After a summer spent winning a gold medal with Team USA, operating under the tutelage of some of the most brilliant minds the sport has to offer, Andre Drummond’s first two months of the 2014 NBA regular season haven’t been as miraculous as expected. Despite only logging three minutes per game in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Detroit’s centerpiece appeared destined to make another substantial leap as a player, and in doing so, assist the Pistons toward the fringe of playoff discussion. Instead, the team holds a 3-18 record, the second-worst of any team in the league.
New head coach Stan Van Gundy, who’s most recognized for having ostensibly developed Dwight Howard in Orlando and taking an island of misfit toys to the NBA Finals, looked to have another opening to mentor an up-and-coming post player and engineer a team around his abilities. So far, the result has been less than ideal.
Drummond is averaging just 11.4 points on 47 percent shooting from the floor, a far cry from the 62.3 percent he shot last season, which was No. 2 in the league. Sure, he’s averaging a double-double of 11 and 11, and as a result, is only seeing 33.2 touches per game — a lower figure than Denver’s JJ Hickson, Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton and Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao, all of whom are averaging fewer minutes per game.
As ESPN’s Patrick Hayes noted in October, “The Pistons had been gifted one of the NBA’s best young players, but their organizational instability has mired both their and Drummond’s progress.” Facilitation has been a problem for years that the team has refused to address. Detroit currently ranks 27th in the league in assists per game, which in turn has led to them being ranked No. 28 in points per game. There are a host of problems surrounding Drummond, including Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Josh Smith’s shooting and a bench that’s churning out just 30 points per game, falling in the bottom half of the league rankings in points, rebounds, assists, minutes and field goal percentage.
On the bright side, his rebounding isn’t a sign for worry, and the team is pulling down 44.6 rebounds per game, which is sixth-best in the NBA. Considering his averages have dipped slightly from 13.2 rebounds per game last season to 11.7 this season, it’s worth remembering that he still has the second-most rebounds of anyone this season, the second-most rebound chances and is averaging 5.3 contested rebounds per game, good for fourth-best in the league and a higher figure than renowned rebounders Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard and Zach Randolph.
The better news is that Drummond’s production has steadily improved over the course of the season both years he’s been in the league:
This season might be more portioned progress for Detroit’s big man than fans were expecting, but ultimately, they’re still working with a 21-year-old who’s already one of the best centers in the sport. The team’s sinking near the depths of the Eastern Conference, and Van Gundy knows he’ll have to start increasing Drummond’s production as the season wears on if he hopes to reach the surface.
Josh Planos has had his work featured at the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Rivals, Vice, CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. He’s currently a Digital Editor at KETV NewsWatch 7 and a freelance writer. He loves interacting with readers via Twitter (@JPlanos).