Andre Drummond, Pistons worth paying attention to

The Detroit Pistons’ Andre Drummond, left, vies for a rebound against the Charlotte Hornets’ Jeremy Lamb during the Pistons’ 102-90 win on Oct. 18. (Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

The Detroit Pistons’ Andre Drummond, left, vies for a rebound against the Charlotte Hornets’ Jeremy Lamb during the Pistons’ 102-90 win on Oct. 18. (Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press/TNS)

Through four games the Detroit Pistons are about what most people expected them to be.

A deeply flawed team with some entertaining pieces. The team is 2-2, and will likely flirt with the .500 line all season.

Tobias Harris is enjoying the increased minutes and has emerged as a go-to scorer. Part of that has to do with his newfound willingness to spread the floor. He’s averaging 5 three-point shots per game early on.

Avery Bradley is meshing well, or as well as can be expected, but once again the fate of this team depends on Andre Drummond, for better or worse. The team committed to making Drummond the franchise player in 2016 with a 5 year $127 million guaranteed salary.

The former-future superstar has moments where you wonder why this guy isn’t making all-league teams, then five minutes later you wonder if he’s ever seen a basketball before.

The complaints have always been the same. He never works on free throws, he takes plays off, and he doesn’t play defense. At all.

After Drummond’s first couple of seasons nearly anyone who watched him play had high hopes for him turning into the next Dwight Howard, but that still hasn’t happened.

Some days it’s tough to tell if he is improving or not, but from a way-too-small sample size through four games, he very well could be improving on his biggest problem.

He’s a career 38 percent free throw shooter, making Shaquille O’Neal look like Rick Barry. Through four games this season he’s shooting 83 percent at the line. That is too small to tell too much, but I honestly believe he could be on to something. I don’t expect him to shoot in the 80s all season, but his stroke is far smoother than it was a year ago. His free throw stroke is no longer like pulling teeth.

That’s step one for him to start becoming a real offensive threat, and the key for the Pistons becoming a playoff team.

If he could become just a reasonable threat on offense, that completely changes the complexion of the offense creating space for players like Harris and Reggie Jackson.

There have been improvements on that end, but other issues with Drummond still exist, and that’s his motor. He has every physical gift to compete and become a rim protector for a team that desperately needs one, but last season his Defensive Plus-Minus (a metric used to measure his efficiency per 100 possessions) was 26th among centers in the NBA.

Drummond’s 1.55 rating put him between New Orleans reserve center Alexis Ajinca (1.64) and Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson (1.31).

To put it in perspective, he was the third best defensive center on the Pistons’ roster last year, behind Aaron Baynes (11th best center at 2.93) and Boban Majanovic (24th at 1.66).

That, to put it lightly, is bad.

As his free throws have improved through the off season, his effort, or maybe defensively talent surely hasn’t.

On Monday night Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid showed that in the Pistons’ 97-86 loss. Embiid had 30 points and 9 rebounds in 28 minutes, while doing whatever he wanted to on the floor.

After the game Embiid told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Defensively, he doesn’t play any defense,” when referring to Drummond.

Drummond, meanwhile had a minus-11 +/- rating in the game.

While some of his issues have been resolved in the off season, there is still a long ways to go if the cornerstone of the franchise can actually do anything, or if it is time to start thinking about other options.

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Posted by Brian Fogg

Brian is the sports writer for the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3110 or bfogg@pioneergroup.com.

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