Pistons' Drummond slides to No. 51 in SI's top 100

The Detroit News

Center Andre Drummond is considered a cornerstone for the Pistons, after he was selected No. 9 overall in the 2012 NBA draft.

He apparently has some work to do, however, if he's going to be considered among the NBA's elite big men.

Pistons center Andre Drummond is No. 51 in Sports Illustrated's top 100 NBA players for 2018.

The Pistons' 6-foot-11 center ranks No. 51 as Sports Illustrated rolled out the back half of its top 100 NBA players for 2018 on Monday, one of four Pistons between Nos. 51 and 100.

He'll presumably be the highest-ranked Piston in SI's rankings, as guard Avery Bradley (No. 54), point guard Reggie Jackson (No. 78), forward Tobias Harris (No. 81) checked in behind Drummond.

For Drummond, 24, it's a slide of 22 spots from last year's preseason ranking. He averaged 13.6 points and 13.8 rebounds last season, a decline in each from his All-Star season in 2015-16.

"Theoretically, the 24-year-old Drummond’s performance in 2016-17 should represent his basement," SI's Ben Golliver writes. "Reggie Jackson’s injury compromised their proven pick-and-roll partnership and forced Drummond into too many lower-efficiency post-up opportunities. Defensively, Drummond struggled with awareness, decision-making and rim-protection on an individual level, and yet the Pistons’ frontcourt personnel didn’t offer much in the way of help either.

"Despite his warts, Drummond’s athleticism and sheer size would surely be put to much better use on a roster that possessed average talent, depth and chemistry. A reliable, healthy floor general to feed him would go a long way, too. As it stands, Drummond must prove that his unique strengths can consistently translate to a greater degree of team success or he must evolve into a more complete all-around impact-maker before he can be regarded as one of the NBA’s brightest rising stars again."

As for Bradley, the Pistons' big offseason acquisition from the Boston Celtics, "mentality separates Bradley from his peers," writes SI's Rob Mahoney. "There are quicker guards out there, but it’s Bradley who’s picking up his man at three-quarter court, turning every dribble into a battleground. There may be players closer to a loose ball, but Bradley is the one who makes up enough ground to snatch a possession away. There are better shooters and smoother ball-handlers, and yet Bradley has worked those skills and more to bring his greater game toward its reasonable limit.

"As a result, the NBA has reached a consensus: Bradley is one of those defenders (and one of those opponents in general, really) that nobody wants to face."

Golliver writes that "the door is wide open for Harris, a gifted scoring forward (16.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.7 APG) who shifted in and out of the starting lineup in 2016-17, to put together a career year in Detroit," while Jackson's knee injury contributed to a season in which Golliver said the point guard was one of the NBA's "biggest disappointments."

The Pistons' success, according to Golliver, could hinge on Jackson's health.

"If he returns to full health, he should outplay this ranking," Golliver writes. "However, if Jackson remains limited as he works his way through the final three years of a 5-year, $80 million contract, Detroit’s long-term outlook becomes incredibly bleak."

Also on SI's list: Former Pistons shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who is at No. 99 with the Los Angeles Lakers; former Pistons big man Greg Monroe, who is No. 72 with the Milwaukee Bucks; and former Michigan State star Gary Harris, who is No. 57 entering his fourth season as a shooting guard for the Denver Nuggets.

Former Michigan State star Gary Harris cracks ESPN’s top 100 NBA players, vaulting a meteoric 87 spots from a year ago as he enters his fourth season in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets.

Harris also checks in at No. 90 as ESPN began rolling out its top 100 NBA players Monday with Nos. 76-100. He cracks the top 100, vaulting a meteoric 87 spots from a year ago as he enters his fourth season in the NBA.

The 6-foot-4 shooting guard averaged a career-high 14.9 points per game last season, shooting 42 percent from 3-point range.

“On a per-possession basis, Harris rated as one of the NBA’s most efficient offensive two-guards last season,” according to ESPN’s Stats & Info, “ranking ahead of Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan, Devin Booker and Andrew Wiggins among others in Offensive RPM (real plus-minus). Harris connected on 54 percent of his corner 3s, which ranked fourth among the 137 players who attempted at least 50 of them.”

Harris played two seasons for the Spartans (2012-14), where he averaged 14.9 points per game, including 16.7 as a sophomore. He was drafted by the Nuggets at No. 19 overall in the 2014 NBA draft.

ESPN will unveil more of its top 100 throughout the week. Its “expert panel” was asked to “consider both the quality and the quantity of each player’s contributions to his team’s ability to win games.” Sports Illustrated will unveil Nos. 31-50 on Tuesday.