The Detroit Pistons were one of the NBA’s most impressive young franchises last year and returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2008-09 after going 44-38. Stan Van Gundy, the team’s head coach, did a remarkable job with his still-developing core and was able to coach the Pistons to a 12-win improvement.
The leader of their young core is Andre Drummond, a 6-11, 280-pound beast who made his first All-Star team last season as a fourth-year player. Van Gundy, during an interview with Keith Langlois of Pistons.com, said that Drummond is “the guy,” and went on to add in Stanley Johnson as another player who’s loaded with potential.
“Look, he’s the guy – probably he and Stanley (Johnson) are the guys who can, I think, based on their age and what they’ve done and what they’re capable of doing, who have the potential to make the biggest jumps.”
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Drummond is already the league’s best rebounder and hauled in 14.8 boards per contest last year to go along with his 16.2 points, 1.5 steals, and 1.4 blocks. Despite being 23, he’s a man among boys in the lane, and only a few other big men in the league can handle him on the block–this is without a post game, for the most part. To say that Drummond doesn’t have some skill in the post would be disrespectful, but a finesse game, along with the power game, would make him the NBA’s best center.
On the glass, however, it’s a whole different story. Drummond, who wasn’t in the best shape last year, is a fantastic athlete and that allows him to dominate both backboards; for the previous three years, Drummond has led the league in offensive rebounding. When defending, Drummond has shown he’s not the most disciplined, and he can struggle with foul trouble at times. The good thing is that he’s starting to show an improvement in that area, and doing more shot-altering as opposed to shot-blocking.
Also, it’s paramount to touch on his horrendous free throw shooting. At just 35.5 percent, Drummond is the worst free throw shooter in history, and is a liability to be left on the floor late in games because of “Hack-a-Drummond.” Fortunately for Pistons fans, Van Gundy said he’s been working relentlessly at them.
The next guy up is Stanley Johnson: an athletic, hyper-competitive, 6’7 swingman who just wrapped up his rookie season. Johnson has the complete package as a basketball player which includes an insatiable work ethic and willingness to do whatever to win.
There isn’t much he can’t do on offense, even though the numbers don’t indicate it. He’s incredibly strong, listed at 245 pounds, and has an NBA-ready body despite being so young. Johnson has a good first step but his vertical explosiveness makes up for it, and he hasn’t shown many issues with getting to the cup–the issues are with finishing, but he still managed to convert on roughly 57 percent of his chances.
His perimeter jump shot is average at best, but he showed flashes that he could light it up from out there, and knocked down 60 percent of his threes in the four playoff games against the Cavaliers. On defense, all the tools are there for Johnson to be a lockdown wing defender, and in a few seasons, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him on the All-Defensive team.
The one area, however, that separates him from most young players in his confidence; how many first year players would be willing to say they got into LeBron James‘ head?
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Van Gundy addressed that in his interview:
“It’s an ongoing challenge, for him and for us. But the strength Stanley has is he’s got a tremendous passion for the game and tremendous desire to be great. He’s as good a competitor as you’ll find in this league, as young as he is. What goes along with that is a stubbornness, to some degree. At times, I’ll be honest – working with him can be a little bit frustrating because of that. He thinks he knows the way to do it.”
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference
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