Drummond put on a memorable performance during the competition, comprised solely of first- and second-year players. He even set a record with 25 rebounds and added 30 points to his line, leading coach Nate McMillan to tell the Associated Press, via NBA.com, "Every rebound that came off the board, he wanted. A few of them he took from his teammates, but I liked his aggressiveness."
Just add it to the growing highlight reel.
The 20-year-old big man is quickly winning over Detroit with his athleticism and upside, and his 2013-14 campaign has left little doubt that he's a franchise cornerstone.
Ridiculous Numbers for Such a Young Player
Let's take a minute and remember that Drummond is only 20 years old. And it's not like he's an old 20, as he won't legally be able to consume alcoholic beverages until August.
Drummond dominated the Rising Stars Challenge, was handed a broken version of the MVP trophy and then couldn't go out to enjoy Bourbon Street. Some things in life just aren't fair.
Despite his lack of time on this planet, Drummond is already averaging some otherworldly numbers.
Going into the festivities at New Orleans, he was posting 13.1 points, 13.0 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.9 blocks per game while shooting 61.1 percent from the field, a mark topped only by DeAndre Jordan. Those are quality stats for guys with a decade of experience under their belts, but they're nearly unheard of for a player this young.
He's already pacing the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage and total rebounding percentage, and his 22.4 PER is nothing short of elite. DeMarcus Cousins is the lone center topping him in PER, according to Basketball-Reference.com, and Drummond ranks No. 15 in win shares and No. 13 in win shares per 48 minutes.
But let's move beyond the current landscape and compare him to every single player in NBA history who has been in the league before reaching 21.
Including this season, just eight have ever averaged double-digit rebounds, and Shaquille O'Neal's 1992-93 campaign is the only one ahead of Drummond. While it's unlikely that Drummond elevates his work on the boards to catch Shaq's 13.9 rebounds per game, he's not going to fall down the leaderboard either.
He and Andrew Bynum are the only under-21 players in NBA history to shoot 60 percent from the field while averaging double-digits in points.
No matter how you look at Drummond's line, it's impressive.
In a current context, he's doing things that few in the league are capable of matching. In a historical context, he's doing things that few players this young have ever achieved.
Plenty of Upside
Who better to explain this than Maurice Cheeks, the former coach of the Pistons? While he was still running the show in Motor City, he said the following about his star big man, per Pistons.com's Keith Langlois:
He’s a delightful kid to coach,. He gets better every game. He’s like a sponge. He likes guys to tell him certain things and he goes out and tries to do it. When you get a guy like that – with his size and ability and agility, the way he’s capable of playing – he’s just a joy to coach.
That's exactly what you want—a young player who's willing to learn and do what he can to maximize his talents.
For all the impressive plays he's submitted two seasons into his career, Drummond has barely scratched the surface of his potential. Remember, we're talking about a young prospect who was originally viewed as a project player when he was coming out of Connecticut.
It was supposed to take him years to morph into a quality player, and he's well ahead of the curve. As Langlois wrote, "But the Pistons have one of the most coveted commodities in all of the NBA, a 20-year-old with jaw-dropping athletic ability, and that is going to give them great latitude in building a team around him for the next generation."
The athletic ability is what excites everyone.
As B/R's Kelly Scaletta wrote, "His mix of size, speed and athleticism screams 'superstar' like a hyper-enraged banshee."
Even though he's only 20, Drummond is listed as 6'10", 270 pounds. He already has a chiseled frame, and he's only going to get stronger as his career continues to progress.
Imagine what happens when he learns how to make the best use of his immense athletic tools. Drummond already does that by thriving on rolls to the basket, but his lateral quickness will eventually aid him greatly when he gets a handle on proper defensive fundamentals.
With a couple years of experience under his belt, Drummond could be absolutely terrifying. And by "could be," I'm starting to mean "will be."
Ability to Shore Up Noticeable Weaknesses
When a player is an established veteran in the NBA, weaknesses are problematic. But when it's a young player laying claim to those same deficiencies, there's more hope they'll be fixed in the near future.
Drummond is obviously still learning, and there are quite a few areas that need serious work.
The first is his free-throw shooting.
Drummond is shooting only 41.3 percent at the charity stripe, and that's actually an improvement upon the mark from his rookie season. Until he can fix this glaring weakness, he'll be a liability in the waning portions of close games, because opposing coaches will instruct their players to send him to the line whenever possible.
The rest of his finesse game on offense also needs help.
The young big man is scoring efficiently because he knows how to use his athleticism and is one of the more self-aware players in the Association. But he doesn't have many post moves, and his range—with the exception of a few lucky shots—extends only a handful of steps away from the basket.
Synergy Sports (subscription required) shows that Drummond has worked in isolation only twice, spotted up five times and used post-up moves on just 10.8 percent of his possessions. When he goes to work there, he scores 0.69 points per possession, which ranks No. 113 in the league. If you're being that selective, you should be more efficient.
It's not like he's perfect on defense either.
Though Drummond is developing into a great shot-blocker and does a terrific job jumping passing lanes and using his quick hands to wreak havoc, he's still learning how to play NBA defense. He can get bullied around, bites on fakes and is still working on his rotations.
According to Basketball-Reference, the Pistons actually allow 3.5 more points per 100 possessions when Drummond is on the court. That will surely get better with time, but let's not make the mistake of confusing him for a stellar defender at this stage of his career.
Again, I bring up these flaws not to diminish what Drummond has done, but rather to highlight how much room for improvement the 20-year-old center enjoys. It's what gives me confidence to predict that this young man—who almost deserves to be called an All-Star snub during his sophomore season—will eventually develop into a fringe MVP candidate and sure-fire All-Star starter.
By all accounts, Drummond has been a hard worker during his time in the Association, and he's working with a set of tools that would make just about anyone in the world jealous.
The sky is the limit for this Pistons center, and he can jump high enough that he just might touch it.
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