About last year
Drummond had a fall back in most of the basic counting stats as he regressed in points, rebounds, and blocks from the previous year. A lot of that was from him playing fewer minutes and the Pistons playing slower as a team for fewer possessions. By most advanced stats he improved or regressed very little, and he once again had the best rebounding percentage season of anyone not named Rodman. (Topping the mark he set the previous season) With that said, it was a down year for Drummond, his defense didn't make the improvement we hoped for, and Jackson being out/terrible affected him as much as anyone. Just know that it wasn't as bad a year as a lot of people made it out to be.
Where he stands now
Andre is 24 and will be for the entire season, he is entering the second year of a 5 year max contract running through 2021 (a player option for the last year), and he will make $27.3mill this year. He is firmly the Pistons starting center.
The biggest question is the free throws. He shot very well in preseason, and I like the changes that he made to his form, it makes me think that it may be sustainable at some level. In the end, though, there isn't a ton to talk about with his free throws, he will either hit them or he won't. If he can hit more of them, then his game will likely be revolutionized, not just in the fact that he can play at the end of games, but because he can attack the rim in the paint with confidence.
Beyond the free throws though, he remains hugely important to the Pistons offense, as his rolls to the hoop remain the most effective space creation on the team. The team has said that they are going to cut down on his post up touches and in the preseason that held up. He still got the occasional touch, but they were more organically achieved in the offense, and they had him do more passing, and dribble handoffs out of those post up looks. This is a very good thing. In particular, I like what the team has said, and done so far, with him being a passer out of the high and low post. Andre has shown that he can pass the last 2 years, but since no one ever double teams him, he doesn't often get much opportunity to pass. With the addition of Avery Bradley, and inserting Stanley Johnson into the starting lineup (and hopefully Reggie Bullock getting some damn minutes) means that Andre will have guys who are better and more active cutters around him than the chucking happy KCP or the slow-paced mid-range artist Marcus Morris.
In essence, though, Andre's role in the offense will remain mostly the same. He will set tons of (very good) picks all around the floor, run tons of pick and rolls, dive to the rim to draw extra defenders, and crash the offensive glass. We will see how effective or used he is as a passer when the games count, but it will likely be a nice addition to his offense, and possibly a really big one.
Drummond's defensive woes are overstated by a lot of people. Because rebounding used to be very over-rated, people now under-rate it. Andre is the best rebounder alive, and the sole reason for one of the two things the Pistons did well last year: clean the defensive glass, which the Pistons lead the NBA by collecting 81.2% of opponent misses, and Andre is probably the only guy on the roster who is a plus rebounder.
Beyond his absurdness as a rebounder, he has some big flaws but also has some real goodness that gets ignored. Once again, people have focused heavily on his decrease in blocked shots last year, but per 36 it dropped just .2 from the previous year and increased his steals by .3 (per 36) on the previous year. (up to 1.9 steals per 36) Andre gets himself into trouble by reaching too much and gets out of position as a pick and roll defender as a result, but he does get heaps of steals and deflections for a big, hell, even for a non-big. The trouble for him defensively mostly comes in that he is just late on making the right plays way too often. Whether that is getting to the right spot to wall a ball handler off from the paint, rotating help side to contest at the rim, closing out to shooters, or staying on the ground instead of jumping for blocks he has no chance at. A lot of people see this as an effort issue, I see it as more of a focus/learning curve issue (remember how comically raw he was when he arrived in the NBA?), but in the end it doesn't matter if it is lack of effort or focus or whatever, he has to improve in this area. As he is now he is good enough to be a weapon in a good defense, but he isn't going to be a guy who can anchor a good defense, and the most significant leap the Pistons could get would be from Andre becoming that kind of player.
It will be interesting to see how much time he spends outside of the paint, the Pistons have altered a lot between how far out they want him to stray, and he has not always been good at doing as they ask, but it is a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, he is the second greatest rebounder in history, and for all his faults he is still a solid protector of the paint, so you want him there. On the other hand, however, he has absurd quicks for a big and has shown that he is fully capable of locking up guys on the perimeter.
In the end, Andre has to be faster with his decisions on defense. He doesn't have to become Ben Wallace on defense, but he should be able to become Robin Lopez. Be disciplined, play fast, and the Pistons defense will suddenly look terrifying with him in the middle, and Stanley Johnson and Avery Bradley on the perimeter.
Andre is not Tim Duncan, but there has never really been many questions from inside the organization about Andre's work ethic or anything off the court, and Stan Van Gundy is not the type to mince words about such matters. Combine that with the fact that several young guys have specifically called out Andre as being a great teammate at various times and I think it is fair to assume that he will be no problem. Perhaps he could use a bit more of a mean streak to become a better leader, but at the very least I don't think he will cause any issues since he hasn't so far.
Can he hit his free throws?
Best Case Scenario
Andre has figured out his free throws and shoots around 70% from the line. With this revelation, he begins going to the hoop with more authority as a roll man and even starts to make good on his post up looks. This combines with his newfound ability to breathe for him to suddenly re-emerge as one of the most complete physical packages in the NBA, with a nice dash of skill to go with it. He is an All-Star and All-NBA player who dominates both ends of the floor, leading the Pistons to death and glory as the yearly sacrifice to the Warriors in the NBA finals.
Worst Case Scenario
The free throws are still broken, and I've been wrong about his effort this whole time. Even with a healthy Reggie Jackson he struggles to be overly impactful on the floor, he is still slow on rotations, is regularly visibly frustrated and pouting with regularity, and the excuses dry up. The team struggles and the Pistons blow up the roster, which includes dumping Drummond for cents on the dollar.
So in conclusion:
Wink knowingly at your friends if
- Andre is nailing free throws.
- Andre fulfills his destiny as an honorary Gasol brother with his passing.
- He looks visibly more energetic since he can breathe now.
Run for the hills if
- He looks slow at times still.
- He ever says that he needs more post up touches.
Opportunities for me to look stupid
- He has the best non-Rodman rebounding season ever. (for the 3rd straight year)
- 65% from the line. (DON'T STOP. BELIEVING)
- 20 points – 16 rebounds – 4 assists – 1.8 blocks – 1.8 steals.
- 2nd Team All-NBA.
What do you think? Can he hit his free throws? Can he figure out his defense?