We ought to take a moment to discuss a particular player who is lighting the NBA on fire right now, doing things that few in league history have ever done. He is a 22-year-old big man who played one season for the legendary coach of a prominent college basketball program before declaring for the 2012 NBA Draft. His name is not Anthony Davis.
Right now, as of this moment, Andre Drummond is averaging 20.3 points and 19.5 rebounds per game while leading a surprisingly potent, 3-1 Detroit Pistons team. Head coach Stan Van Gundy has his players coalescing not so much like a wall as like a charging stallion, and Drummond, as much as anyone, is to thank for that.
Granted, we are only four games into this season, which barely registers as a blip on anybody’s sample size radar. On Tuesday night against the Indiana Pacers, however, Drummond did something only nine other players in the last thirty years have done: register at least 25 points and 25 rebounds, or the double-quarter, including at least 10 offensive rebounds. His final statline was a delightful 25-point, 29-rebound, 11-offensive rebound affair, albeit in a losing effort.
It was the second such game of his career as well as his career-high in rebounds. Of the nine others who have done that since 1985, only Kevin Willis and two guys named Charles, Barkley and Oakley, have done it twice. It’s also fun to note that one of the other guys on this list, Ersan Ilyasova, is currently starting alongside Drummond in Detroit.
(You may notice that, as of the time of this writing, the demigods at basketball-reference.com had yet to add Drummond’s most recent performance to that list. Here is a link to the box score proving that I’m not just moving pixels around for the sake of a center for the Pistons.)
A few things to note, as far as the game itself goes: yes, Indiana won, behind a springy 26-point Rodney Stuckey effort, in only 23 minutes off the bench, and some truly horrid 3-point shooting on the parts of both teams. At 70.5%, Drummond was the only Detroit player (aside from Spencer Dinwiddie, who went an incendiary 1-1 for 2 points in just over seven minutes) to shoot better than 40% from the field. Dinwiddie, in fact, was the only non-starter to score for the Pistons.
Excuse all of that early season minutiae for a moment though. What Drummond did to the Pacers was put on an exceptional display, both offensively and on the glass. An even cursory glance at that list reveals some of the finest rebounders and interior scorers, both of their times and ours. To see a 22-year-old (non-seven footer, according to his listed height) already have two of those games this early in his career speaks to the massive amounts of potential which, maybe, finally, Van Gundy is unlocking.
It isn’t necessarily prudent to say that the supporting cast surrounding Drummond, a legitimate force and potential All-Star, all-NBA talent, is right for him, but it is certainly better than some of the squads with whom he has run since his rookie year. Van Gundy needs to figure out how to space Marcus Morris and Ilyasova adequately together on offense, though Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has shown flashes of excellence, and Reggie Jackson seems much more comfortable than he ever did in Oklahoma City, or even during his abbreviated stint with the Pistons at the tail end of last year.
Drummond is fresh off a start to the season for which the league named him the Eastern Conference Player of the Week, opposite Steph Curry representing the West. He has posted a double-double in each game this season and, rather than even not showing signs of slowing down, seems to be angling his foot toward the accelerator, as if the family’s asleep in the back of the station wagon on a long stretch of nothing road in the Midwest.
Paul Flannery and Tom Ziller of SBNation.com recently had a discussion surrounding two of the league’s young, preeminent big men, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, arguing which was the better pound-for-pound player. With the way Andre Drummond has been playing this season, and particularly after this game, it seems fair to ask whether he deserves at least a drunken subtweet in that conversation.