Can Stan Van Gundy Make Andre Drummond an All-Star Center Next Season?

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Can Stan Van Gundy Make Andre Drummond an All-Star Center Next Season?
USA TODAY Sports
Is Andre Drummond ready to be an All-Star this season?

With Stan Van Gundy as his new head coach and continued development in his game, Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond should be an All-Star for the first time in 2015. 

Drummond, 20, only scratched the surface of his potential in his second NBA season, yet he was already one of the best young big men in the game. His gaudy numbers should only become more impressive as he works on his game and improves his conditioning.

Van Gundy's offensive style of play should be conducive to Drummond's game, and the coach has previous experience developing young big men. He can also make some tweaks to the roster that would benefit Drummond greatly.

Finally, Drummond has the good fortune of playing in the Eastern Conference. There is less talent to compete with for All-Star spots, and the Pistons have an opportunity to move up the standings in 2014-15.

Drummond has what it takes to become a perennial NBA All-Star, and it should not be a surprise if he's representing his conference in New York City on February 15.

 

Drummond's Development

USA TODAY Sports
Can Drummond make the leap from MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge to All-Star in one season?

Drummond proved throughout his second season that he was capable of taking on an increasingly large role with the Pistons, and that should only continue as his skills improve and he plays more minutes.

His numbers improved from 7.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in his first season to 13.5 points and 13.2 rebounds in 2013-14 as his minutes increased from 20.7 to 32.3.

He admitted to not being in great shape as a rookie, but he used his first offseason to improve in that area.

"I had a conversation with Mo [Cheeks] when he got hired," Drummond told Howard Megdal of Sports on Earth. "He told me, 'You know, you're not gonna play 20 minutes anymore. You'll be playing a lot of minutes.' And he said, 'Are you ready to run?' I said yeah, I'm ready to run. So I've been focusing on my conditioning, making sure my body's right."

Drummond seemed to get stronger as the season went on, averaging more minutes in April (34.4) than he did in any other month. He also played his best basketball, averaging 18.4 points and 17.4 rebounds while shooting 64.2 percent from the floor. 

Even if his play were to level off, which seems unlikely given his age, Drummond's numbers should see a boost just from him seeing more time on the court. Eighteen big men averaged more minutes than he did in 2013-14, and Drummond proved he was capable of playing more. 

According to Basketball Reference, his per-36-minutes stats last season were 15.1 points, 14.7 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.4 steals. If he plays between 34 and 36 minutes per game and improves even slightly, those are very realistic numbers for him to average in 2014-15, and that would be worthy of an All-Star nod.

 

The Van Gundy Effect

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press
Van Gundy has proven that he can develop young big men.

When Van Gundy joined the Orlando Magic in 2007, center Dwight Howard—someone Drummond has been compared to—had just made his first All-Star appearance. But he made a big jump statistically with Van Gundy calling the plays, as did the Magic as a team.

In Howard's first All-Star season, which came in his third NBA season, he averaged 17.6 points, 12.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. In that first year with Van Gundy, those numbers improved to 20.7 points, 14.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. He also cut his turnovers from 3.9 to 3.2.

There's no way to determine how much of that improvement can be credited to Van Gundy, but his style of play fit Howard's game, as it should with Drummond's. Van Gundy preferred to use Howard as the lone big man operating down low surrounded by four shooters. And prior to the season, he added two players who could really shoot the ball to fit that style: Rashard Lewis and Maurice Evans.

Assuming that Van Gundy believes he can adapt that style of play to fit in Detroit, Drummond would have significantly more space to operate down low than he did in 2013-14. Not only did he play next to two other non-shooters at the same time for extended stretches in Greg Monroe and Josh Smith, but he also was on the second-worst shooting team in the entire NBA. 

Given Van Gundy's coaching history, it is almost a given that he'll use at least part of the Pistons' $10 million-plus in cap space to acquire players who can shoot the ball. There's also a strong possibility that guys on the roster who can shoot the ball, such as Luigi Datome and Josh Harrellson, will see increased playing time. That should only make Drummond's life easier on the offensive end.

 

Eastern Conference Benefits

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Drummond is blessed to play in the East, which is devoid of All-Star-quality big men.

Though you wouldn't be able to tell based on the Pistons' record in 2013-14, the East has significantly less talent than the Western Conference, which works in Drummond's favor in terms of making an All-Star team. 

In 2014, DeMar DeRozan, Roy Hibbert, Joe Johnson, Paul Millsap and Chris Bosh were All-Stars. Not to say they're not solid players, but it's unlikely any of them would have made the West team. Just looking at the big men, Chris Bosh averaged 16.2 points and 6.6 rebounds, Roy Hibbert averaged 10.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocks, and Millsap averaged 17.9 points and 8.5 rebounds. 

Those stat lines won't blow anybody away. 

Of course, Bosh seems to get a bump as recognition that his numbers take a hit from playing next to LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. And Hibbert is one of the best rim protectors in the game. But Drummond will have a strong case if his numbers improve even slightly. 

Also, some roster shakeups could alter the All-Star landscape. If Kevin Love were to be traded to a team in the East, Drummond's task would be more difficult.

But Carmelo Anthony could just as easily free up a spot by leaving New York for the Houston Rockets or the Los Angeles Lakers. And the Lakers believe strongly enough that they can land LeBron James that they're willing to hold up their coaching search, per Sam Amick of USA Today.

As unlikely as that seems, it would help Drummond's cause, and similar scenarios that would bring All-Stars to the Eastern Conference have not emerged. 

Any improvement by the Pistons as a team should benefit Drummond's chances, and the East should allow for that, as a 38-win team made the playoffs in 2013-14. Ten of the 12 All-Stars in each conference were on playoff teams in 2013-14. 

Again, Van Gundy should help in this regard. In his first season with the Magic, they won 52 games—a 12-game improvement from the previous season. The addition of Lewis in free agency helped, but Van Gundy will again have cap space to acquire talent with the Pistons.

Drummond is already one of the best young big men in the NBA, and he has the size, the athleticism and the raw talent to make it seem inevitable that the "young" caveat will be dropped sooner than later.

With Van Gundy's leadership, there's no reason Drummond can't be recognized as an All-Star in his third season.

 

All statistics from NBA.com unless otherwise noted. 

Jakub Rudnik covers the Detroit Pistons as a Featured Columnist for B/R.

Follow him on Twitter. .

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