Way too in depth Andre Drummond season preview.
This is the start of my season preview for the Pistons, which will be waaay too in depth. Each player will be getting his own post, in the same fashion that I did in review of last year. So yeah, grab some snacks and maybe something to drink and buckle up.
If you need a recap of last year, you can read my review of Andre's last year right here.
Here is Andre's basketball reference page, any relevant stats should be available there if you want to follow along.
Where he stands now:
Andre signed his max extension that everyone knew was coming this past offseason, cementing himself as THE cornerstone of the team. For better or worse, the Pistons are building around Andre Drummond. He comes into the year as the starting center and there is no reason to expect he will be anything less than the foundation of everything the Pistons do on both ends of the court just as last year.
The free throws:
Once again, I'm just going to get this out of the way right now. He has got to improve them, everyone knows this and it is not complicated. Either he will or he won't. I'm not going to talk about them at all the rest of the post because it's been talked about plenty.
What to expect in the coming year:
The TL;DR of this whole post could just be “Andre needs to take the 'flashes' and make them 'just regular stuff”. I was, and continue to be, a fairly staunch defender of Andre for various reasons. The main reason being that he was freaking awesome last year at just 22 years old, but one of the main things was reminding people of how young Andre is and that he was not a finished product last year. On top of his age, last year was really the first year that he was fully made the feature guy on the team, of course there will be some hiccups. Essentially he is in the same place as the team in general for the coming season (which makes sense since he is the foundation of the team) in that he does not need to be a finished product, but he needs to be able to make some real strides towards superstardom.
Andre's role should remain largely the same, the Pick and roll with Reggie Jackson was THE foundation of the Pistons offense and that should not change, they run it really well together and the hiccups were generally on Reggie's side as he got used to being the lead ball handler for 30 minutes per night. Andre could stand to add a bit of deception to his roll game, not that he needs it since he is such a great leaper, but Reggie really thrives off of stop and go moves and just probing until he finds a hole he likes. Since Reggie is the PG that Andre is paired with, it would help him to be a bit more reactive to what Reggie is doing but that is mostly something that will come with time. Other than that his pick and roll abilities need no changing. The only other thing I could really say about his roll game would be making his runner a bit more reliable, it was already solid last year but if he could get it just a tick better it would cause all sorts of problems for defenses.
The biggest area that Andre can and should improve in offensively is his passing, both out of the post and the pick and roll. He showed signs of being a really good passer, his passing even made one of Zach Lowe's 10 things he liked last year. But in the playoffs he had a chance to really show off his passing skills with the Cavs totally shutting off the pick and roll by doubling Reggie out of every pick, giving Andre a 4 on 3 regularly. Andre (and others) did often make the right plays in response to this, but other than Marcus Morris, they were usually a bit too slow and not quite crisp enough to kill the defense. Andre does have great potential as a passer though, he has always shown good ability for slick interior passing, but the thing that stood out last year was his passing out of the post. When he looked to pass, he would occasionally throw LeBron type bullets that were right on point to an open shooter. It did not happen very often because he did not receive a lot of double teams when he posted up, and he also got a lot of tunnel vision. HOWEVA, a big thing to watch this year will be if those brilliant passes are still a rare occurrence of every other game, or if they start to crop up more. His biggest challenge will be to get rid of the tunnel vision he often gets, as there is clearly a point at which he decides “I am going to try and score” and there is nothing that will stop him from trying. He needs to be able to make a move to score while still keeping his eyes open for a pass, which is a difficult progression to make, but he has already made great progress as a passer so there is hope he can continue to improve.
The only other thing he can improve upon offensively is his general post up game, I've already hit on the passing, but in order to make best use of his passing skills he needs to get good enough in the post to draw some more double teams. In the post last year Andre was a weapon, if not a terribly leathal weapon. Essentially meaning that, by the end of the year at least, his posts ups were not just given with the thought process of “Well he needs to learn somehow”, but he was actually good enough that it made sense to let him post up occasionally, particularly in some matchups. And just as the playoffs somewhat exposed how bad his tunnel vision can be as a passer, it also showed just how far he has come as a post up scorer. Even with the pick and roll totally shut off, he still managed to score about 17 points per game, with almost all of those coming away from the pick and roll. His righty hook shot is solid, but the main way his posting and toasting improves is by getting some sort of reliable counter move to it. Once again, he showed lots of potential to be a monster in the post last year, but he has to start to make good on that potential this year.
Last year Andre's biggest problem on defense was deciding exactly what to focus on, which is understandable. SVG implemented a new defensive scheme that was almost absurdly conservative, having Andre stay back in the paint at almost all costs, whereas before last year he was allowed to venture more outside while the Pistons preferred Monroe to stay nearer to the paint. Andre at times struggled to find the right balance, and also just had general young guy struggles, as playing center on defense is on par with point guard on offense as far as difficult things to learn. In the same vein, he clearly was trying hard to foul less last year (which is good) but sometimes was too afraid of a foul to properly contest shots. Those are mostly things that will just come with time and experience, and so I'm not really concerned about them. The thing that he really has to work on, and will not just come magically with experience, is learning that he doesn't need to try and block every shot. Andre is a fearsome leaper, but he is also huge even when he doesn't jump, Brook Lopez is actually a really good defender simply because he can stand in front of the hoop with his hands up and be a great deterrent at the rim. Andre can do the same thing, and it is especially important for him given how good a rebounder he is, as there were far too many times where he leapt for shots he had no chance at and got himself out of rebounding position.
The last thing he could use some work on is his discipline while guarding the pick and roll, specifically his love of reaching for steals at guards who he has picked up. It is hard to be too critical of this habit because it produced 1.4 steals per game last year (a great number for a big man) and he is so stinking quick that he often could recover without too much trouble. But just like some of the other things, he has to not be content with just being “really good” because the Pistons need him to be great. And in order to be great, he has to learn to swipe without reaching so that he can still be a huge disruption for ball handlers and passers, while not getting himself out of position so often.
Once again, the theme of the post is the same for his defense. He is already really good, and has shown plenty of flashes of being great. This coming season he has to start making the flashes more regular things, and defensively he could be absolutely insanely good.
Other players will not get a separate area for rebounding, but Andre is a bit different of course. There are no complaints about Andre's rebounding. He had the best non-rodman rebounding season ever last year, that is all that really has to be said there. The only thing that he could stand to do a bit better is reacting better to the attention opposing teams give him. Because Andre's rebounding totals didn't slowly decrease over the course of the season because the start of the season was a fluke, it is because teams knew that the start was not a fluke, so they put a ton of emphasis on keeping Andre off the glass. My favorite Andre Drummond stat is that the Pistons were the 2nd best offensive rebounding team in basketball last year (thwarted only by the Thunder due to Enes Kanter eating alive second units) and also allowed the fewest fast break points in basketball. That is not supposed to happen, most teams today punt on offensive rebounding specifically because when you don't get the rebound it leads to lots of fast break points for opposing teams. Team's are so afraid of Andre that they need to leave multiple guys back every time to make sure they get the rebound, which allows the Pistons to get their defense set up.
Essentially, Andre just needs to do a bit better job of assessing the situation. When there are 2 (or even 3 sometimes) guys who are just boxing him out and he doesn't have a chance at the board, he needs to realize that he did his job and get back on defense. On the other side, he needs to realize when he gets a smaller dude onto him or the other team just loses him so that he can maximize his damage on the boards. Once again, this is really picking hairs here, Andre is literally the best rebounder since Dennis Rodman. Just small things that can give him a little bit more of an advantage.
Andre plays hard, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. The only 2 centers last year who covered more ground than Andre Drummond were Marcin Gortat and Brook Lopez. And in Stanley Johnson's player's tribune piece, it was Drummond who he singled out as the guy who taught him the most about being in the league. I mean, Stanley's Mom died before last season, and Andre offered to let him move in. There is not much more to ask for from your franchise player, he can droop his head a bit after missing a jump hook as long as he is running hard the other way while he does it. (Which he almost always is.) And lastly, how is it that a guy who is such a good rebounder, the stat in which effort matters more than any other stat, got a reputation of not playing hard?
So in conclusion...
Wink at all of your friends if:
Andre is on pace to have a better rebounding season than last year.
Andre is averaging nearly 2 blocks and steals per game.
He has a reliable counter move in the post.
Opposing fans keep wondering why they haven't heard about how good Andre is as a passer.
Andre shoots 50% from the line.
Run for the hills if:
Andre gets hurt. (knocks on wood)
Andre jumps for a shot he has no chance at.
He shoots 30% from the line.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Andre tops last year's rebounding numbers.
Andre Averages 2 blocks and steals per game.
20/16 per game.
Andre shoots 60% from the line.
Andre averages over 2 assists per game.
What do you think? How will Andre do this coming season? What is the biggest improvement you are looking for? Let me know! We all get smarter!