He was almost universally panned (yours truly would be included among those doing the panning) as a raw prospect who was nothing more than a developmental big going into the 2012 NBA draft. Then he exceed the expectations—while healthy—as a rookie.
Now he's hailed as the next great big man in the Association, thanks to the massive improvements he displayed in that first year.
It's been a roller coaster of perception for Drummond, but that ride is about to get weird.
It's only going to continue going up, which would be rather positive for the Connecticut product even if it didn't give that stomach-churning feeling you look for in thrill rides.
Drummond emerged as a solid center who didn't need multiple years to develop into a quality player during 2012-13. Now he's going to emerge as the next star big man in 2013-14.
Defensive Attention Drawn by the Rest of the Lineup
At this stage of his remarkably young career, Drummond still isn't an offensive genius. In fact, he struggles a bit on that end of the court, relying on his teammates to create open shots for him and finishing the easy looks right around the basket.
Synergy Sports (subscription required) reveals that he scored 1.01 points per possession, the No. 56 mark in the league. But that number is massively misleading, as it doesn't account for the way in which those shots were created.
Of Drummond's plays, 17.9 percent came as a roll man in pick-and-roll situations. An additional 27.5 percent came after offensive rebounds.
A combined 6.8 percent came in isolation and post-up sets, the two primary ways in which a big man can create offense for himself.
Essentially, Drummond is running the Tyson Chandler offense. And as a reference point, Chandler—albeit the limited version that played through nagging injuries last year with the New York Knicks—posted 1.14 points per possession.
Now he has to start playing even more like Chandler. Below you can see the percentage of times the two big men used each type of situation during the 2012-13 season:
The big difference is the "roll man" portion of each pie chart. Drummond didn't have the luxury of working with pick-and-roll guards throughout his rookie season, but now he's playing alongside Brandon Jennings, who can feed him the ball with much more frequency.
And that's really the biggest key for the big Connecticut product. His offensive teammates have been majorly upgraded, and that's going to take a significant amount of defensive attention away from him.
He'll be able to cut to the basket with more frequency. Defenses can't crash down around him when he rolls to the hoop because they'll have to stay with Jennings, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe. He'll actually have time to work in the post and use his slowly developing arsenal of moves.
Make no mistake about it. Drummond has enough quickness and intelligence with his back to the basket that he'll eventually thrive in post-up situations. He just has to overcome the rawness first.
Not every player is nimble enough to pull off a spin like that. Drummond's physical tools really are that special, and he'll get to put them on display in better situations now that he's surrounded by more talent.
Plus, according to Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News, it's a portion of his game that the big man is working on already:
The next step in his basketball evolution is a back-to-the-basket game, which is why he was scheduled to work with NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon this summer before Olajuwon became a full-time member of the Houston Rockets organization.
Working with Rasheed Wallace, now a member of the Pistons’ coaching staff, isn’t exactly a consolation prize, though. Wallace has a wealth of knowledge to pass on and Drummond is taking heed.
“He’s helped a lot with my back to the basket now, just getting comfortable with it,” Drummond said. “I have to be able to step out and take a 15-foot jump shot.”
Fans would probably love to see Drummond with a more sophisticated post game, and as evidenced by Wallace’s slight limp across the practice facility floor—thanks to a grueling game of two-on-two where teacher was matched against pupil—Drummond knows where he’ll spend most of his time.
A version of Drummond who thrives in the post and receives protection from the rest of the starting lineup could be a scary beast in 2013-14.
You Can't Teach Size
Trust me on this one.
I've tried teaching myself to be bigger and taller than I currently am multiple times, but those aspirations have always gone by the wayside. Alas, I'm doomed to stand slightly shy of 6'0", making it almost inevitable that my shots get swatted away with alarming frequency.
Drummond is a little luckier.
He stands a true 7'0" and has a chiseled frame to boot. Per Rotoworld, he's all the way down between four and five percent body fat. While he's listed as 6'10" in some places, he pretty clearly towers over guys whose 6'10" frames are more well established.
Drummond is imposing to even the bigger players in the NBA, and his lanky arms and undeniable strength both only help his cause.
It's a major part of the reason that he was able to thrive on both types of glass as a rookie. He can physically overpower opponents, as he did time and time again in this 18-point, 18-rebound outing against the Milwaukee Bucks.
I'm not isolating a single play for a reason. The whole highlight reel is worth watching because it shows just how much Drummond can brutalize an opponent. Each tip-in, big rebound and powerful dunk is just part of the overall product.
Here's some breaking news for you: Drummond's size isn't going anywhere. If anything, he has a chance at growing even more since he only just turned 20 years old.
Already has One Elite Skill
Drummond is already so far ahead of the curve on the defensive end of the court.
Rookie big men are typically supposed to struggle when it comes to preventing points. They're suddenly thrown into the fire against bigger, stronger players who have more experience. They can be both manhandled and embarrassed by technique.
Finding someone like Drummond who actually excelled at defense during his first professional season isn't all that common. Take a look at the points per possession he allowed in each major situation compared to the two other premier rookie big men from the 2012-13 season (Jonas Valanciunas and Anthony Davis), courtesy of Synergy:
Each of the other two big men was better in one situation—spot-up shooters for Valanciunas and isolation sets for Davis—but Drummond was more impressive almost across the board, and his overall defensive output was significantly more stellar.
The former Husky is already an imposing rim-protector, and he'll continue to function as such throughout his career.
But he's more than that.
He shows Defensive Player of the Year potential with his intelligent rotations and the flashes of brilliance he displays outside of the paint. How many rookies are able to pick Dwyane Wade's pocket on consecutive possessions, much less while playing center?
Drummond doesn't even have to develop an offensive game in order to become a star player. His defense looks like it will (not "could," but "will") become that good in the near future. And yet, he's working on his offensive game and preparing to become more than just a finisher of offensive rebounds.
Everything points toward stardom for the 20-year-old center.
If he can emerge as a premier big man during his sophomore season, the Pistons will undoubtedly live up to the lofty expectations and compete for one of the coveted playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
We could see the makings of the next Big Three while also witnessing the development of the next great big man. This is the season that we discover whether his upper threshold involves becoming someone like Shaquille O'Neal 2.0 or "only" the next Alonzo Mourning.
Bold as it may be, I wouldn't be surprised by the former.
Don't forget to tune into Detroit games in 2013-14. Drummond will make you regret it if you do.