What happens when the hype gets too high?
Do you buy in and build towards it? Do you start to believe it and stop working for it?
These are the questions we have to ask former UConn star, Andre Drummond.
Drummond is in his third season in the NBA, a pivotal season for young developing players. It's usually the time where a player reveals what he will become; a star, a starter, a useful bench piece, or a washout.
In his first two seasons, it looked like Drummond was on his way towards stardom. Despite his struggles to fit in during his time at UConn, his game acclimated nicely to the NBA. He averaged 14.6 ppg, 14.2 rpg, and 2.1 blocks per game per 36 minutes. He emerged as a premier defender at the center position and has developed a reputation as one of the most physically gifted players in the whole league. His play led to his selection to Team USA for the FIBA World Cup, which won the gold medal.
He accomplished all that playing for a Detroit Pistons team that has featured a logjam of forwards, making it difficult for a player like Drummond to make an optimal impact. That seems to all be changing. Over the offseason, Detroit hired Stan Van Gundy as President of Basketball Operations and head coach. Van Gundy has proven during his time as head coach of the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat that he has the skill set to develop a winning team around a dominant center. His tenure with the Magic saw the maturation of Dwight Howard into a perennial MVP candidate and an appearance in the 2009 NBA Finals.
So far, Drummond has been slow to pick up Van Gundy's system. His minutes are down to 28 per game, and he's only averaging 8.7 ppg and 11.1 rpg. The Pistons roster doesn't make sense just yet, with Greg Monroe and Josh Smith still around, but expect Van Gundy to shake things up.
Van Gundy is trying to establish Drummond as a post up threat. He's been devastating right near the rim this season, shooting 67% on shoots less than 3 feet from the basket. The problem lies once Drummond steps out a bit. On shots between 3-10 feet away from the basket, Drummond is shooting just 29%.
Drummond's back to the basket game is still a work in the progress. He's developed only one move, a righty turnaround jump hook which he utilizes as soon as he catches the ball. He uses his elite speed to beat slower defenders up in the air. He only uses his right hand, to his detriment. He repeatedly attempts to bring the ball back to his right hand when it'd be more beneficial to go up with his left.
Drummond has been allergic to drawing fouls, with good reason. In his NBA career, Drummond is shooting a horrific 40% from the foul line. Quite simply, that is a problem that needs to be fixed. Shooting 40% from the line is an embarrassment and will hold Drummond's development back. If he is afraid to get fouled, that will change the way he attacks the basket which will cripple his team.
The good news; Andre Drummond remains an elite defender and rebounder. Even in reduced minutes, he's right at his career average with 1.7 blocks per game and challenges plenty of others. His presence in the paint is in and of itself a deterrent to opponents driving to the basket. He's grabbing over 11 rebounds per game, including over 3 offensive boards.
Drummond is a fantastically gifted athlete. He's already become a legitimate weapon on the defensive end and has emerged as an exceptional rebounder. But the key in his career is tied to his development as an offensive player. Can he become more than a pick and roll finisher, a la Tyson Chandler? Or can he develop like Dwight Howard, a functional back to the basket scorer who you can build an offense around?