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Andre Drummond’s lack of playing time masks a deserving All-Star

Remember Tom Sunnergren? Of course you do. He’s that nut who picked Andre Drummond for the All-Star game. He graciously offered to expand on his thoughts here.

-Dan

When Andre Drummond entered the league via the ninth pick in June’s draft, the only consensus on him was this: the Husky was a boom-or-bust proposition.

Turns out he’s boomed.

Just 42 games into his professional career, Drummond ranks third in the league among centers in offensive-rebounding rate, seventh in defensive-rebounding rate and third in overall rebounding rate. He’s 10th in true shooting percentage (eight places above Brook Lopez), and he has been even better by the reckoning of the catch-all advanced stats. According to PER he’s been the 11th best player in the league on a per-minute basis, and by way of Wins Produced – which, granted, isn’t for everyone* – of all the players in the Association who have logged more than 30 minutes, he’s been the most productive.

*Ed: It should tell you how much I respect Tom’s work that I take him seriously even though he’s a Wins Produced believer.

And then there’s his periodically excellent defense—which isn’t accounted for in the above metrics. (Wins Produced makes a team defensive adjustment, but doesn’t account for individual efforts beyond blocks, defensive rebounds, and foul avoidance.)

So I think he’s an All-Star.

The Internet doesn’t.

There are two arguments against Drummond’s (now-expired) All-Star candidacy, both of which hinge on his playing time.

1. He’s been great, but in 20 minutes per game, he just wasn’t on the floor often enough to justify a berth and

2. Not only is 20 minutes a night not enough time to make an All Star impact, but playing only 20 minutes a night is actually what’s driving his efficiency. He couldn’t do it over 30 or 35.

Both of these straw men are wrong.

As for No. 2: Although there’s some scuttlebutt that Drummond has conditioning issues (I couldn’t really speak to this, or the impact it would have on him if he played more—except to point out that in the two games this season in which he played more than 30 minutes, Dec. 26 against Atlanta and Dec. 5 against Golden State, he put up a 15/12 and a 16/12), as a general proposition there isn’t really any compelling evidence that reserves play worse as their roles expand.

Furthermore, the idea that he’s posting these numbers against backups doesn’t sway me much either: one, everyone plays against backups for extended periods, two, the backup/starter distinction is, most of the time, a function of offensive rather than defensive abilities (so he’s not necessarily posting his numbers against particularly weak defensive centers) and three, outside of Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler, who are this tremendous defensive centers that starting big men have to labor against?

The other thing is this: Drummond’s been so good, that even if he lost considerable efficiency in playing an additional 10 minutes a night, he would still be one of the best big men in the sport.

Moving along to No  1.: let’s accept that Drummond is limited (though, again, I’m dubious) and is capable of playing only 20 productive minutes a night. Even if this is true, he does plenty in those 20 minutes to justify and All-Star berth.

Wages of Wins is more bullish on him than most, for the sake of simplicity, lets start off by assuming their valuation is accurate: Drummond produces, over the course of 48 minutes of playing time, .366 wins. (An average player produces .1 wins per 48 minutes.)

So, lets say we’re in a perfectly 50th percentile Drummond game and he plays for 20 minutes and produces, in the course of those 20 minutes, approximately .15 wins ([.363/48]x20).

In just those 20 minutes then, Drummond is giving the Pistons 150 percent of the production the average team gets at the center position over a full 48. (Teams win, on average, .5 games per game (clunky sounding, yes) and have five players on the floor at all times. Each position produces then, on average, 0.1 wins per 48 minute game. Drummond, in just 20 minutes, produces 0.15 wins.)

But what about the extra 28 minutes? If the Pistons get league average play at center for the 28 minutes Drummond isn’t on the floor, that gives them an additional .058 wins, and over 200 percent the production most teams get at the center position. (Even if Detroit plays a guy who’s well below league average during those additional minutes, which is likely, the Pistons will end up getting somewhere just under .2 wins a night from the center position. A team that gets that production at center and league average production at all other positions can be expected to win 60 percent of its games, or 49 in an 82 game season. This is the impact 20 minutes a night of Drummond would have on an otherwise completely average team.)

Okay. But Wages of Wins is probably off on him, right? They overvalue rebounding, and the system pumps out a lot of head-scratching figures for efficient big men. Forget about them. What about PER?

Drummond is, as I type, 11th in the NBA with a 22.99 PER. To do a quick-and-dirty switch to numbers I’m a little more comfortable with (as in, very quick and very dirty) the 11th best WP48 mark in the NBA this season is .248. By this accounting, Drummond, in his usual 20 minutes per night, still gives the Pistons exactly 100 percent of the production most teams receive at the center position over the course of a full 48 minutes. ([.248/48]x20=.103). Anything they receive over and above this is gravy.

It’s difficult to look at season averages of 7.5 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks and see this, but Andre Drummond is not just a promising up and comer. So far this season, he’s been one of the most productive players in the NBA.

15 Comments

  • Jan 25, 20135:20 pm
    by Big Rick

    Reply

    AWESOME DRE!!!

  • Jan 25, 20135:29 pm
    by Big Rick

    Reply

    There have been several comparisons made to Deandre Jordan and Drummond. I saw the most recent one on the Bleacher Report recently. I must admit this time last year I was hoping that we swung some sort of trade so acquire him or make cap room to sign him as a free agent this past summer. Boy am I relieved we didn’t go that route. The Clippers overpaid for his services this past summer. We have what he brings and more with Dre. Jordan plays with arguably the best PG in the league and his game doesn’t seem to have developed any. Seems like he just relies on his athleticism and hasn’t tried to refine any skills. So with the most recent comparison it felt like that was a slight against Andre. I sincerely hope that Awesome Dre doesn’t go down the same path, because his potential be great is there. He just has to put in the work and not become content or complacent. We finally do have a cornerstone to build around for now and in the future if the young man stays healthy and keeps his head on straight.

  • Jan 25, 20135:32 pm
    by Big Rick

    Reply

    On another note…. Does anyone else think that the following statemnet by Tay was a deliberate passive agressive jab at our beloved coach Frank? Just wondering.
    “We just got off to too slow of a start offensively,” Tayshaun Prince said of the fourth quarter. “(Bulls coach Tom) Thibodeau does a good job trusting his second unit. He leaves them out there and lets them play.”

    • Jan 25, 20135:34 pm
      by Tom Y.

      Reply

      I noticed that and thought it probably was.

    • Jan 25, 20138:00 pm
      by bugsygod

      Reply

      Yup!

  • Jan 25, 20135:41 pm
    by Big Rick

    Reply

    Yeah, although it probably was a true statement Tay has proven to be very outspoken this year. Not sure I’m digging that. He doesn’t seem happy in the role he’s in or with the “buffoonery” that’s going on in the orgnization, I guess…
    Whichever the case may be I think he vents to the media way too much, especially being the elder statesmen of the team. (Corey Maggette doesn’t count)

  • Jan 25, 20136:11 pm
    by Mark

    Reply

    Glad there are some national writers who see what we’ve all been seeing. Even if you ignore all the numbers and just watch him play, he impacts the game as much or more than any big man in the whole league. If that isn’t a definition of an all-star, then the whole selection system is a sham.

    • Jan 25, 20136:15 pm
      by Mark

      Reply

      Which I already knew was true. I get the politics, but if you’re just taking the best big men in the league over the 1st half, like an all-star roster is supposed to be, then he is definitely among those best.

      If we’re talking about something else like popularity and flashy offense as defining all-stars, then I don’t know what the point of the game even is.  

  • Jan 25, 20136:26 pm
    by Brigs

    Reply

    So to shorten that all up Andre Drummond is the shit

  • Jan 25, 20137:24 pm
    by vic

    Reply

    out of curiosity, what’s your beef with WINS produced?
     

    • Jan 26, 20131:03 am
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      There are other reasons, some of which are articulated pretty well here, but one big thing that grates me about Wins Produced: It fails to account for situations when harshly punishing players for making mistakes.

      To use an example, let’s look at the Spurs their top player from last season according to WP, Kawhi Leonard.

      Sometimes, turnovers are more likely to happen. Sometimes, missed shots are more likely to happen. In those situations, do you think the Spurs put the ball in Leonard’s hands? Of course not.

      When the opponent was pressing and trapping effectively, Leonard didn’t have the ball. Tony Parker did. Maybe that meant Parker would get more turnovers individually, but the Spurs were less likely to turn over the ball.

      When the opponent was defending well and the shot clock was running down, Leonard didn’t have the ball. Tim Duncan did. Maybe that meant Duncan would miss more shots, but the Spurs were less likely to miss a shot.

      Those volatile situations occur many times each game, but players don’t take turns dealing with them. Teams, wisely, get the ball to their top players in those circumstances.

      So, while Duncan and Parker are accumulating extra turnovers and missed shots when the going gets tough, Leonard is standing off to the side protecting his WP.

      Leonard is a good, efficient player. But — to exaggerate a bit for effect — he handles the ball only when unharassed and shoots only when open. If all the Spurs operated that way, San Antonio would have a lot of 24-second and five-second violations.

  • Jan 25, 20137:53 pm
    by brgulker

    Reply

    Ed: It should tell you how much I respect Tom’s work that I take him seriously even though he’s a Wins Produced believer.

    What, exactly, is a Wins Produced believer

    Belief has absolutely nothing to do with it.  

    • Jan 25, 20138:09 pm
      by brgulker

      Reply

      Also, the implications of that comment are … pretty dickish. Not sure you could have sounded more condescending had you tried. 

      • Jan 26, 20131:03 am
        by Dan Feldman

        Reply

        Believe me, I could have been much more condescending with a little effort.

  • Jan 28, 20138:43 am
    by G

    Reply

    Let’s all back up a minute. Drummond has been great in limited minutes, but it’s not exactly like he’s carrying the team. There are moments when he carries the team defensively, but would you say he’s more deserving than Brook Lopez? Because Lopez has amped up his defense and is the leading scorer on a team on track to make the playoffs. Plus he’s 4th in the league in PER, behind 3 guys who are MVP candidates.

    You make a nice case, Sunnergren, but who in the East would you take out so Drummond could have a spot? Garnett, Chandler, Bosh, or Noah? Remember, Lopez doesn’t have a spot and certainly deserves to go ahead of Drummond.

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