The Detroit Pistons are a half-game away from the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, capable of qualifying for the team’s first postseason in seven years. That it has been the team’s 6-foot-11, 280-pound man in the middle acting as rocket fuel this season is hardly surprising. Andre Drummond, who recently became the franchise’s first all-star selection since Allen Iverson in 2009, is one of the premier centers in the game.
Behind a crushing average of 17 points, 14.9 rebounds per game — both career highs — the Pistons lead the league in contested rebounds (16.2 per contest) and rank fourth in total rebounds (46.7 per contest, 1.2 rebounds shy of the league lead). Drummond leads the league in both metrics, and is often tasked with cleaning the glass for a team that ranks in the bottom seven in effective field goal percentage. A quick glance at his shot chart reveals that he clearly grasps where on the court he’s asked to produce.
While the 23-year-old’s progressions this season on a number of fronts are glaring, his usage dropped to a season-low 23.2 percent in his six February games. The Pistons, who admittedly squared off with three would-be playoff teams during that stretch, went 2-4 and saw its offensive rating drop to No. 22 in the league. Drummond contributed 21.7 percent of the team’s total points while on the court, the lowest portion of any month this season.
Much of Drummond’s nightly production stems from put-back opportunities: He has scored 256 points off them, nearly 100 more than anyone else in the league. He’s an effective post-up player, but his 0.72 points per possession ranks last among the 44 players who have at least 82 points in post-up situations this season. He sees 46.3 post touches per contest, more than front-court players Tim Duncan, Robin Lopez and Serge Ibaka — and that number increased in February, despite his usage dropping.
With 66 percent of his field goal attempts coming less than two seconds after he receives the ball and 61 percent being taken without dribbling, Drummond lives off of quick-twitch scoring opportunities.
Some of his regressions this month are likely byproducts of Detroit’s shooting. The Pistons took 33.2 percent of all field goal attempts from beyond the arc (the sixth highest rate in the league), more than 3 percent higher than the team’s season average. Nearly 75 percent of Drummond’s offensive rebounds this season have come subsequent two-point field goals; he snatches 3.7 per contest. Just 24 percent have come from missed three-point field goals (1 percent comes from missed free throws).
What’s discernable, though, is that Coach Stan Van Gundy uses him less when Detroit loses: Drummond’s usage rate drops nearly 2 percent and he averages fewer field goal attempts in losses compared with wins.
The addition of Tobias Harris should certainly help alleviate some of the team’s struggles shooting the ball, and gives Detroit another scoring threat. And while Reggie Jackson has been a solid addition to the team’s starting lineup, Drummond has to be the catalyst for them to qualify for the postseason. Keeping him out of the flow of the offense is both limiting and detrimental to the team’s chances of getting to the playoffs.
Josh Planos has been published at the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, the Guardian, the Pacific Standard and VICE, among other publications. He has been heard on CBS Sports Radio, Fox Sports Radio and ESPN Radio. Planos is currently a Digital Editor at KETV NewsWatch 7 and a freelance writer.