Andre Drummond entered this season with plenty of questions about whether he could make a significant improvement in his production. Fans decried his horrific free-throw shooting, sporadic effort and disappearing acts at the ends of games.
After Drummond’s turnaround season, those gripes all seem to be things of the past. He had undoubtedly his best season, posting 15 points and a league-leading 16 rebounds — a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Dennis Rodman in 1996-97 — and he showed versatility in acting as a point-center, with 3.0 assists per game.
What’s more, Drummond is developing confidence in his evolving game and turning the tide from the middle of last season, when he was the subject of trade talks. He responded positively to the first adversity of his career, another sign of his growing maturity.
Instead of coach Stan Van Gundy having to hound Drummond to work on his weaknesses, Drummond got in the gym, worked with a trainer and opted for surgery to correct his deviated septum, allowing him to breathe easier and increase his stamina.
“I didn’t need supervision and I did a good job of working on my game and body to come back to be a leader for this team. I took the summer very seriously and everybody on the team can attest to that,” Drummond told The Detroit News. “I want to do the same next summer and work on parts of my game to help our team elevate. The ultimate goal is to have a short jump shot around the paint before I extend out to (3-point range).”
Drummond showed signs of having worked on a mid-range jumper, hitting a few early in games toward the end of the season. Drummond’s game had to change, after his pick-and-roll partner, Reggie Jackson, missed 37 games.
Adding Blake Griffin early in February didn’t provide enough time to develop chemistry with Drummond, but the hope is that the offseason will allow them to work together and return next season with a better connection.
Van Gundy indicated concocting better plays to maximize Griffin’s versatility was part of the offseason plan, but it’s unclear whether Van Gundy and his coaching staff will be at the helm next season or if Pistons owner Tom Gores might go in a different direction.
In the four years under Van Gundy, the Pistons have taken a step in the right direction, but that’s going to have to translate in postseason success rather than incremental steps. Drummond sees some movement but the stability still is a work in progress. After the bumps this season, they all see the importance of having Jackson healthy.
“We do have key pieces and having Reggie back healthy is a definitely plus. Our young guys are coming together and progressing and getting their games better every time I see them,” Drummond said. “They’ll be a good group of guys to play with next year. For Reggie, he’s doing a good job staying on his body and keeping himself fresh.
“When he does feel something, he needs to take time off and relax. He’s done a good job of getting himself back to where he needs to. He took the time he was away seriously to get his body right.”
The Pistons’ hopes for next season — whether it’s with Van Gundy or another coach — hinge on the trio of Jackson, Drummond and Griffin and whether they can stay healthy for the majority. Van Gundy sees the inherent risk in depending heavily on two players with extensive injury histories, but the upside is worth it.
That’s where Drummond draws the line: speculating on Van Gundy’s future.
“That completely out of my control, when it comes to that front-office talk. It’s definitely going to be a tough few weeks for (Van Gundy), with that conversation coming up,” Drummond said. “Who knows what’s going to happen? I really don’t know. I obviously wish him the best and if he’s still here next season.
“He brought in structure to this team and helped us get on the right path; he definitely did a good job of that from when he got here.”