The Detroit Pistons can certainly make the playoffs this season, but given how similar the team is to last year’s, it won’t be easy. It appears the Pistons are mostly relying on internal improvement in order to exceed expectations and reach the postseason.
For our 2012 preview series, Patrick and I will each examine one area where we see realistic room for improvement from each Piston. Today, we look at Andre Drummond.
Andre Drummond obviously must make major gains with his offensive and defensive awareness before he seriously begins to tap his potential. But I’m not expecting such a raw player to progress so much in only one season. When it comes to the Pistons making the playoffs this year, Drummond can make one smallish improvement quickly.
In the NBA, even the bad free-throw shooters (besides Ben Wallace) shoot around 60 percent. Drummond shot below 30 percent at Connecticut last year. His motion clearly needs a few tweaks, but considering he showed a decent mid-range jumper during the summer league, Drummond can probably fix it.
With his size and leaping ability, Drummond has the tools to be one of the Pistons’ top two defensive big men this season — even if his defensive awareness is still lacking. Detroit’s other bigs have been just that bad defensively. If Drummond improves his free-throw shooting, that would allow him to play for defensive purposes late in close games. — D.F.
Like Dan, I think it’s unrealistic to expect that the gains Drummond needs to make in order to be a starting-caliber NBA big man will happen over the course of one season.
What I hope happens is Drummond is able to do enough to earn a consistent rotation spot, even if it only means 10-15 minutes per game, by the end of the season. He’ll be able to do that by focusing on small details. Free-throw shooting is one key area, but with his size and quickness, he has the ability to set good screens for guards and also make himself a target rolling hard towards the basket.
As Wallace showed during his Pistons career, an offensively limited big man can still be useful. Wallace made his contributions both through offensive rebounding and being an effective passer within a halfcourt offense. The Pistons likely won’t be running plays for Drummond with his back to the basket, but that doesn’t mean he won’t contribute. If his screens get guards free and his ability to roll to the basket provides them a target, that will be plenty of offense from him this season.
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