How Soon Before Detroit Pistons' Andre Drummond Dominates Eastern Conference?

Kelly Scaletta@@KellyScalettaFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2013

MEMPHIS, TN - NOVEMBER 1: Andre Drummond #0 of the Detroit Pistons dunks against Kosta Koufos #41 of the Memphis Grizzlies on November 1, 2013 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
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How long will it take before the Detroit Pistons’ super sophomore center, Andre Drummond, starts to dominate the Eastern Conference?

If you’re looking at his potential, it shouldn't be long. The man is an impressive physical specimen. He’s a substantial 6’10”, weighs in at 270 pounds and has a 33.5’ vertical. His mix of size, speed and athleticism screams “superstar” like a hyper-enraged banshee.

When you watch him play, and you see the things he does, like this…

And this….

You can’t help but appreciate the magnificence that he is inevitably going to impose on opponents someday.

He's already butting heads with some of the NBA's best big men and holding his own. Based on efficiency, he's won three of his first four head-to-head contests, per Hoopsstats.com. 

When the Pistons took on the Memphis Grizzlies with their Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol, Drummond won the positional battle, notching 12 points and 16 boards to Gasol's 15 and eight. 

He is scoring 9.8 points per game, up from 7.9 last season, and his rebounds are up to 9.6, an improvement from 7.6. He's not that far away from averaging a double-double. 

Already, Drummond is making a case for himself as a top-five center in the East (if we count Chris Bosh as a power forward). 

Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert and Joakim Noah are the top of the class—pick your order. Al Horford follows closely behind them. And then you're left with a choice between Nikola Vucevic and Drummond for the next spot. 

Considering he was a teenager just slightly more than a blink ago, it's not hard to see him dominating the East in the not-too-distant future. Center is a position that takes time to grow into, and part of the surprise with Drummond is how quickly he's adapting to the NBA game. 

But, at present, that day is not nearly as eminent as it should be. As brilliant as Drummond is in flashes, there is a fundamental flaw in the construction of the Pistons' team that could delay his transition into the elite. 

Detroit's big offseason acquisition was Josh Smith, who filled out the frontcourt with Drummond and Greg Monroe. So far that trio has been an unmitigated disaster. 

Nov 1, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) Detroit Pistons small forward Josh Smith (6) and Detroit Pistons center Greg Monroe (10) react to call against Memphis Grizzlies during the second half at FedExForum. Memphis Grizzli
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

With their version of a Big Three, the Pistons have scored just 99.8 points per 100 possessions and yielded 114.1, per NBA.com/STATS.  Yes, it is still early. And yes, they are still adjusting to playing together, but having that kind of deficit when your three best players are on the court together indicates a fairly significant problem. 

Smith deserves the majority of the blame, though Maurice Cheeks should shoulder some too. 

The biggest issue can be highlighted with two numbers juxtaposed. Smith has missed 25 three-point attempts. Drummond has missed 17 field-goal attempts. In fact, Smith has taken nearly as many threes, 35, as Drummond has shots. That means Smith is taking too many threes and Drummond isn't taking enough shots, period. 

Add in that the fact that, per NBAwowy.com, 12 of Drummond's attempts have been off of offensive rebounds. Then factor in that five attempts have come in transition, according to Synergy. In fact, Drummond has had just 24 attempts that have come out of half-court sets through five games. 

When we add in the fact that Drummond averages 4.7 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes with Smith on the court, compared to 0.9 when Smith is on the bench, it's not hard to figure out where the bulk of Drummond's scoring opportunities are coming from. 

Josh Smith spots up for a three. Josh Smith misses a three. Andre Drummond gets a rebound. Andre Drummond gets a put-back.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

And no one in Atlanta is surprised.

That's why, even though the Pistons aren't running plays for him, Drummond is averaging more shots per 36 minutes (9.1) when Smith is on the court with him, than when Smith sits (7.2).

This raises the question, why isn't head coach Maurice Cheeks going to what should be the team's better bread and butter?

On cut plays, Drummond is 14-of-17. That is not a typo. On 17 attempts, Drummond has scored just two points fewer than Smith has scored on his 35 three-point tries. 

Drummond is getting wasted by the Pistons. In fact, right now he's last on the team in usage percentage. What should be even more disconcerting if you're a Detroit fan is that this is not unfamiliar territory for Drummond, and it's part of the reason he fell in the draft. 

Here is this morsel from Draft Express

While Drummond played over 28 minutes per-game this season, his minimal usage rate indicates just how small of a factor he was in UConn's offense. Part of this is due to the chaotic nature of his team's highly unscripted half-court offense, which relies heavily on the whims of their very trigger-happy guards Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright and Jeremy Lamb, and their ability to make contested fade-away jumpers in isolation situations. However, the lion-share of the blame for this falls on Drummond himself, though, as he rarely looked like he actually wants the ball.

Sound familiar? With Chuck, a.k.a. Smith, and Chucker, a.k.a. Brandon Jennings, taking a combined 33.5 shots per game, how many opportunities are left for Drummond? And how long is he going to watch them taking turns hurling up bad shots before he starts flashing back to Connecticut and loses interest?

Is Joe Dumars insisting that his big offseason acquisitions be given the ball? Or is it just bad coaching?

This is where Cheeks needs to step in and tame this tiger before it mauls someone. If he doesn't craft an offense that is designed to go inside, instead of this shot anarchy that is presently ruling the roost in Detroit, there won't be the opportunity for Drummond to dominate. 

Yes, Drummond still has some work to do on both ends of the court. He needs to improve on his defensive positioning, though his instincts are sound.

He needs to develop his post game, and Rasheed Wallace is helping him with that. The important thing here is that these are things that any 20-year-old big man is going to deal with. And he's learning well according to Wallace, as reported by Michael Wallace of ESPN, 

He's still young, he's still raw, and he's still depending on his athleticism a lot, which, to tell you the truth, a lot of 19-year-olds do, but the thing I think will get 'Dre over is he's not one of those 'I know' guys. Like, everything you tell him, he's [not] like 'I know, I know.' Everything you tell him, he sucks it up. He might not like it, but he doesn't complain about it. He still does it.

The Pistons need to give him the chance to learn on the job though. The worst that can happen is he misses shots, and that means nothing changes. The best that can happen is that he starts climbing the ladder of the best centers in the East, and within a year or two, he can assume the top spot. 


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