To this point in Andre Drummond’s career, he’s been a menace on the interior, swallowing up rebounds and slamming home lobs.
For six years, the paint has been his domain.
Never has he been confused with Steph Curry or Kyle Korver. And that is completely fine.
Nobody watches Drummond play and walks away thinking, “Boy, he could really be something; if only he’d start launching shots 23 feet from the hoop.”
Players have strengths and they have weaknesses.
Drummond, for example, has never had touch beyond eight or nine feet. He’s strictly an inside threat. Again, that’s perfectly OK. The man is 6’11” and weighs 280 pounds. Nobody expects him to snap off treys like an NBA two-guard.
Coming into this season, Drummond had always stayed in his lane. Deep shots for him were almost always an end-of-quarter adventure, and he even sank a few from beyond half court. Through six years as a pro, he’d converted five 3-pointers in 30 attempts.
But somewhere along the way, Drummond’s wires got crossed and he concluded that it was time for him to join the league’s ranks of long-range bombers. Seemingly encouraged by the NBA’s continued attraction to “stretch 5’s,” Drummond made the decision this off-season that the 3-point ball would now be a regular part of his in-game repertoire.
What’s the most polite way to say, “Thanks, but no thanks?” Or in less polite terms, “Are you out of your ####### mind?!”
This is like the Pistons going teal or Mornhinweg refusing the football.
Cute for maybe a second or two, but ultimately, a horrible idea.
Thus far in the preseason, Drummond has put his newfound 3-point confidence to work. He’s launched 11 shots from beyond the arc. He has come up empty on all 11.
On any given NBA possession, there are five potential players that could attempt a shot for the offense. You’d have to believe that regardless of who Drummond is sharing the court with, that his hoisting of a prayer from 3-point land would be the strategy with the lowest probability of yielding a positive outcome.
Yet it looks as if this nonsense has found a permanent home, somehow.
Keep Doing That
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Parish, two of the best big men ever to lace ‘em up, combined for over 61,000 points in 41 total years of NBA hoops. Parish never hit a 3, Jabbar nailed one. That’s it. Never did either player even attempt more than three shots from deep in a given season. (Parish never tried more than one in any of his 21 seasons.) Not once did those legends randomly decide, “Hey, if I’m gonna bust my tail grabbing all these boards, I should be allowed to try some of those wacky shots from 25 feet away!”
Sure, the game has changed immeasurably since those days and the traditional big man is a rapidly dying breed. However, it doesn’t mean that a player like Drummond – who excels around the rim but weakens with each step he takes outside of the paint – needs to suddenly join the masses and start trying things in which he’s unquestionably inept.
Afraid to Rock the Boat?
The natural instinct is to wonder why new head man Dwane Casey would support these shots. He’s coached against Drummond and knows full well that the big man belongs in the paint, as close to the basket as possible, on every single possession.
You don’t think Casey would have been thrilled as coach of the Raptors if Drummond went out and fired four or five bricks from downtown against his club? He would’ve sent hand-stamped invitations to the Pistons making sure Andre knew such ill-fated prayers were welcome anytime.
Well, based on a recent quote, it appears Casey has chosen to gift Drummond with these 3-point shots as some type of reward system for hitting the glass on the other end.
“Whenever he gives it to me on the boards, runs the floor, all the other intensity things and his guy drops back, he’s got to let it go,” Casey said.
So, in essence, if we’re gonna ask our center to grab a defensive rebound and then run hard back the other way (which some might say is his job), the least we can do is let him happily hurl up a few 3-pointers each game. Imagine Justin Verlander telling his manager, “Look, I give you everything I’ve got when I go out and pitch. So if I want to be in the lineup as our DH in some of the other games, I feel like I’ve earned it. Plus, it’s really fun!”
It’s illogical. If the goal is to win basketball games, and the way you win basketball games is by scoring the most points, then devoting even a scant two or three possessions a night to Drummond 3-point attempts is inarguably a negative proposition.
Even if Drummond were to sink 25 percent of his 3s, which is an unlikely proposition based in part on his 0-for-11 preseason effort, that’s not even close to something resembling productive offense. Say he takes 100 shots from beyond the arc and sinks 25. That’s 75 points. Really good NBA teams average upwards of 110 points per 100 possessions. Even the worst teams crack a 100-point average within the same criteria. (Not to mention, Drummond’s triple tries take him away from the basket on those possessions, severely lessening the Pistons chances at securing an offensive board.)
In an ideal world, you’d hope that athletes like NBA centers and NFL fullbacks simply embrace the often thankless nature of their jobs and continue to focus on the things they do well. But of course, that’s not always how it turns out. Toe-tapping wide receivers and 3-point bombing guards command the bulk of the highlights and guys like Drummond sometimes succumb to feelings of envy and that desire to be in the spotlight.
Even Big Ben Wallace, the ultimate blue-collar Piston, lost his way at a certain point in his career. Of course, this wasn’t brought on by some suddenly-discovered penchant for knocking down jumpers or breaking his guy down off the dribble. It was simply a matter of having done all the little things on the court for such a long time and now wanting a shot at some of the glory, no matter how counter such ideas might have been to Detroit’s chances of winning more basketball games.
“You can’t ask me to give 110 percent on one end and then I am not getting rewarded on the other,” said Wallace back in 2010, following a tight victory over the Nets in which he got just four shot attempts in 31 minutes of action. “It’s tough. You want to reward people for working hard. You give me an opportunity to play basketball on both ends of the floor and I am going to give you everything I’ve got when I step out on the floor.”
Weirdly enough, it sounded like a bit of a threat there from late-career Ben. The undrafted player that had started from the bottom only to become the league’s most feared defender had finally grown tired of that role. He wanted to score just like everybody else, holding hostage that famed defensive effort as some kind of bizarre ultimatum to the rest of the team.
Drummond hasn’t said anything of that ilk in relation to this recent infatuation with the long ball, but it still feels very similar. He sees Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis launching from all parts of the court and wants to be at the party, too.
Good Shooters Not Usually Left Alone
Phil Jackson used to tell Ron Artest and Lamar Odom, “There’s a reason why you’re open.”
It turns your stomach watching Drummond setting a screen this preseason – then, as if pulling off some strategic coup – slipping out to the perimeter instead of rolling to the hoop, “fooling” the other team into giving him acres of open space at the top of the key.
In certain cases, you’d expect to hear the opposing coach scream in that moment, “Get out on him!!” But when it’s Drummond set to launch that wayward prayer, the reaction is more like, “Wait, is he really about to…is this some kind of…wow, he actually shot it! Great defense, boys!”
With the Pistons expected to be one of a few teams fighting for the last couple of Eastern Conference playoff spots, Casey’s club won’t have much margin for error this season. Possessions will matter and taking good shots as often as possible will be paramount.
Last year, Drummond set a career high in 3-point attempts with 11 (he made none), and this year that number could explode to over 100.
Here’s one humble scribe’s suggestion that this statistic instead dial back to two, the amount of treys Drummond tried during each of his first three NBA seasons.
The Pistons begin play Wednesday night at home against the Brooklyn Nets.
Should the Detroiters lose that game by two or three points, and you peek at the box score and see Drummond came up empty on two or three shots from beyond the arc, know that the two things are related.