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The next step for Andre Drummond

You would be excused for djoing something of a double take.

Stan Van Gundy happened to pick the one team that is most poised to remake the most successful team of his coaching career.

Sure, there is still some cleaning up to do (thank you, job security of being president of basketball operations). Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond did not quite seem to fit together. Smith and Jennings especially needed the ball in their hands for any type of success. The Pistons still have work to do.

The going thought though is that any success Detroit will have will be built around its 21-year-old center Andre Drummond. He is very much the future of this organization. And you cannot blame Van Gundy for wanting to build around him — if, that is, they go in that direction.

Drummond is still something of a secondary piece. He took a big step forward in his second year, averaging 13.5 points per game and 13.2 rebounds per game in 32.3 minutes per game. He averaged 1.6 blocks per game and added 3.5 defensive win shares. This is where his impact is truly felt. And, believe it or not, he was credited with 6.4 offensive win shares.

You can see why the Pistons did not feel a rush to re-sign Greg Monroe this offseason. Drummond is the post player they want to build around. And who can blame them after his second year numbers. He can be a game-changer on defense.

Despite a tumultuous end to their relationship, Stan Van Gundy helped transform Dwight Howard in Orlando. Photo by AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

Despite a tumultuous end to their relationship, Stan Van Gundy helped transform Dwight Howard in Orlando. Photo by AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

Just like Dwight Howard, Van Gundy’s former center, Drummond is a stopper on the defensive end. He is a rim protector with the talent and upside to be a game changer defensively in much the same way Howard was in his Orlando days. Van Gundy started acquiring shooters to put around him and the other ball dominators already on the Pistons roster.

It is hard not to see the similarities in what Van Gundy is trying to build.

“Definitely [sees similarities between Dwight Howard and Andre Drummond], especially on the defensive side of the ball,” said Justin Harper, who played for the Pistons’ Summer League team and was a Stan Van Gundy draft pick in Orlando. “Andre just has great defensive instincts, he’s a great defender. Especially an on-ball defender, he tries to block everything. When guards send guys to the paint, they know that he is back there. He is kind of an anchor on defense.”

So Drummond has begun improving his offensive game. His defense continues to come along. What is next for the young big man from Connecticut?

Drummond will not quite have the ball in his hands very much yet. Smith and Jennings will demand the ball still. Monroe is still on the roster and is a more reliable offensive option out of the post. So Drummond will still have some growth to make on the block.

Detroit has the opportunity to take baby steps with him there because of the roster it currently has.

Undoubtedly though, Drummond’s ability to play with the ball in his hands and be more of an offensive threat than just offensive rebounds, putbacks and transition (the calling card of a young Dwight Howard) will be where Drummond can take his next step.

“I think a huge step for Andre, and he is so great at such a young age, he has so much room to improve, is passing out of the post,” Harper said. “Being able to count on him down the stretch and throw it in for a bucket but also to trust him to make the right decisions passing it whether it is a cross-court pass to a big or anybody that can shoot or wherever the double team is coming. I think that is a huge step and people forget about how important that is to being a solid big in this league.”

This is a tough thing for any big man. Howard is still struggling in this role thanks to his poor free throw shooting. Drummond’s is not much better at 41.8 percent last season. It is hard to give Drummond the ball when free throws are that dicey.

It will all come for Drummond. He is 21 years old after all. Drummond could very well be the best center in the league two or three years down the road. Especially if he continues to improve his offense and make the same leaps Howard made under Van Gundy with the system he set up.

Drummond surprisingly made the Team USA roster. But much like Howard, he will be relied on more for his defense than his offense. He will rarely see the ball.

It is clear Drummond’s future is very bright. There is a chance for him to become one of the truly elite players. He has a coach who knows how to guide him there too.

The future is clearly in Drummond’s hands.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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