If you ask Andre Drummond his role on the Detroit Pistons, his answer may come as a surprise.
The 6-foot-11 center doesn’t look at himself as the up-and-coming star that many see. Actually, he doesn’t even look at himself as the top dog for the Pistons.
“I’m just the glue guy, you know,” he said in Orlando last month. “I just grab rebounds, block shots, dunk everything I get my hands on. So it’s just fun … I just do all the small things, the things that will help win basketball games.”
Whether you want to buy that or not — and for what it’s worth, I think he truly believes that — Drummond’s glue-guy play has been this team’s lone constant.
He’s still learning how to play basketball, but he’s doing so while casually gobbling up 12 boards and adding 12 dunk-filled points a night. His offensive game is still effortless yet short on tools, but when you really can rebound and, of course, dunk everything you get your hands on, who needs a low-post game right now?
The common idea is that young big men take a little more seasoning than young guards, and maybe that’s true. Drummond’s good traits — effort, rebounding, help defense — really make up for his obvious faults.
He really is far from being a polished, finished product, but he still averaged 15 points and 15 rebounds during the Pistons’ west-coast trip. That feat is made more impressive considering his opposing bigs included DeMarcus Cousins, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol. Not a bad group to out-play, right?
Obviously that kind of sustained success is great to see, but there are still going to be the nights like he had in losses to Oklahoma City and Indiana — combining for 10 points and 12 rebounds.
That’s life in the NBA. You hope for mostly good-to-great nights while having a short memory when it comes to the inevitable bad ones.
Drummond knows his limitations, and that’s good. He’s self-aware, knowing he’s young and knowing he’s probably one of the fastest and most athletic big men in the league. He said it himself, “It’s been said since I got here. I can do certain things that most players can’t do.”
It’s too bad that isn’t enough to make up for his team’s faults. For the Pistons to shake off their slow start, he and the rest of his frontcourt mates, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe, need to find a way to make all of their roles jive on both ends of the floor.
“We all can pretty much do the same thing,” Drummond said. “Josh obviously shoots the 3, but can bring the ball up the floor and create for other players. Greg, passing the ball, he can create for people off the block. Same with me, I can create for people off the block as well.”
Creating for others, that’s the one commonality. Aside from the nights where Smith has fully embraced his (hopefully) destined point-forward role, these big men aren’t really used to create for others.
Monroe is a gifted passer, and that’s something the Pistons haven’t exploited enough this season. Smith is at his best when he’s slicing into the lane and looking for others and cutting himself — he sometimes appears to forget that.
And for all of the cute, cosmetic statistics that Brandon Jennings has piled up this season, it just doesn’t feel like he’s thinking ahead when he comes barreling around a screen from one of those three big men. Seriously, if Will Bynum can occupy an entire defense as he runs off a screen-and-roll from Drummond, so should Jennings.
It’s November, though. Nothing in sports is decided in the first month, and this team hasn’t even had a preseason to work together. It’s not time to panic.
Maybe these first 10 games of the year have served as a de facto preseason. I’m not even going to bore you with all of the semantics of what the Pistons’ big core lacks, but it’s not something Drummond’s oblivious of either.
“Is it tough trying to figure out our spots? Yeah, absolutely, I mean we’ve never played with each other before,” he said. “Even for me and Greg, this is our first time really playing together at the same time for an extended period of time.”
Drummond has a good head on his shoulders. He’s completely erased all the commitment and effort doubts that haunted him during the pre-Draft process.
He’s proven to be the exact opposite of what scared off eight other teams in June of 2012.
The common misconception is that, if you’re young and good, you’d better make the jump to greatness ASAP. That’s unfair. It just isn’t always the case. Not every bright youngster is going to make the leap to NBA stardom before he can make the leap to the stool at the hotel bar. Players develop at different rates.
Even if Drummond’s role for this season does end up as simple as being the glue guy, that’s still a pretty darn good role — especially when the kid’s still getting comfortable.
“Last year, it was tough for me when I first got here, I didn’t really know what my role was, what I needed to do,” Drummond said. “That’s with anything, anything you step into new. You just got to figure yourself out. So, it took me a little bit to figure it out. Now that I have a place and know my role, I’m excited for what’s up and coming.”
And so is everyone else.
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