2016/2017 Season Recap/Notes: Andre Drummond
This is the 5th season recap, previously there was Reggie Jackson, KCP, Marcus Morris, and Tobias Harris.
Andre Drummond was both the best rebounder in basketball yet again, and beat his previous career best, which made this past season the new best rebounding season ever by someone who wasn't named “Rodman” with a total rebounding percentage of 25.3%, which was best in the NBA by over a full percentage point over #2 DeAndre Jordan. He was the best defensive rebounder by a full point over Hassan Whiteside with a defensive rebounding percentage of 36.3%, and barely beat out Dwight Howard for best offensive rebounder with an offensive percentage of 15.1%. (Dwight was at 15%, but it should be noted that a big drop off after him to Enes Kanter at 14.1%) He even beat out Jordan by 2 rebounds for the total rebound title on the season. Simply put, Andre Drummond is very likely the 2nd greatest rebounder ever to step on the floor, which is a definite positive.
Andre also posted a career high in assists per game (while turning the ball over slightly more) and just by watching it is clear that he is actually pretty comfortable with the ball in his hands, and as long as he can just not try and do any of those stupid flashy passes he occasionally would try, he should continue to improve on that front. He is far from being a Gasol, but he is very capable of making any and all big man ball handling duties, and is actually pretty good at it. He is especially adept at dribble handoffs, being confident and capable enough that he can dribble a couple times to get an essential running start into the handoff which allows him to set really tough screens since he is coming faster instead of just waiting for the defender, which allowed him to be 6th in the NBA in screen assists.
On the defensive end Andre did not make the leap that a lot of us hoped that he would, but he did continue to improve. He spent less time jumping for blocks he had no chance at (which was partially responsible for his improved defensive rebounding), and spent more time on the perimeter than previously in his career and he ended up faring pretty well for the most part. He still gets heaps of steals and deflections, especially for a big.
Offensively, Andre also managed to improve his overall scoring efficiency over the previous year, even though he was without his best/main partner in crime in the pick and roll for most of the year. (When Reggie played he was obviously not good.)
Lastly, he remains super durable, playing in 81 games for the 2nd consecutive year. Over the last 4 seasons he has missed just 3 games, which is obviously an excellent mark, being healthy is a skill, and Andre has got that down.
First off is obviously the free throw shooting. He did make a slight improvement from 35.5% to 38.6%, but that is still so bad that it isn't anything to celebrate about. One thing that should be noted, is that for most of the year he was actually in the mid 40s, but then for a stretch right after the all star break he completely tanked. One thing that changed in that time was that he stopped getting off the line and going for that walk out to the half court line. I don't know for sure if he stopped because he got a memo from the league saying that he was taking too long at the line (Giannis had gotten one the previous year) or if he made the decision totally on his own, but one he went back to taking a little walk he improved again. I don't know, it is still bad, but I'm just trying to find something positive.
Despite the fact that he improved his defensive play, he did not make the improvement that the Pistons really needed him to make. I've mentioned this before, but the Pistons best chance to become an elite defensive team, as they are currently assembled at least, was for Andre to become a defensive player of the year candidate and KCP to become an All-NBA defender. Neither of those things happened. Andre does a lot of really good things on defense and he makes you better, but he needs to get to the point that he can single handedly anchor the defense. He still reaches too often instead of moving his feet, he wasn't always as willing as he should've been to chase ball handlers away from the hoop, and still does not have a very good feel for timing his block attempts. There is positivity in the fact that he continued to improve, but with every year that passes and he hasn't made the proverbial “leap” it becomes less likely that he makes it at all.
The other big complaint about his game is obviously his post ups, which people have made a big deal about how they are even less efficient than his free throw shooting. His post ups are a tricky problem though, because his problems in the post are basically totally reliant on his bad free throw shooting for various reasons. First off, the main end goal of posting up is to draw double teams so you can pass out for open 3s, and when presented the opportunity Andre has actually showed pretty good vision out of the post. The problem is that no one double teams him, not because he isn't good enough in the post, but because you don't have to be a good defender to just foul the hell out of him. The scouting report for Andre in the post was clear, simple, and effective. Don't worry about it being a crappy defender, don't double, and if he makes a good move just foul the hell out of him, he will miss free throws, get worried about getting fouled, and start taking those fadeaway hooks which generally suck. Think about playing pickup ball without free throws, if there is one guy who is clearly better than everyone else, every time he beats you, you just foul the crap out of him. So the only way he scores if if he absolutely cooks you so bad that you can't foul him, or at least not hard enough to keep him from scoring, that is essentially what teams did with Andre because they know that any time he goes to the line it is a win for them.
Lastly, is the simple fact that regardless of the many reasons that can explain away why it isn't really Andre's fault, the simple fact of the matter is that Andre is the Pistons best player on a max contract, and the team was not very good, and his personal on/off numbers were bad this year. Once again, there are a lot of good reasons to explain why this happened with the main one being that, the Pistons starters generally sucked this year. HOWEVA, at some point the buck stops with Andre, and even though I've still got a ton of faith in him and the team seems to feel the same way about him, anyone who's faith in Andre as the long term center piece wasn't at least a bit shaken this year is either lying or blind.
Andre Drummond is in fact an all timer rebounder, last year was probably not any sort of anomaly. In his two years without another awesome rebounder playing alongside him (Greg Monroe) Andre has put up the best two non-Rodman seasons in history, and his rebounding was basically the only thing that kept the Pistons afloat since they basically knew they would have more shots than their opponent every single night.
It's the free throws. It is boring to talk about because there isn't any strategy ideas to propose or anything. But the reality is that he has progressed enough in every other area of his game that I am pretty sure the only thing standing between him and a hall of fame career is his free throw shooting. He will either figure it out or he won't, but it is definitely his biggest question.
What do you think? Can he make a defensive leap? Will he ever figure out his free throw shooting?