The expectations for Andre Drummond have wavered almost as much as his playing time in Detroit.
Though NBA scouts are barred from high school gyms, they were very much aware of who and what Drummond was in 2010. Many had projected him as the No. 1 overall pick before his first game at Connecticut.
But then, the college game happened. Drummond could be the poster boy for the argument against eliminating the path from high school to the pros. In his one year at Connecticut, Drummond's flaws were exposed, and it cost him millions of draft-day dollars.
He averaged 10 points and 7.6 rebounds for the most overachieving school in the country. The Huskies lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Iowa State, a game in which Drummond tallied two points and three rebounds.
Many were calling for his return to school—it made sense. Drummond clearly had a lot to work on, and Anthony Davis had already emerged as the top big man prospect in the draft. And with a weak crop of talent in the 2013 pool, Drummond would have the opportunity to regain his status as a potential No. 1 pick.
But Drummond made the call to immediately declare and get out of what I like to call a "quicksand" environment. No matter how hard he pushed, the elements just wouldn't allow for progress. With an offense that read like a script at a slow, methodical pace, it was impossible for someone like Drummond to gain any sort of rhythm.
Drummond's stock was down. He hadn't shown any offensive promise or demonstrated any assortment of moves to make you think that he would one day be a dominant NBA center. Drummond was no longer considered an option at the top of the draft and ultimately slipped to No. 9, toward the back end of the lottery.
Considering his raw skill set, Drummond was not someone you'd think would qualify as "NBA ready." But we were wrong. He turned out to be a project who can contribute before he's even fully developed.
With the Pistons, Drummond is playing 20.2 minutes per game compared to the 28.4 he got in college, yet his rebounding numbers are exactly the same (7.6 per game at UConn, 7.6 in Detroit). In terms of productivity per minute, Drummond has been incredibly active. And not only is he producing, but he's also been ridiculously efficient in the process.
Drummond sports a 22.78 PER according to John Hollinger's formula, which measures and generates a rating for a player's overall efficiency. It's the 11th-highest PER of all qualified players, ahead of guys like Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Anthony Davis. Though this by no means puts him in that class, it just goes to show what he's doing with the limited role he's been given.
His high activity level has helped offset some of his offensive limitations. Without plays drawn up for him, Drummond earns his points and rebounds through hustle and his unfair physical tools. He's consistently making plays above the rim as a finisher, shot-blocker or rebounder, and he seems to get his hands on every loose ball inside.
Check out his highlights from the 18-point, 18-rebound gem he put up on the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 29.
It's becoming fairly evident that many misjudged Andre Drummond and the transition he would make. Nonetheless, coach Lawrence Frank has been hesitant to let him loose despite his early production. Assuming both Drummond and Greg Monroe are in Detroit's long-term plans, Frank should start pairing them together more often and allow for some on-court chemistry to develop.
It's hard to ever declare a top-10 pick a steal, but it appears the Pistons got the best bang for their buck in the 2012 NBA draft.