The Impact of Andre Drummond

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Los Angeles Lakers

It’s no secret that Andre Drummond has emerged as one of the NBA’s best young centers this season. The former Connecticut Husky, who was playing college ball only two years ago, has arguably been the brightest spot on the 10-13 Pistons. He’s recorded several outstanding performances over the season’s first quarter, the most impressive of which was a 31 point/19 rebound/six steal performance against Philadelphia on December 1, and there’s even been talk of an All-Star bid for the 20 year-old. Drummond’s growth hasn’t been lost on the league’s best player; LeBron James was quoted in the Detroit News as saying, “he’s much more comfortable than even the beginning of last year and that’s good for him.”

Last season, Drummond flashed some offensive potential; over 60 games (10 starts), he scored at least 15 points on eight occasions, and reached at least 20 points twice. In 23 games in 2013-14, Drummond has scored at least 15 points…on eight occasions, and he’s scored 20 or more twice…in the month of December. The increased offensive output is not only a product of an increase in playing time (12 minutes more than last year, on average), but it’s also the result of utter dominance in the paint. One note that I found interesting is Drummond’s increased productivity has come despite his usage rate dropping (only by 1%, but it’s a drop nonetheless). Overall, he’s averaging 13.1 points per game after averaging 7.9 in his rookie season, and he leads the league in field-goal percentage, shooting an outstanding 62.4% on the season. Below are two charts indicating why Drummond’s shooting percentage is so high:

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On the left is Drummond’s “hot-spot” chart, and as you can see, he’s shooting extremely well (close to 63%) less than eight feet from the basket. A whopping 97% of his shot attempts are taken in the restricted area, as the shot distribution chart on the right indicates. Now, take a look at his charts from 2012-13:

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Nearly the same; a large percentage of shots taken close to the basket (93% last year, 97% this year), and a high conversion rate on those shots. Drummond’s proclivity for inside scoring is the biggest reason why the Pistons lead the NBA in points in the paint, and there’s no reason to think that will change. He hasn’t needed to develop a shot from longer than about eight feet because of his effectiveness from within eight feet. Scoring plays like this are typical of Drummond:

Drummond Hoop and Harm

Drummond sets the pick, then scampers back to his spot near the basket as Josh Smith fires a perfect pass in to the second-year center. Drummond receives the ball, is able to draw contact nearly immediately, and lays the ball in with the right hand and heads to the free-throw line.

While Drummond has rounded into a major threat in the paint, what he’s known most for is his defense. One-fourth of the way into the season, Drummond has a DWS (defensive win share) of 1.2–his defense has added a little more than one win to the Pistons. That defensive win share mark ranks among the top 15 in the league. When he is challenged at the rim (nearly eight times per game, 20th-most in the league), opponents shoot less than 47% percent. Drummond ranks in the top 20 in steals (1.7) and blocks (1.4), and he’s fourth in the NBA in rebounds per game, hauling in 12.7 per game (he’s one of four players averaging at least 12 boards per night).

More on Drummond’s rebounding. He is the NBA’s leading offensive rebounder, averaging 5.1 per game, and grabbing more than 17% of available offensive rebounds. He’s collecting nearly 29% of all available defensive rebounds, and overall, his 22.5% rebounding percentage leads a team that ranks sixth in the Association in that category. Drummond’s percentage of rebounds per chance–which measures the number of rebounds a player recovers in relation to the number of chances–is 71.7%, fifth among players averaging at least 30 minutes per game. Perhaps the most impressive feature of Drummond’s rebounding is the number of contested rebounds he gathers in. A contested rebound is defined as a rebound that is collected when an opponent is within 3.5 feet. Drummond pulls in an average of 5.7 such rebounds per game; this number leads the NBA. His contested rebound percentage is 45%, good for seventh in the NBA, but his overall haul on the glass is higher than everyone else in the top 12 of the contested rebound percentage category.

Here are a couple plays that highlight Drummond’s ability defensively, as well as his jaw-dropping athleticism:

Drummond Rejects West

Andre Drummond makes ridiculous defensive play against the Warriors

Video example #1 begins with Drummond and Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert jostling for position under the Indiana basket. C.J. Watson is able to kick it over to David West, who drives…only to be rejected emphatically by Drummond, who was able to explode past the All-Star Hibbert. Not only did Drummond get the block, but he was able to retrieve the ball and get it to Brandon Jennings in an attempt to kick off a transition opportunity.

In the second example, well, this is just crazy. David Lee tries to sneak one past the 6’10” Drummond and his 7’6” wingspan…and fails. Drummond snatches it out of the air with an elegant combination of authority and grace, and as Sean Highkin points out in the post, there’s no clear way to classify this. A stupendous play by a great athlete.

Andre Drummond’s game has undergone a sizable transformation to this point in the season; Drummond has not only established himself as one of the game’s best on the glass, but he has become a monster in the paint for a team that needs a presence there. The second-year center is immensely important to the Detroit Pistons on both ends of the floor, and his continued excellence is paramount to his team’s chances of sustained success.