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Why Didn't Anyone Know Andre Drummond Was Going to Be This Good?

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Why Didn't Anyone Know Andre Drummond Was Going to Be This Good?
Allen Einstein/Getty Images

If you watched Andre Drummond in college, you probably wouldn't have guessed he'd be this dominant in the pros. I didn't. 

But I did when he was in prep school. A lot of people did. And then we changed our minds. 

That freshman year at Connecticut threw everyone off. Had we hidden in a cave during his one-and-done season and come out just before the draft, we would have likely been screaming for a team to take Drummond with a top-three pick.

Everyone watched Drummond's underwhelming season at Connecticut, however. And it ultimately led to eight teams passing on him in the 2012 NBA draft. 

We just didn't see as many flashes of superstardom in college as we did from him in prep school; rather, we saw a raw big man with no post moves and a 29 percent free-throw stroke. 

Take a look at Drummond's production as a freshman:

Andre Drummond Minutes per game FG % Points per game Rebounds per game Blocks per game FT %
2011-12 Connecticut 28.4 .538 10.0 7.6 2.7 .29

He got plenty of minutes, but offensively, Drummond just wasn't much of a threat. Just about all of his points came off of offensive rebounds, dump passes from penetrating guards and lobs.

It's pretty ironic, given that's essentially what he's limited to right now, two years later, only he's producing in volume and bulk. Check out what he's doing with the Detroit Pistons as an NBA sophomore:

Andre Drummond Minutes per game FG % Points per game Rebounds per game Blocks per game FT %
2013-14 Detroit Pistons
33.0 .622 13.2 12.5 1.6 .37

The college game has the tendency to hide or diminish a player's strengths. It doesn't always allow him to maximize them. Drummond's strengths are his unique blend of size, mobility, athleticism and length. And at Connecticut, he wasn't able to put it to use on a consistent basis. 

Before committing to UConn, Drummond actually announced he'd be spending a post-graduate year at prep school before presumably declaring for the draft (and skipping college, something the rules would have allowed him to do), which he reiterated to SNY's Adam Zagoria back in August 2011. 

Many believed it was to avoid being exposed at the college level, and to make sure his stock would be intact by the time the 2012 draft rolled around. 

Though personally disappointed in his initial decision to put off college, I thought it pretty much secured his status as a top-two pick. Scouts had already recognized his towering NBA ceiling, and as a 19-year-old prep-school bully, no weaknesses were going to be exposed. 

But in college, everyone gets placed under the microscope, and you don't know whether the stage is built for you to flourish until you get there.

With methodical offenses, 35-second shot clocks, tighter half courts (because of shorter arcs) and fewer possessions in college, Drummond's Huskies jersey sometimes looked more like a straitjacket. His rare physical tools just weren't milked for all they were worth, and he'd often alternate big games with duds. 

There's less open floor in college—fewer playmakers, and ultimately fewer opportunities for big men like Drummond who can't create them on their own. 

In the pros, he's seemingly making plays like the one below once every half, as opposed to once every week like he did at Connecticut:

But even after college, Drummond's long-term potential was still recognized as massive. In an April 2012 report for NBADraft.net, I referred to his ceiling as the highest in the class (although I think that honor might now go to Anthony Davis). But he just seemed too far away from reaching it, and that made him more of a boom-or-bust prospect.

It turned out he's been able to get away without much of an offensive repertoire. Now, Drummond is slowly adding to it and implementing moves he's never been able to go to. 

"It's happened one or two games already where I've been double-teamed," Drummond told Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated. "It's definitely a good feeling that I'm starting to attract that type of attention, that the hard work I'm putting in is starting to come to light."

Dan Lippitt/Getty Images

Whether or not Drummond emerges as a post scorer remains to be seen, but the fact that he can take over games without many go-to moves speaks to the craziness of his current production. 

So far, Drummond has also earned praise for his mental approach and preparation, something that might have been questioned following college. "Does he like the game? Is he willing to be passionate about playing?" general manager Joe Dumars repeated to SI's Thomsen, referencing questions he heard prior to the draft.

Call it a misevaluation or change in drive, but it seems pretty safe to label that concern a fabricated flaw, as Drummond appears locked and loaded whenever he hits the floor.  

At the end of the day, it's tough to predict how a prospect is going to adapt moving from one level to the next. It's tough deciphering what strengths and weaknesses will transfer over. 

In college, Drummond looked like a raw, athletic big man limited to finishing, blocking shots and running the floor. And by sticking to just that in Detroit, he's been an absolute monster in the NBA.

 

Stats courtesy of sports-reference.com

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