You can't teach size...or athleticism.
That argument has driven teams to great lengths to take big men, especially those who are roughest around the edges, in the NBA draft over the years. It's that same simple (if not simplistic) line of thinking that led the Detroit Pistons to make Andre Drummond the No. 9 overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Whether the studly freshman out of Connecticut becomes the next Dwight Howard or the next Kwame Brown depends largely on the work that he puts into his game in the years to come, and who the Pistons put in charge of his mentoring and development.
If Drummond grows into something more than just an impressive physical specimen, then Detroit may soon have its ticket out of the basement of the Eastern Conference. If not, it'll likely be spinning its wheels in the Motor City for another few years.
Such is the risk and reward that Drummond represents—a reward for which the risk was evidently worth taking in the mind of Pistons GM Joe Dumars.
How Drummond Fits In
Oh, what a payoff it will be if Andre Drummond can so much as walk and chew gum at the same time in the NBA. The Pistons already employ one soon-to-be-All-Star (Greg Monroe) in their frontcourt. The plan, it seems, is to move Monroe over to power forward and have Drummond start at center in due course.
The timetable of this shift will be predicated on Drummond's long-term development, as well as his short-term ability to compete effectively at the NBA level. Detroit would be daffy to run him out there too soon or grant him too many minutes too quickly.
That is, unless he plays to his strengths early and often.
Drummond was born to defend, almost as much as Bruce Springsteen was born to run. Drummond is incredibly mobile and athletic, especially for a kid his size. He has the mass to defend centers, the agility to hang with power forwards and the lateral quickness to stay in front of wings and guards.
Not that having Drummond defend on the perimeter would at all be an efficient use of his talents. Rather, the Pistons would be smart to employ Drummond as a shot-swatting specialist from the get-go. They ranked 24th in block percentage and 26th in blocks per game in the NBA last season, according to Team Rankings.
It's no wonder, then, that the Pistons were also sixth-worst in defensive efficiency, fifth-worst in opponents' true shooting percentage and second-worst in field-goal defense between three and nine feet from the basket (per Hoopdata). Without a true shot-blocker in the middle, the Pistons struggled to intimidate the opposition defensively, much less stop them from parading to the hoop.
Drummond's mere presence—along with his long arms, jaw-dropping hops and tremendous timing—should change that. So, too, should it help curtail the productivity of opposing post players. As Grantland's Sebastian Pruiti notes, Drummond's length, lower-body strength and discipline lent him to great defense down low in college, where he allowed just 0.422 points per possession.
Those defensive skills, along with his offensive rebounding—3.4 offensive boards per game at UConn—should land Drummond plenty of playing time as a rookie.
Adjustments Drummond Must Make at the Pro Level
Andre Drummond's to-do list of skills to develop and refine as a pro is as long as any prospect of his caliber has had in some time, perhaps since Andrew Bynum made the leap into the league in 2005.
Scoring was a grind for Drummond at UConn, to say the least. According to Mike Schmitz of DraftExpress, Drummond shot 32 percent (22-of-68) with his back to the basket.
He could stand to develop a jump hook with either his left or right hand...or any reliable post moves at all, for that matter. At this point, Drummond's go-to maneuver is to bowl his way to the basket and either try to dunk or throw the ball up with the "wrong" hand.
To call Drummond's post game a "work in progress" is to severely understate his issues. He still lacks feel on the low block or touch around the rim, though both problems can be remedied in time, so long as he puts in the requisite work.
The same goes for his shot, or lack thereof. Drummond attempted just nine jumpers in college, hitting three of them, and converted a woeful 29.5 percent of his free-throw attempts.
However, as with his post game, Drummond's shooting stroke is far from a lost cause. His mechanics are already solid, and he gets decent elevation on his shot. All he needs are repetitions—perhaps thousands and thousands of them—to get his shot straight.
Interestingly enough, where Drummond's "tenderfootedness" within the game shows most is as a defensive rebounder. Drummond has a penchant for going after defensive boards without putting a body on his man first. He relies on his size, strength and athleticism—all of which are off the charts—yet too often is beaten to the ball because he fails to put a body on someone first.
Again, the key here is for Drummond to drill away on his fundamentals so that he can better accentuate his drool-inducing potential.
As Drummond's game grows, so too will his confidence on the court.
At this point, this is cause for some concern. Drummond struggled to assert himself at times at UConn, often drifting in and out of games to the point of frustration. After all, how is it that the biggest, most gifted player on the floor could render himself invisible for such long stretches during games?
Some were quick to attribute this to laziness or a lack of interest, though his poor body language and occasional inability to dominate mismatches seemed more the byproduct of his novelty to the game and the wavering confidence that begat.
If there's anything Drummond showed on draft night, it's that he cares about basketball and understands how unique and fortunate an opportunity it is for him to play professionally.
As such, like every other aspect of Drummond's game, his self-belief figures to flourish as experience accumulates on his side.
It'd be well within reason to expect Andre Drummond to fare better as a rookie than did Andrew Bynum, who averaged 1.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in 7.3 minutes as an 18-year-old under Phil Jackson's heavy hand. Expecting him to match Dwight Howard's teenage numbers—12 points, 10 rebounds—may be a bit much, though.
Instead, look for Pistons coach Lawrence Frank to allot him 20 to 25 minutes per game, be it as a starter or as Greg Monroe's understudy, and for Drummond to come through with something in the neighborhood of eight points and six rebounds per game.
Not exactly Rookie of the Year material—not by a long shot. The bookmakers seem to be well aware of this, with bovada.lv listing Drummond's ROY odds at 30-1.
Nor should the Pistons delay their vacation plans until summer. They're moving in the right direction, slowly but surely, and finished in 10th place in the East last season, albeit 10 games out of a playoff spot. Steady improvement by Monroe, Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey should (finally) breed some better basketball in Motown.
But unless Drummond destroys the rest of the league from day one, the Pistons will have their sights set on another 30- to 35-win season and a trip back to the draft lottery thereafter.