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3-on-3: Andre Drummond and the Pistons’ struggles

Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.

1. The Pistons are spiraling, and it seems that the popular opinion is that this current stretch of stink is the fault of either Joe Dumars, Maurice Cheeks, Greg Monroe, Brandon Jennings or Josh Smith. Why is Andre Drummond immune to that kind of criticism?

Dan Feldman: Because he’s the biggest bright spot — by far — this team has had since the Chauncey Billups-Allen Iverson trade. Drummond probably shouldn’t get such a long leash, but I get it (and probably extended it myself). It’s also because Drummond still isn’t fully credited for what he does well, so until that happens, there won’t be a rush to decry his flaws.

Patrick Hayes: Drummond still has flaws in his game, obviously, but things like, “Hey, don’t bite so hard on pump fakes,” or, “Get better at shooting free throws,” seem infinitely more correctable than, say, trying to explain to your highest paid player in franchise history the difference between a good shot and a bad shot. Or trying to teach your point guard when to hold for the last shot. Or trying to teach Monroe to play anything remotely resembling defense. And don’t even get me started on Dumars’ or Cheeks’ faults. In short, Drummond’s flaws look correctable and relatively minor. The other flaws the Pistons are dealing with … not so much.

Brady Fredericksen: Beats me. I think people see what they want to see. Drummond serves as a sort of guiding light for Pistons fans — he’s exciting, fun and still pretty frickin’ good — but why look at the faults of your (perceived) favorite player when you can just do it to everyone else? The Pistons problems aren’t something you can pin to just one player because they’re a team issue. To think any of the key guys on this team are immune from criticism is extremely naive.

2. Where can Drummond shore up his play to hopefully help pull the Pistons out of this funk?

Dan Feldman: He must defend better. His physical attributes negate a lot of deficiencies, but his help defense falls way below the level of the rim protector the Pistons need him to eventually become. Even excluding the Josh Smith-Greg Monroe-Drummond lineups — which cause defensive issues so deep, it’s unfair to pin them on Drummond — the Pistons defend better when Drummond is on the bench. That shouldn’t happen.

Patrick Hayes: I think improving at the free throw line is likely an offseason task, so I’ll put that obvious area on hold. But in the interim, he can work on being a bit more disciplined when it comes to leaving his feet (as Dwight Howard showed, Drummond is very susceptible to the pump fake). He also has a ways to go when it comes to understanding team defense and his role as a help defender. I certainly think he can and will improve in those areas, perhaps even by the end of the season. But Drummond is already doing far more than was reasonably expected of him — remember the post-draft comments from team officials suggesting Drummond might not be a key contributor for two-three seasons? Him shoring up a few sloppy areas in his game would be nice and isn’t unreasonable, but let’s not pretend that the more experienced key players who should know better are the ones who are far more responsible for the team’s awful play.

Brady Fredericksen: Defense. Drummond is already an elite rebounder, athletic freak and above average shot blocker, but his defense is still far, far, far from a finished product. The funny thing about comparing Drummond to a guy like Dwight Howard is that, while the cosmetic numbers match up favorably, the overall on-court impact isn’t really Dwight-esque. Drummond’s still not the defender Howard was early in his career, and he’s still got that nagging habit of biting on almost every shot fake thrown his way. Compared to some teammates, many of his issues are miniscule. He just doesn’t have a great grasp of defensive rotations and how to correctly position himself in those 1-on-1 situations. That should come in time.

3. Do people give young players like Drummond a little too much leeway when it comes to turning a blind eye to their individual struggles when it comes to the faults of their team?

Dan Feldman: Absolutely. See Kentavious Caldwell-Pope this year or Brandon Knight the last couple years — and at least those two have shown potential during meaningful stretches. There are plenty of Pistons fans who believe Tony Mitchell and/or Peyton Siva can save Detroit’s season. As they develop a fatigue of veterans, many fans get infatuated with young players whose deficiencies they haven’t yet seen.

Patrick Hayes: Sure. Young players are always easier to forgive. They typically play with higher energy than veteran counterparts, they play harder if they’re fighting for minutes and they give fans of bottom-feeding teams like the Pistons have been a chance, even a slight one, to hope that the future will be brighter if these players develop. Drummond is in a good position right now. His higher paid teammates bring a lot of negative attention upon themselves with their more than occasional baffling decision-making, and that allows for greater appreciation of the way Drummond just goes out, rebounds, blocks shots and dunks most every night. But Drummond is also one of the most physically gifted players in the league. So that leeway won’t last very long. At some point, he’ll face even greater pressure than his teammates to become one of the league’s elite players. The jump from good to great  player in this league is difficult, and if it doesn’t go smoothly for Drummond, he’ll face his detractors. That’s just how sports are. But for now, just enjoy him. There’s not much else to like about this team.

Brady Fredericksen: Of course, we all do. Remember all the ‘sacred cow’ stuff from Dumars back in 2008?  That’s what Drummond is in the fans’ eye today. He’s immune to criticism because it’s hard to hate on the guy you like. Fantasizing that Drummond is antithesis of the Pistons struggles makes dealing with the struggles easier. I can’t argue that because turning a blind eye usually does make things easier to swallow. But if you’re going to talk about the Pistons’ shortcomings and what can be done to fix them, there are no sacred cows — Drummond included.


  • Jan 10, 20144:22 pm
    by hoophabit


    It seems to me that this whole discussion starts with a false premise.  Drummond has hardly been held as being above criticism.  His defensive shortcomings and FT shooting problems are well documented.  I’d add a tendency to passive play.  AD will never be at his best until he starts to play with more aggression, both on defense (boxing out and denying position) and offense (by simply forcing his way to better position).  It’s just that even in Toronto, while having a poor game and where he looked low on energy, he still got 17 boards.  The growth this 20 year old has shown since last year leaves in place the shine on his terrific promise.  If he looks just like this in a couple of years then people will question his value.

  • Jan 10, 20149:51 pm


    Let’s be honest he was never coached his whole career….id argue last year he wasn’t coached and Rogers as a big man coach was not good for Drummond…so let’s assume for conversation that this is his first year of really being coached…
    He has the same problem many athletic shot blockers have, he has the same problem shooting FT a lot of big men have, and learning to play physical without drawing fouls same problem….but back to this is his first year really getting coached…now next year if all of those problem for the same then I’d have a real issue with Drummond 

    • Jan 11, 20141:51 am
      by Tim Thielke


      “he has the same problem shooting FT a lot of big men have”

      A lot of big men do not have the problem of being arguably the worst free throw shooter in NBA history.

  • Jan 10, 201411:21 pm
    by MrHappyMushroom


    I’m glad to see that many are now recognizing that Drummond isn’t currently a very good defensive player. He will almost certainly get better–whether he ever becomes great or not is unknown, but he’s got a shot.

    As for free throws,I’ve asked this on DBB a few times–can anyone provide examples of players who started their careers as wretched free throw shooters and eventually became okay at it? I looked at the worst ten free throw shooters of all-time and *only* Adonal Foyle (42% after 5 years and nearly 60% afterwards) showed any sort of notable progress.

    People rightly pointed out that by virtue of the worst ten remaining on the worst ten list, they, by definition, didn’t get better at free throw shooting. But no one has been able to come up with another good example of a once terrible FT shooter who became decent. (One mentioned that Karl Malone’s first season was at 48%, but that–looking at his college and second year stats–seemed to be a clear aberration.)

    For the record, Shaq and Howard were better foul shooters early in their careers than they became. Also, both guys are much, much better from the line that Dre is. Much better–add 15 percentage points for Shaq and 20 for Howard.

    What I’m getting at is that I don’t see evidence that increased attention to free throws is necessarily likely to make Andre Drummond any better at shooting them. If I were a betting mine, I consider a bet that he finishes below 40% for his career and would definitely jump at the wager if the threshold were raised to 45%. And 50% or better? Unless someone can provide examples at guys who have bumped their percentages by 15 percentage points after their first couple of seasons, I don’t consider that likely at all.

    To be clear, being a 40% free throw shooter could still leave Dre a good offensive player, especially because of all the O-boards he collects. But it will limit his ceiling, possibly a lot. The Beat-the-Drum strategy can’t be used too often now, because so many of his shots come from tip-ins and lightening quick lobs. But if/when he does develop a post game, teams would be nuts not to just pound the hell out of him under many circumstances. The advantage of doing so would be *far* greater than it was with Howard or Shaq.

    A final Dre note–I think he’s tired. Remember, this guy played one 30 game college season and about 60 last year (with a two month break in the middle). By tomorrow, he’ll have matched last season’s minutes total and he often seems listless in the second half (to my eyes). Been trying to track down a website that provides splits by quarters for individual players. Can someone recommend one?

    • Jan 10, 201411:23 pm
      by MrHappyMushroom


      As an FYI, here is Ben Wallace’s free throw profile:

      Ben Wallace (41% for his career, an all-time low) was as bad as Andre for seasons one and two. But Ben never cracked 50% for an entire season and remained consistently terrible for his entire career.) I guess averaging 42-43% over the next fifteen years was an “improvement”, but nothing to get too excited about.

      But Wallace was *never* going to be featured as post presence in an offense. Dre’s free throw shooter (should he follow the Wallace trajectory) would likely be far more damaging.

      And the notion that Dre just has to put in the effort to improve?…Did anyone in the NBA work harder than Ben Wallace?

    • Jan 11, 20141:05 am
      by oats


      Michael Olowokandi was an awful college shooter at 47% over 3 years, and then shot 48% as a rookie before turning into a 60% career shooter in the NBA. Chris Webber shot 53% as a rookie and 50% the year after but finished with a career average of 65%. Webber had a few other terrible shooting years, but he also topped out at 79% in one season. Webber’s high in college was 55%, so it wasn’t just an aberration to start his career.
      Neither of those guys were quite Drummond bad, but there aren’t many guys who have ever been Drummond bad. It is pretty rare for terrible shooters to get a lot better at the line. I don’t have much hope for him getting up to 50%, but maybe he could get into the 40-45% range.
      As for splits by quarters, NBA.com. I’ve got Drummond right here. If you want to know how to find it yourself you go to the player then click the stats tab. Underneath that line the first thing on the left should read General Splits. Click on that and pick In-Game from what pops up. Keep in mind the minutes change since he plays a bit less in the 4th quarter than the other quarters. Rebounds, points, and steals all seem to be largely constant from quarter to quarter on a per minute basis, but his points and shot attempts are down in the 4th. I put that on the fact that the team’s assist drop in the quarter while Jennings has his shot attempts go up. I would say there is little statistical evidence for Drummond getting gassed in the 4th quarter if that’s what you are looking for. Then again, it could be a more recent trend that has not really been reflected in his stats just yet.

      • Jan 11, 20141:07 am
        by oats


        * That was supposed to be rebounds, blocks and steals all seem constant while points and shot attempts are down.

    • Jan 11, 20142:29 am
      by Tim Thielke


      Dale Davis shot 50.2% over his first 7 seasons before shooting 65.0% over his remaining 9 seasons.

      Johnny Green shot 40.6% as a rookie, shot 53.2% over his first decade in the league, and shot 60.4% over his remaining four years.

      Tony Kimball shot 51.1% for four years before shooting 68.3% for his remaining three years.

      Rasho Nesterovic shot 54.8% for his first 7 seasons before shooting 70.8% for his next four.

      Elmore Smith shot 54.3% for his first four seasons before shooting 62.5% for his remaining four.

      Michael Smith shot 46.3% for his first three seasons before shooting 62.3% for his remaining four.

      Mark West shot 31.8% as a rookie, 51.2% for his next three years, and 58.3% for his remaining 13 years.

      Vin Baker shot 61.4% for his first 6 seasons before shooting 68.7% for his remaining 7.

      Walt Wesley shot 42.3% as a rookie, 50.0% as a sophomore, and 66.4% for his remaining 8 seasons.

      Micheal Olowokandi shot 48.3% as a rookie and 61.4% for his remaining 8 seasons.

      Mark McNamara shot 47.0% for his first four seasons before shooting 66.8% for his remaining four.

      Karl Malone shot 48% as a rookie, 60% as a sophomore, and spent the rest of his career at 76%.

      Probably the best example is Kris Humphries, who shot 43.6% as a rookie, 52.3% as a sophomore, 66.5% over the next 5 seasons, and 77.1% over the three seasons since.

      • Jan 11, 20144:29 pm


        I’m forget….which one just turned 20 by their 2nd year in the nba?

  • Jan 11, 20148:44 am
    by MrHappyMushroom


    Thank you, Tim and Oats.  I assumed that there probably were some examples.  I’m looking forward to having a look at them.  When I have some time to kill, I’ll look back at their college days. The thing with Drummond is that he was also an awful shooter and college and as a high school soph. (I think he was around 50% as a HS frosh; I wasn’t able to find his junior or senior years.)  Malone, Ololwokandi, and a few others look like they just had the cases of rookie nerves.  Guys like Dale Davis and Nesterovich are encouraging because they had long established themselves at a pretty low level and then showed a dramatic increase.  Humphries isn’t as encouraging to me–he shot 74% in college and his first couple of years were likely an odd anomaly.
    Oats, thanks also for the quarter splits.  I might see a little bit of a fourth quarter fatigue factor (but maybe because I’m looking for it).  He shoots and rebounds a little lower per minute in the 4th.  This may just be Smennings firing up endless shots, but it could also be a reflection of him being less energetic. If you look at the infamous Smith Air Ball Dagger, Andre really did seem to be casually trapsing around in no-man’s land.  The stats can’t account for it, but I’d mostly noticed him being more lethargic on defense in the fourth. But again, we see what we expect to see sometimes.

  • Jan 11, 201412:35 pm
    by Jake


    Here’s a thought…maybe Drummond just isn’t that good…spending less time on Instagram and more in the gym might do wonders for him.  
    Trust me, I’d rather have a fun-loving kid with a boatload of talent and promise than a guy who spends his offseason tanked and stoned at bars in Royal Oak any day (smith).  
    My point is that a nice kid and will be solid, but might not turn into the superstar everyone is holding out for.  

    • Jan 11, 20145:50 pm


      20 year old… First in the league with offensive rebounds (so dominate he has 40 more offensive rebounder than the next closest person De’andre Jordan who has played 2 more games than Drummond) that is 2nd in the league with double doubles,2nd in FG%, 4th in the league with rebounds….9th in blocks….. no reason to believe he’ll be special ….. 

      • Jan 11, 20145:57 pm
        by Jake


        I didn’t say he wasn’t good…but this article was talking about his deficiencies and I believe his work ethic will be to his demise.  He’ll be an incredibly valuable player, but I think these expectations that he’s going to be a superstar need to be curtailed a bit.  
        My point was limited because I was typing on my phone, but I am thrilled that he’s a great kid and is now the cornerstone of the Pistons…Let’s just not get too crazy with these expectations.  
        Despite those stats, he still has no semblance of an offensive game (outside of working well within the pick and roll – which I would say he’s even limited there) and absolutely can’t shoot free throws.  Toughness is also a huge question mark.  

        • Jan 11, 201411:32 pm


          That goes against everything we’ve read about Drummond since he has become a piston…no one has questioned dedication or work ethic…. the true test is learning to dominate

  • Jan 11, 20142:11 pm
    by JamesB007


    Trade Monroe for someone like DeMarcus Cousins, and get a straight-up baller with soaring talent like Kemba Walker on this team. Every time that guy plays against us he torches the D and puts up huge scoring numbers. I know Dumars has noticed. He’d be a GREAT addition, and not getting my hopes up for a championship just yet, but I see us competing against the Heat and Pacers in the coming playoffs!!!

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