For most of the 2000′s, Pistons general manager Joe Dumars was striking out in the draft. Besides Tayshaun Prince and Mehmet Okur in the 2001 and 2002 drafts, Dumars didn’t have another draft pick make an impact until Jason Maxiell in 2005.
He went another few drafts before Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo in 2007 – and not much in between – but in the last three years, he has done extremely well. Using the last few drafts, we’ll be taking a look at the Pistons young core of players and best-case projections for each. We’ve already looked at Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, Kim English, Austin Daye, and Kyle Singler; we’ll look at the Pistons’ 2012 lottery pick, Andre Drummond, next.
Few players were taken in the 2012 Draft with as many questions as Drummond, who played just one season with Connecticut after reclassifying with his high school. Because of that reclassification, he is one of the youngest rookies in this season’s crop of youngsters.
He isn’t the youngest player to be drafted this year, but he’s one of the few big men who are still under 20, and that can be a tough position to learn at such a young age. It can also be demoralizing to be pushed around down low by older and bigger centers, something that Drummond learned this summer.
After the games, however, he never seemed to be worried about the punishment he took, brushing off comments made by fellow rookie big man Kyle O’Quinn. The ability to move past poor performances and learn from mistakes should serve him well as he learns the NBA game, something that the Pistons will take slowly.
One thing that Drummond does have is freakish athleticism. Whether on offense or defense, the 6’11” big man is simply faster and more explosive than any other current Detroit forward or center. He blocked 2.7 shots and grabbed 7.6 rebounds in his one year of college, two skills that the Pistons have desperately needed the past few seasons. Finishing around the rim, especially with put-backs but not limited to them, is also something that Drummond excelled at, definitely something that should help the team.
Drummond will be the first big man since Darko Milicic in 2003 to have such high expectations upon donning the Pistons red, white and blue jersey. From all indications, the team will be bringing him along at a pace much more conducive to growing as a player. He should also get more minutes than Milicic did, something that will help his development.
Best-case scenario: Serge Ibaka
In the short time that he’s been in the league, Drummond has been compared to players ranging from Dwight Howard and Amar’e Stoudemire to Kwame Brown. Those are extremely different players, and all of them could be possible for Drummond depending on how he takes to the NBA game, his coaching, etc. Ibaka might be a more realistic, but still quality, projection for the Pistons lottery big man.
Howard came into the league with higher expectations than Drummond and immediately produced, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to average a double-double (12 points/10 rebounds) in the regular season. He played in all 82 games for the Magic that year, and carried the team every season until his departure for the Lakers this offseason. Comparing Drummond to Howard is setting him up for failure simply because he has so many more questions coming into the NBA compared to the LA big man.
Stoudemire is a gifted offensive player, but doesn’t seem to care much about defense. He has a career average of 1.4 blocks, but with microfracture surgery on his knees, his man-to-man defense has slowed exponentially. Playing for New York, a team not known for defense, exacerbates that problem. Comparing Drummond to him or Brown would seem to discount just how much potential he truly has.
Ibaka, on the other hand, was drafted by Seattle in 2008 and wasn’t saddled with expectations; in fact, he played in Spain for two years before even making the transition to the NBA. He never actually played for the Supersonics, as they became the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2009, but in just his first season, he averaged 6.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks, leading all rookies in blocks.
In the last three seasons, Ibaka has seen his averages go up across the board, including a career- and league-best 3.6 blocks per game in 2011-12. His scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage (54% career) have all increased since he came to the NBA.
With Greg Monroe already settled as the team’s offensive big man, Drummond would do well for himself to follow Ibaka’s career path. Much like the Congolese forward, Drummond can get his offense through put-backs, dunks and offensive rebounds, and focus more on becoming the team’s defensive anchor.