Stan Van Gundy’s hire. The Jodie Meeks signing. The Reggie Jackson blockbuster. Greg Monroe’s departure. First the trade trade for Ersan Ilyasova, then another one for Marcus Morris. Following an eerily similar blueprint to the one he utilized with Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic, Van Gundy was practically screaming through a megaphone that Andre Drummond’s breakout was coming.
Now the franchise player for a Pistons team that has been desperate to find one, “the other AD” is set to enjoy an absolutely dominant season.
Averaging an other-worldly 20.3 points, 19.5 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.8 blocks on 49.2 percent shooting, Drummond is playing more minutes than he ever has while serving as the focal point of an offense that wants to feature him on every possible possession. For those who want to claim a chair in the small sample size theater, I hope you enjoy your sideshow while the rest of us are watching the main attraction. Drummond, who is a top-five NBA player based on upside alone, already has two 20-20 games under his belt before we’re 10 games into the schedule. An absolute beast inside standing 6’11” and 280 lbs., the 22-year-old is just beginning to scratch the surface of his absolutely monstrous potential.
The first player in thirty years to score at least 80 points and grab 75 rebounds through his team’s first four games of the season, Drummond is going to be logging stat-stuffing lines regularly. He’s already proven that he’s going to be a matchup nightmare for just about any team, and short of fouling Drummond on every trip down the floor, nobody has figured out the first step in any potential plans to slowing the big man down.
It’s laughable to look back at the 2012 draft and see names like Dion Waiters, Thomas Robinson and Terrence Ross taken ahead of Drummond. Considered a project upon coming into the league after his one-and-done year at the University of Connecticut, Drummond has quickly and emphatically turned into a top-three player from his class alongside Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard. Entering just his fourth season in the league—and first as SVG’s prized pupil—it’s downright frightening to consider what else Drummond may be able to achieve both now and in the future. A stone cold lock to establish career-highs virtually across the board, Drummond’s Thanksgiving feast is going to last for much more than just the month of November.
ESPN Stats & Info highlights—in bright, bold yellow—just how special Drummond has been to begin what will be remembered as the season he became a household name. Previously playing a role that had many calling him the right-handed DeAndre Jordan, Drummond’s game is now about so much more than put-backs, alley-oops and easy slam-dunks. And while some want to dissect his efficiency and question his skills, the reality is Drummond, still a (big) kid, is learning how to play a role he’s never enjoyed at the professional level. Just because Howard’s awkward, robotic post-up game never evolved doesn’t mean Drummond is in store for the same fate. Drummond is taller, more athletic and has more basketball skill than Howard showed at the same point in his career. There are far more tools in Drummond’s box for SVG to manipulate, discover and ultimately utilize than he ever had with Howard during their Orlando tenure.
It’s easy to drive the hype train early in the year when a player is tearing his way through the league, but this isn’t about what he’s already accomplished—it’s focused on what he’s going to do moving forward. Clearly limited in what he was able to do previously by a flawed roster and capped role, Drummond now sits at the head of the party on the King’s throne rather than off to the side at the kid’s table. His teammates are noticing, and it’s not a surprise to see his early success considering the effort level he plays with when he steps onto the court (via Aaron McMann, MLive.com).
“It’s not even about the numbers, really,” said forward Anthony Tolliver. “It’s about the energy. It was tremendous tonight and he knows that. I talk to him about it all the time, and so do the coaches. If he brings that type of energy and that type of effort every night, we’re going to have a chance.”
The man in the middle can sometimes get in the way, but Drummond’s clear, deliberate message is being loudly delivered for the rest of the NBA to hear.