His skill set is raw, but he is among the most athletic players in the league. And at just 20 years old, he still has several years before he enters his prime.
Drummond has the upside to become an elite center, but his rate of development will determine what kind of career path he has.
Worst Case: DeAndre Jordan
Both big men entered the NBA after just one college season. Both intrigued teams with their raw ability, yet watched their draft stock fall because scouts questioned their work ethic and NBA-readiness.
Jordan played six fewer minutes per game than Drummond as a rookie, but their per minute numbers are comparable, and their shooting percentages are nearly identical.
Jordan's workload increased for the Clippers—he has started 214 of 228 games the past three seasons—but the rate of his production did not. His scoring improved to 13 points per 36 minutes in 2012-13, but his rebounding (10.6) and blocks (2.0) fell. And after shooting 52.5 percent from the line in 2011-12, he dropped to 38.6 percent this past season.
Drummond will almost certainly surpass Jordan as a player, but the Clippers' big man is the best example of what the future holds if he never makes good on his potential.
Realistic Upside: Dwight Howard
If there's one current NBA player who should make Pistons fans excited about Drummond's potential, it's current Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard.
Howard, who entered the NBA straight from high school, also had a rookie season like Drummond's.
But unlike Jordan, Howard has developed into one of the best players in the NBA. He's a seven-time All-Star, has made seven All-NBA teams and won three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards from 2009 to 2011.
That kind of production isn't out of the realm of possibility for Drummond.
Howard has career averages of 12.9 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and one steal, defensive numbers that are right in line with Drummond's per 36 minute statistics. To get to Howard's level, Drummond's development will have to come on the offensive end.
Howard developed into the top scoring option in his eight seasons with Orlando Magic and was the focal point offensively on a team that made the NBA Finals in 2009, averaging 18.6 points during the playoff run.
Howard doesn't have a great post game, but during his career he developed a solid short hook shot and a decent face-up jumper. According to NBA.com, he shot 65.7 percent from within five feet, but just 29.8 percent from beyond. A big man with the size and athleticism of Howard or Drummond doesn't need range to score, just touch around the rim.
Drummond has all the tools to become a player like Howard. But it'll be up to him to develop his post game, which may be difficult as the fourth or fifth option in Detroit.
Wishful Thinking: David Robinson
In NBA history there are only three players who have averaged 12 points, 12 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.5 steals for an entire season: Hakeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and David Robinson. If you squint hard enough, you can see a bit of Robinson in Drummond.
Drummond is nowhere near the kind of offensive player Robinson was, even in The Admiral's rookie year. But there are plenty of similarities.
Robinson led the NBA in rebounding twice and blocks once—Drummond's rebounding and blocks per 36 minutes both ranked in the top 10 in 2012-13. Robinson forced turnovers better than nearly any big man in history, and Drummond's average of 1.7 steals per 36 minutes is higher than Robinson's 1.5 for his career.
In terms of athleticism, Robinson overpowered defenders and played above the rim, but he also ran the court better than any center ever.
Drummond doesn't have the same ball-handling ability, but he still can get up and down the court.
Robinson could score around the hoop in a variety of ways, could knock down 15-foot jumpers and was a great low-post passer, averaging 4.8 assists in 1993-94.
Drummond will almost certainly never develop the same kind of skill set as Robinson, but his ability to affect games in so many ways reminds one of The Admiral.
You just have to squint hard enough.
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