata NBA hopefuls are fairly confident when and where they will be selected in this year's draft.
That is, everyone except Connecticut's freshman Andre Drummond, who has been the subject of erratic conjecture.
There has been more pre-draft speculation surrounding his name than frantic bids to sell on the floor of the New York stock exchange, one fateful Tuesday morning in 1929. And if that historical reference is lost on you then try this—the rumors are flying like errant fastballs in a Rick Vaughn bullpen session. And if that pop culture reference is lost on you than let me just put it bluntly, there is a lot of uncertainty about Drummond’s future.
He has gone from the third spot to Washington, to the fifth with Sacramento, to sixth in Portland and even rumored ninth to Detroit (reported by Chad Ford of ESPN). He has worked out with all of the aforementioned teams and will head to both Cleveland (via Ford) and Charlotte (via Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer) for auditions before the week is done.
NBA Insider Alex Kennedy calls it “The Curious Case of Andre Drummond.” Sports Illustrated writer Sam Amick describes him as the “mystery man of this draft class.” And ESPN's Chad Ford referred to him as "the biggest wild card."
I ask, however, why so much uncertainty?
If there is any player in this draft that can reshape the future of a franchise, it is Andre Drummond.
At 6’11” and 270 pounds, the young center is a specimen comprised of raw talent and unlimited upswing. HOOPSWORLD writes, “Drummond has all of the physical tools to dominate in the NBA…He’s extremely athletic, explosive and quick. Drummond should be an unstoppable force every time he picks up a basketball.”
If a diamond is unpolished, it is still a diamond nonetheless.
Critics and GMs alike feel that Drummond is too young, doesn’t offer enough offensively, and has a poor free throw percentage. Many also question his dedication.
The Counter Arguments
If anyone thinks that youth is a flaw, then they clearly haven’t been paying attention to the 2012 postseason, particularly the Oklahoma City Thunder. Scott Brooks’ big three are all under 23, and his starting rotation is under 28, yet they offer the most dynamic offenses and have dominated the Western conference.
At age 18, Drummond is the second youngest player in this year’s draft (behind Kidd-Gilchrist), meaning he could be the face of a franchise for almost two decades. In an interview with the Washington Post he joked that being young “will be to my advantage. Because they’re old men and I’m kind of quick on my feet.”
His weak offense has been the center of focus this offseason, developing his back-to-basket game and short range jump shot. While it might not be as smooth as Jared Sullinger’s, his back-to-basket can do nothing but progress. He said so himself, “The sky’s the limit, so I know I have room to improve. That’s what I’m going to do.”
And as for free throws, a 29.5 percent is atrocious, but is also the easiest asset to enhance. So far this offseason he has shed 22 pounds, built up his endurance, and is finally treating basketball as his career and not just a game. He said this in response to his questioned work ethic. Via HOOPSWORLD:
“All I can tell you is that no matter what team I get drafted to, whoever I’m with, I’m going to work my hardest,” Drummond said. “I’m going to do the best I can and play to the best of my abilities. I can’t dictate the future and know what I’m going to do. All I know is that I’m going to go out there and give it my all.”
With a wingspan of 7’6.25” Drummond is a defensive tyrannosaurus. He finished his freshman season with 92 blocks (sixth in NCAA) and did so without fouling. He will plug up the key, shut down post players, and will be a hug obstacle for rim attackers like Manu Ginobili, Rajon Rondo, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. His size, strength, and springing abilities make him an effective rebounder and he excels at collecting lose balls.
Drummond is surprisingly mobile and can get up and down the court well for a center. He has great hands and is very explosive vertically making him a great target for lob passes and strong at tipping in missed shots. He also possesses all of the necessary skills to shine in a pick and roll offense, even though UConn didn’t feature it much last year.
If he goes to Washington, Drummond will be the Aaron Rodgers-like protégé to an experienced center. Not to say Nene is Brett Favre, but the experience and leadership of the nine-year veteran will help him grow in leaps and bounds. Since Nene averages less than 30 minutes per game, Drummond will be expected to both learn and contribute. With John Wall and most likely a newly drafted wing player, the Wizards and Drummond will be a force for many years.
If Sacramento decides to take Drummond, expect big things. He will be the Yin to DeMarcus Cousins’ Yang. Cousins will supply the points while Drummond supplies the defense, combining for one of the most domineering front courts in the NBA.
If Portland can get their hands on him, they will be wildly excited. Blazersedge.com claims “the Blazers don’t have a bigger need right now and there is no better center around and available.” Portland is still suffering from the tragic bust in Greg Oden. They were the sixth worst rebounding team, and not much better with shot blocking. Plus, coupling him with LaMarcus Aldridge seems irresistible.
Finally there are the Pistons, who are crossing their fingers that he falls to the ninth overall pick, ranked 29th in defensive rebounds and 26th in blocks. Drummond would be a key addition to a limited front court.
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