Andre Drummond has undeniable potential. Based on per-36 numbers, his averages last season compare to Dwight Howard’s and Shaquille O’Neal’s rookie seasons — or those of the NBA’s last two dominant centers.
Drummond could be the next. He shot a better field goal percentage, turned the ball over less and had more steals than either of the other two … again, in per-36-minute averages. He also tied with Shaq for the highest rebounding average of the three. All very impressive feats, given the career arc of O’Neal and Howard.
One area where both Howard and O’Neal were better than Drummond is free-throw shooting – which is to say that there is a definite issue. Both Howard and O’Neal are known for being atrocious free throw shooters, and it hindered their dominance.
Drummond shot a paltry .371 percent at the free throw line last season. Howard is the lowest-listed qualifier on ESPN.com in the NBA last season at .492. The awful free throw shooting is not a new development for Drummond either. According to statsheet.com, he shot an even-worse .295 percent in his one season at Connecticut.
Saying Drummond has just All-Star potential may be selling the young big man short. His rookie numbers suggest that he could be much more than that. However, he has a long way to go before the title of superstar or “NBA’s most dominant big” can be affixed to his name.
And free throw shooting may keep him very far from it. Without improvements in that area, Drummond will struggle to take great strides as a player. Before he ever gets a chance to learn some reliable post moves to become a more dominant post scorer, teams will give him the hack-a-Shaq treatment. And when teams see it fit to take that tactic against the Detroit Pistons, coach Maurice Cheeks will have no choice but to sit his young center on the bench.
Continued poor free throw shooting will keep Drummond on the bench late in close games. While his defense will be desired, his free throw shooting is just too bad to warrant playing him. Teams will foul him every time he touches the ball. There is no reason not to.
Drummond could be the next dominant center that the NBA has been missing, but he won’t be if he can’t find a way to improve his free throw shooting and get on the floor in the fourth quarter.