Will Star Rookie Andre Drummond Be the NBA's Next Dwight Howard?
The good news is that Andre Drummond has every skill needed to match Dwight Howard's talent level between the whistles. The bad news comes after the whistle blows and play stops.
The irony is that for Andre Drummond to become the next Dwight Howard, he must get better at free throws, a weakness of Dwight's. That's because Drummond isn't merely bad at freebies. He's awful to the point where it seriously jeopardizes his floor time.
It's considered "bad" free-throw shooting to only hit half of your free throws, and that of course is true, relative to the average FT rate of roughly 75 percent. But there's a vast difference between Dwight's level of poor free-throw shooting and Drummond's.
At Dwight's career .582 free-throw mark, it's not worth it for teams to always foul him. When that number dips closer to 50 percent, it's not worth it to hack Dwight, save for certain situations. This year has been an exception in that Dwight's shooting a career-low .496 from the line.
Right now, Andre Drummond is shooting worse than 40 percent from the free-throw line. The difference between 40 percent and 50 percent is that teams are almost always better served fouling you at the former percentage. If this continues, it could actually cut the promising prospect's career short.
There are, however, some attributes of Drummond's that are superior to those of Howard. For instance, Dre's bigger. At the draft combine, young Andre Drummond measured in at nearly an inch taller, 39 lbs heavier than young Dwight.
Andre Drummond also boasts a longer wingspan than Howard, and to my mind, claims better quickness in the passing lanes. That adds up to make Drummond one of the best defensive prospects in the last 20 years.
I'll ask it rhetorically: How many rookie centers can swipe Dwyane Wade on consecutive possessions?
Andre Drummond has elite horizontal mobility, much like Dwight. The two also boast facility in leaping vertically and swatting shots.
Andre Drummond and Dwight Howard are both elite rebounders, and it's surprising in Drummond's case because he wasn't a great rebounder at Connecticut. In retrospect, it's more surprising that the long, 280-lb. athletic monster wasn't as good on the boards in college compared to today. Young Dre is currently wrenching down a greater percentage of rebounds than the currently hobbled Dwight.
A large difference between these two large men is that Dwight Howard has a post game. Though he's at his best in converting off screen-and-rolls, Howard does possess the ability to isolate and score. At 19 years old, Andre Drummond isn't there yet.
I don't think that this is necessarily a huge flaw in Drummond's game. The league is moving toward a reality where big men are best used as pick-and-roll screeners instead of post-up brutes. It's better if Andre Drummond adopts these skills, but it's hardly necessary.
In summary, Andre Drummond might be the closest thing to Dwight that we've seen since Dwight. The biggest barrier to growing into a Dwight-like superstar will be the mastery of an open, 15-foot shot. So far, the PER leader among rookies is on his way.
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