A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Why Andre Drummond may very well be a “safe” pick, not a “risky” one

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Source: Wikipedia

Andre Drummond in the 2012 draft is considered your classic “boom or bust” pick. He’s arguably one of the most physically gifted prospects of the last 20 years (His combination of size and power rivals if not surpasses a young Dwight Howard’s), but also is extremely raw, lacks great spatial awareness/feel for the court and is seemingly a soft player. Because he’s so undeveloped compared to his physical tools, he’s being called a risk if he doesn’t develop.

For example a Warriors insider here http://blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami/2012/06/21/andre-drummond-the-player-who-could-cause-the-warriors-biggest-draft-room-debate/  quotes

“Stated simply: Other than presumptive No. 1 pick Anthony Davis, no player in this draft might have more top-end talent than Drummond…. and top-end risk, too.”

“But in this scenario, there almost certainly would be draft room voices on the other side–people who believe that Drummond is too risky and too much of a project for a team that wants to win as soon as possible and do it with players who love basketball.”

This echoes much of the sentiment on Drummond. Because of his once or twice a decade physical tools for a center, he’s considered a high upside player if he develops greatly and gets it mentally, but the chance that he doesn’t get it makes him a risk.

I have to disagree with the sentiment of Drummond’s riskiness. To me what it comes down to is this: What does Drummond need to do to be a starting center in the NBA? Simply, he has to block shots, rebound and finish lob passes at the rim. That’s basically it. This is what Deandre Jordan, Javale McGee and Samuel Dalembert do and they are all comfortably considered starting caliber and well paid for it. The truth is that something like a third of the league is lacking a true starting center. Being a Deandre Jordan like extra-athletic shot blocker and finisher on the offensive end frankly is enough to get one of those starting spots.

I have a hard time seeing Drummond not doing what Jordan and McGee do in the NBA. He’s simply too physically gifted and did have an excellent shotblocking season at UConn – and he has shown somewhat of an aptitude for finishing lob plays. He was a superb offensive rebounder, on the defensive end his rebounding needs work, but he certainly has the gifts for it. For me what this means is that Drummond may have one of the easiest paths to being a long term starter in the NBA of the players picked after Anthony Davis. Because his physical tools are so ideal for a center, that carries him most of the way there. Compare him to a player like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (or “MKG”) out of Kentucky, who is considered a much more “safe” prospect, mainly because of how much more aggressive and physically relevant MKG’s game was at Kentucky. The same question should be asked: What does MKG need to be a starter? It becomes a murky question because Kidd-Gilchrist is an offensively raw perimeter player, with a hitch in his jumpshot and middling shot creation skills. MKG needs one of two things to become a starter. He needs to either make great leaps as an offensive player, or he needs to be so dominant on the defensive end and glass that he can start with tertiary offensive ability, since very few perimeter players start without a certain level of offensive production. To me there is a huge risk neither of these things happen. Offensive development is always uncertain and MKG is a good, but not ridiculous physical talent, making it a more difficult road to dominate physically on the defensive end. His upside may be to have Andre Iguodala or Gerald Wallace’s impact on the game, but his downside is to be a Ronnie Brewer type of stopper off the bench. I believe Drummond has fewer steps to take to guarantee being a starter. Same goes for a player like Damian Lillard out of Weber State. Lillard is an older player who has a SG style of play in a 6’2-6’3 body, ideal for a PG. He’s athletic and can score the ball, but to be starter caliber one of a few things need to happen. He needs to either be a SG who’s a terrific scorer despite his lack of size (think Jason Terry), or he needs to be adept enough a passer to play PG. Without either of those things he may be a long term bench player. The league is absolutely loaded with productive guards now, especially ones who look for their own shot – So there’s certainly huge competition for Lillard to be a starting, high volume player. Once again, I would probably presume Drummond’s road to starting will be easier and involve less steps.

On the other hand I also have doubts about the validity of Drummond’s so called star upside. The truth is that players who lack great offensive instincts or a semblance of polished skill at this age, rarely do a 180 by getting it on that end. Players with a true feel for scoring such as a Jared Sullinger or Greg Monroe show it by their freshman years in college for a reason, because it’s innate. Drummond might be a near guarantee to do what Deandre Jordan or Samuel Dalembert do in the NBA, but the best bet for him may be that he won’t exceed those players on the offensive end either. I would suspect he’s closer to being a “He is what he is” player. An uber athletic, huge center who’s lack of offensive instincts or innate skills, lend him to a role relegated to blocking shots, rebounding and finishing plays at the rim. And there’s nothing wrong with that, those are players who are in high demand at the C position.

Written by jr.

June 21, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Posted in NBA Draft

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  1. I think the biggest reason he’s not nearly as much of a risk as everyone’s saying is that even if he’s just awful you can probably trade him while he’s still on his rookie contract for the equivalent of a mid-first rounder. Darko was traded for a 15 pick (became Rodney Stuckey) and Kwame Brown was traded for Caron Butler. Young bigs have high trade-in value, because they’re rare and take time to develop. That’s a pretty important hedge. The worst return for a highly picked 7′ bust in recent memory was Battier for Thabeet and a lottery-protected 1st rounder that isn’t available till next year. That’s still something.

    Conversely, if after 2 years MKG looks like Tony Allen and Brad Beal looks like Tony Delk, I don’t think anybody’s going to take a flyer hoping they still might be secretly Pippen and Ray Allen.


    June 21, 2012 at 7:21 pm

    • Agreed, I forgot to mention that in that article. The length of Drummond’s leash is absolutely huge. Even if he’s not even Deandre/McGee his first 2 years, someone will trade for him expecting he’s a bit of fine tuning away from being one


      June 22, 2012 at 12:39 pm

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