Each year around draft time, there seems to be one prospect that shows all kinds of promise but elicits polarized responses from teams and analysts. This year, that prospect is Connecticut’s Andre Drummond.
Drummond is an absolute beast when it comes to sheer size, standing just under seven foot in shoes and packing 278 pounds of muscle on to that large frame. With a larger wingspan and lower body fat percentage than Anthony Davis, he is, far and away, the most physically imposing specimen in this draft class and is looking to enter a league devoid of quality centers. As if that wasn’t enough, he has a very high skill level, with the ability pass the basketball and shoing touch while moving towards the basket. Why then, is he being questioned and scrutinized more than just about any prospect in this draft?
It starts with his one year in college. His UConn team had as much talent as any team in the country not named Kentucky or North Carolina. Despite this, the team underwhelmed, resulting in a 9 seed in the NCAA tournament. The team was quickly dispatched by the buzz saw Royce White and the Iowa State Cyclones. In that season ending loss, Drummond tallied 2 points, 3 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 5 fouls in 26 minutes of apparently uninspired play. That game wasn’t a statistical anomaly either, as he averaged 10 points and 7.6 rebounds in a highly inconsistent freshman campaign. If that’s the case, one might wonder why in the world there is talk of him going as high as number 2 overall in the draft. His season was not totally bereft of big performances, though. Against West Virginia he tallied 20 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks. Against a very good Syracuse team he decimated their zone for 14 rebounds (7 offensive) and 20 points.
UConn’s team last season looked as if they didn’t even want to be there, as their two most gifted players (Jeremy Lamb and Drummond) never looked genuinely engaged in the games. With UConn unable to take part in the NCAA tournament next season and a mass exodus of players, it was an easy decision for Drummond to go pro (he likely would have anyway). Now, NBA executives are picking him apart. He’s not a head case in the mold of a Renardo Sidney, but some significant concerns exist for NBA teams.
Drummond may be the definition of a high-risk, high-reward player. He seemingly lacks the heart and motivation to be an all-star, despite possessing all the physical characteristics you could ask for. Many NBA coaches are going to believe that they can be the first coach to get through to him and transform him unlocking his potential to be one of the top centers in the league. He’s got excellent size, but adds to that excellent athleticism, which could result in him being similar to his idol, Dwight Howard. In this draft class, he could go as high as second overall to the Bobcats, or fall out of the top 5 completely. With the draft quickly approaching it is still difficult to get a true read on where he’ll end up.
Once he is in the league, how hard will he be willing to work to achieve the stardom that he seemingly hasn’t scratched the surface of yet? That will be what NBA teams will have to figure out when determining if he’s worth their draft selection. In the book 7 Seconds or Less, Mike D’Antoni is quoted as telling his coaching staff that Boris Diaw is “Just good enough to get us all fired.” When Drummond is selected June 28th, something tells me there will be a coaching staff having the same discussion. Drummond is a double-edged sword for general managers on draft night. On one hand, if they draft him and he doesn’t pan out, they just wasted a top ten pick and the owner will be none too happy about it. On the other hand, if they decide the risk is not worth it and pass him up, he could become a star and if they passed on him for the 2012 version of Marvin Williams (a very real concern with this draft class, as there are no certainties past pick number one) their owner will not look too kindly upon that, either.
There is no prospect in this draft with as many questions surrounding him as Andre Drummond. He’s been saying all the right things, saying he is unconcerned about where he gets drafted and that he will work as hard as he can to achieve everything possible at the NBA level. However, every prospect in the history of basketball has said the same thing. Some made good on those promises, others did not. So, it will be interesting to see if he ends up the next Kwame Brown, Dwight Howard version 2.0, or somewhere in between, maybe in the same class as a DeAndre Jordan. With all the questions surrounding Drummond, one question will be answered very soon: what team is willing to take a chance on the supremely talented young big man?