2. Value position on the floor
Earlier in their careers, LeBron James and Kevin Durant felt as though they could score wherever they first caught a pass. While they were right at times, they didn’t score so efficiently when they started their offense far from the basket.
It’s a lesson most players have to learn, including Drummond, if he ever wants to be a scorer. He loves to fly to the rim on offensive putbacks and lobs in transition, or catch a sweet dime from a teammate driving and dropping. But he typically doesn’t even try to catch passes in the paint when he’s being defended — he either chooses to just walk away from the paint or allows himself to be shoved out.
As James and Durant learned, every step closer to the rim that they catch the ball increases their chances of getting to the rim, drawing a foul or both. When Drummond begins to punish guys inside, sealing them on his butt or pinning them to one side of his hips or the other, all while he’s in the paint, his scoring numbers will soar. The prime real estate on a basketball court is the land directly under and around the rim.
Drummond is really good at getting open, and that’s an underrated skill. But, especially against the quality defensive teams he’ll face in the playoffs some day, that won’t always be possible. Thorpe’s advice would definitely go a long way, and the whole piece is definitely worth reading if you have Insider.
Of course, we can’t have anything at all critical of Drummond without something ridiculously positive. Kevin Pelton of ESPN:
In the WARP era, Drummond trails just three rookies in per-minute productivity: Michael Jordan, David Robinson and Arvydas Sabonis. The Lithuanian center occupies a similar spot to Drummond’s on the chart above, but that comes with a catch — Sabonis was already 30, a Euroleague MVP and an Olympic gold medalist by the time he arrived in the NBA. (Sabonis had also dealt with injuries, which is why Portland kept his minutes low despite how well he played.) At age 24, Robinson was also old for a rookie — he served two years in the Navy before joining the Spurs.
That leaves just one center in NBA history who has been as instantly productive as Drummond at a similar age. No, it’s not Dwight Howard, whom Haberstroh rightly compared to Drummond; it took Howard until his third season to push his PER above 20. Instead, Drummond might be most similar to Shaquille O’Neal as a rookie.
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