Detroit Pistons need big man Andre Drummond to dominate if they want to improve
By NOAH TRISTER
AP Sports Writer
Now entering his sixth NBA season, Andre Drummond is walking a fine line between franchise player and enigma.
That’s a reputation the Detroit center sounds eager to shed.
“I’m 24 now,” Drummond said. “Obviously over the time, you’re going to mature and things are going to start becoming more serious.”
The Pistons are coming off a disappointing 2016-17 campaign in which they missed the postseason. There are any number of ways they could improve — if point guard Reggie Jackson has a healthier season, or if newcomer Avery Bradley makes a major impact in the backcourt — but the biggest issue may be Drummond’s potential, and how close he will come to fulfilling it.
After his first couple seasons, Drummond looked like a steal for Detroit with the No. 9 pick in the 2012 draft. He became one of the most productive rebounders in the league, and his athleticism in the lane made him an inviting target for alley-oop passes from whoever the team’s playmakers were on a given night.
Drummond averaged 16.2 points and 14.8 rebounds in 2015-16, helping the Pistons make the playoffs for the first time since 2009, but even that season, his poor foul shooting was such an issue that coach Stan Van Gundy had a hard time trusting him late in games.
Then last season — immediately after receiving a $130 million, five-year contract — he averaged only 13.6 points and 13.8 rebounds. His offensive rebounding average dipped to 4.3, Drummond’s lowest since his rookie season.
This offseason included a procedure to correct a deviated septum, which Drummond said improved his breathing. That could be a big help to a player whose energy is so important.
“Andre’s been a fixture here,” Van Gundy said. “I think that all he’s got to do basically is get locked in. He’s done a good job — he got his breathing corrected, which I think will help him. He’s focused on his conditioning. When he plays with great energy, everything else takes care of itself.”
Here are a few other things to watch with the Pistons this season:
Although Drummond is on the spot, Jackson also had his struggles after issues with his knee before the start of last season. He’s still been somewhat limited this preseason.
The Pistons had an interesting decision to make on guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was a restricted free agent after last season. They ended up renouncing his rights and trading Marcus Morris to Boston for Bradley, who averaged 16.3 points last season for the Celtics.
Detroit got only 4.4 points per game last season from Stanley Johnson, a first-round draft pick in 2015. Last year’s first rounder, Henry Ellenson, appeared in only 19 games for the Pistons. Detroit took Duke’s Luke Kennard in the first round this year, and the Pistons could use some significant production from this trio — especially after Morris was traded.
Only two teams shot a lower percentage than the Pistons from 3-point range in 2016-17, but Bradley (39 percent last season) should be an upgrade from Caldwell-Pope in that regard.