No oneís talking about Andre Drummond and Iím not quite sure why.
It could be that heís rotting away on a Pistons team that rests currently at 17-27.
It could be that he had such volatile draft stock coming out of Connecticut that his biggest skeptics are still reserving judgment until they see more substantial production.
It could be that heís only playing about 20 minutes a night.
It could be all of the above.
Regardless, weíre looking at a rookie with soaring prospects, a ceiling so high that maybe only he could jump to it. And because of that, he needs more playing time.
Drummondís numbers per 36 minutes are completely outrageous coming from a rookie. He is putting up 13.2 points to match his 13.2 rebounds along with 2.9 blocks and 1.6 steals. Meanwhile, heís so efficient (shooting 60.7 percent from the field) that his horrid free throw shooting isnít as big of a liability as it should be.
Letís put those numbers in perspective, shall we? Donít they look quite similar to those of another freakishly athletic center, Dwight Howard, in his rookie season when he compiled per 36 numbers of 13.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, 1.0 steal, 1.8 blocks, and 52 percent shooting? Actually Drummondís numbers are better. And itís all capped off with a shellacking in the PER department. Howard had a 17.2 PER as a rookie. Currently Drummond leads all rookies with a PER of 22.3.
The efficiency shouldnít be surprising. Letís not pretend like Drummond has the ability to create his own shot in the open court. Thatís a place heís far from. More than half of Drummondís made field goals (54.5 percent of them to be exact) have come on dunks. Itís hard to be inefficient when youíre finishing at the rim that consistently and that often.
Thereís a reason Drummond is tied with Anthony Davis for the rookie lead in double doubles. Explosion. Thatís something that might be somewhat important when youíre playing only 20 minutes a night. But lately, Drummond has seen slightly more time. Over his past 14 games, he is averaging 22.6 minutes per game. Heís topped the 20-minute mark in 10 of those. Thatís still not enough, but itís progress. But now that heís getting more time, look at his numbers over that span:
14.3 points per 36.
13.4 rebounds per 36.
1.9 steals per 36.
3.0 blocks per 36.
69.5 percent from the field.
All the numbers are up. Someone please give this man more minutes. Youíre really going to go with the 10-years-elder Jason Maxiell over a young, developing, 19-year-old stud? That logic shouldnít go over well on a team that is more dependent on making the lottery than making a playoff run. Sorry, but Drummond isnít at all learning more sitting on the bench and watching.
The Pistons have another young, quality big man in Greg Monroe, someone who is already one of the five best passing bigs in the NBA, someone who can score, rebound, and make smart plays. If youíre going to take Drummond ninth overall, donít you owe it to your organization to see if Drummond and Monroe can play well together for long stretches? If thatís the plan for the future, why not see how it works now? That way, you might not be shocked with results in the upcoming years.
Hereís the thing, though: Drummond and Monroe rarely do step on the court at the same time. That combinations is only the Pistonsí 33rd most-used two-man lineup, one thatís played a fifth the amount as Maxiell and Monroe, the fifth most-used two-man lineup the Pistons play.
It makes sense to a degree. Starters tend to play with and against starters. Reserves tend face their own kind, as well. But Maxiell and Monroe have played a little more than a thousand minutes together on the floor. The Pistons can surely afford to filter some of those minutes into Drummondís den.
Itís not about winning. Itís about development and cohesion. Look at the best big man combination in the game today: Memphisí Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Randolph is the burley rebounder who plays in the post. Gasol is the facilitator, another player who surely fits into the one-of-the-five-best-passing-bigs-in-the-NBA category. And those two play beautifully together, partly because theyíve been doing it together for so long. The Pistons have a chance to create a similar situation and theyíre squandering it.
Theyíre squandering a chance to develop.
Theyíre squandering a chance to get better in the future.
Letís pretend Lawrence Frank wakes up in the morning, rolls out of bed, brushes his teeth, eats his breakfast while reading the NBA standings, and thinks, ďOh boy! Weíre only four games back of a Rondo-less Celtic team! Weíve got a shot. We must play for that eighth seed! More Jason Maxiell! More Jason Maxiell!!Ē But do the numbers even back that up?
Remember, the issue is not that Maxiell isnít deserving of playing time. He is a quality player that can contribute to a team. But heís stealing minutes that Drummond could use to develop actual chemistry on the floor with Monroe and if thatís going to be your cornerstone, you better let it mature, especially when lineup data says the Pistons are better off with Monroe and Drummond on the floor together.
The Drummond-Monroe combination is getting outscored by 0.3 points per 100 possessions, basically a negligible amount. Consider, though, that the Pistons on average get outscored by 1.3 points per 100 possessions and you can see the improvement. Meanwhile, the Maxiell-Monroe lineup has a minus-2.6 net rating per 100 possessions.
Imagine if the Magic, back when they were a lottery-bound team, only played Dwight Howard 20 minutes a game as a rookie. The Pistons are guilty of poor lineup optimization and of stunting growth, but mostly they should be convicted of short-sightedness. If you draft two players in the top 10 and both look like theyíre going to hold down the foundation of your franchise, you play them together and see how it goes. That should be a choice thatís already made for you.
But the Pistons are playing them separately and because of that, Drummond sits on the bench for 28 game minutes every night wondering when he might get his chance to put up numbers like Jason Maxiell.
Fred Katz is an NBA writer for RotoWire. Contact him on Twitter at @Fred Katz.