Andre Drummond Followed a Career Season With Another Career Season
This is the 5th Season Recap Piece. Previously was Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown, Wayne Ellington, and Blake Griffin. After this we move to the bench.
Andre Drummond had a spectacular season, leading the team in total minutes played (barely edging out Blake Griffin) averaged 17.3 points (career best), 15.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.7 steals while also having the best on/off numbers of anyone who had to spend time on the floor with Jose Calderon.
The season started off poorly for Drummond on offense. He was scoring a lot (19ppg in the first two months of the season) but was highly inefficient. With the offense so heavily shifted to Blake Griffin there were real questions about whether or not Dwane Casey would be able to find an effective way to use his two big men on the floor effectively together. The offensive struggles came to a head in December where not only did the offense still stay heavily tilted towards Griffin post-ups and away from Drummond screen and rolls but started to freeze Drummond out of the offense in the ways he had been left with. In the month of december Drummond averaged just 15 points on a true shooting percentage of 50%. January would be a struggle as well, but it would all turn around at the end of January.
Drummond missed three games with a concussion. He had been battling a injured finger for the whole season and finally got the rest to get it right. On top of that, when he returned the offense began to shift towards more screen and rolls and less post-ups. After coming back, Drummond hit a stream of dominance. Over the last 35 games of the season Drummond averaged 18.6 points (after averaging just 15 the previous 3 months), and 16.5 rebounds. He scored those points on a true shooting percentage of 61.1%.
Part of the change was simply Drummond getting healthy (he’d battled a injured finger the whole season). part was that he got more comfortable on both ends of the floor, but a lot was the change in offense. Which for all I’ve complained about Casey’s offense he did figure it out eventually. Prior to the all-star break Drummond was assisted on just 50% of his buckets, the same rate that Joel Embiid is at. After the break he was assisted on just over 60% which is closer to most screen and roll bigs. Prior to the break Drummond ranked 28th in the NBA in screen assists, after the break he ranked 4th (after being in the top 5 the previous two seasons). The difference was tangible on the floor and in the stats.
The final product was impressive, even including the struggles earlier in the season. The Pistons were at their best on offense when Drummond was on the floor, as the season went on he and Blake Griffin got better, and once Reggie Jackson got going the season really turned in a good way.
While Drummond did actually improve quite a bit in creating for himself. He is better about putting the ball on the floor, not shying away from contact, and is more comfortable at the line when he is fouled, but he is still not (and likely never will be) a guy who can carry an offense. He can be a lethal weapon within a good offense, but he can’t do it on his own and when Griffin was out this season it showed. That is less a Drummond issue and more of a roster issue, but it does have to be said. If the rest of the roster can keep their stuff in order, Drummond can be a highly effective offensive player.
The first few weeks were not pretty. After having SVG fully unleash him to attack ball-handlers on the perimeter last season, Drummond was once again asked to sag way back on defense to protect the paint and he struggled with placement. Sometimes he would sag so far back that players would have so much space that they got warm-up jumpers in the mid-range, sometimes he took an extra step out and his teammates behind him got burned on cuts, it was simply not pretty. As the season went on he got more comfortable and also got more comfortable in attacking in moments. The early season issues did hurt, but within a couple of months he was fully in place and playing at a high level. After the trading deadline when the Pistons traded Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock, he was the only thing barely holding together the defense.
Drummond finished the season as the only player in the league in the top 10 in blocks and steals, 6th and 5th respectively. His rebounding is hugely valuable as always, and when paired with Blake Griffin the Pistons rebounded at an elite rate. The ability for Drummond to give the Pistons extra chances with his combination of rebounding and causing turnovers makes him a cheat code that makes up for an offense that sports a very poor efficiency. The way he is able to contest and rebound as quickly as he does is something very few players can do.
Hopefully there isn’t a total defensive overhaul this off-season, marking a rarity for Drummond in having consistency in scheme on that end, and he can pick right up where he left off. If he does he should be an outside shot for defensive player of the year.
Best Takeaway from this season:
Would be the way him and Griffin were effective together but already used that for Griffin. So instead it is his defense. He has slowly chipped away and gotten a little bit better on that end every single season, and it seems those small steps have finally combined enough to were he took the step into being a truly high-level defender. Blake can carry the offense, if Andre can carry the defense for an entire season like he did the last couple months of last season then the Pistons will have something very real to build with next season.
The early season stuff was still concerning. And when they shifted the offense towards using him as a roll-man to boot off his incredible finish, Blake Griffin’s numbers took a nose-dive. Finding a happy place where you are getting the most out of both Griffin and Drummond would be hard for any coach and Dwane Casey isn’t exactly a offensive visionary. The way Drummond finished the season was brilliant and something that should give hope for the next one, but the early season should serve as a reminder of it being a delicate balance.
Brilliant season. Drummond had a career year by pretty much every measurement, blending volume and efficiency scoring the ball, had his best defensive season and generally looked as comfortable as he ever has by the end of the season. The rest of the roster is kind of a mess, but when Griffin and Drummond were on the floor together they were so comically good that they kept the Pistons afloat. Hopefully they can get some help this coming season.