For a lot of Cavaliers fans, anything other than Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, or Bradley Beal will be a disappointment come June 30th. A pick of Thomas Robinson would feel like already giving up on Tristan Thompson, even if that isn't actually what it would mean. Harrison Barnes is coming off of not one, but two seasons of not living up to what were (completely unfair and ridiculously) high expectations. And the other option? A Center who underachieved on a team that underachieved while shooting under 30% from the Free Throw line. Ah, yes. Andre Drummond. He is the 2012 Draft's proverbial (literal?) player most likely to get a General Manager fired. The question that remains, of course, is whether or not the General Manager will get fired for drafting him, or for passing him up. We cannot know what Chris Grant thinks of Mr. Drummond, and I won't try to guess. But the only consensus there seems to be when it comes to Drummond's future is that there is no consensus. So lets try and make some sense of it.
A word about that Huskies team: their coach missed several games during the year due to health concerns and NCAA recruiting violations. They had two guards, Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, that were wholly uninterested in getting their teammates involved. A year after relying on Kemba Walker, feast or famine, both guards seemed to think they were the heir apparent. They weren't. By the end of the season, their offense had devolved into taking turns between Lamb, Boatright, and Napier taking their turns trying to go 1 on the other team. Drummond pretty much just hung out. Evaluating the 18 year old's performance (Drummond won't be 19 until August) in this situation is nearly impossible. Would you have liked him to demand the ball and have had two post moves ready to go with excellent touch and FT shooting? Of course. But 18 year old's that are polished in the post are difficult to find. Guys of that size that shoot well? Difficult to find. Assertive big men who have the guts to tell national champions like Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier they need to get him the ball? Difficult to find.
But you can only excuse so much. In the aforementioned season ending loss to Iowa State he played 26 minutes and had 3 rebounds and 2 points. Whatever you want to say about UCONN, they have developed NBA players, and it would be hard to pinpoint a lot of development from Drummond over the season. While scouts love his NBA body, he must learn to use it to his advantage as he works for rebounds and in establishing himself in the post.
Here is a snapshot of what some of the experts around the league think about Drummond:
One part of his game which may have more potential than we've seen thus far is as a pick and roll finisher. The pick and roll is not a major part of UConn's offense, and when their guards do run it, they rarely do so looking to pass. With the superior spacing NBA guards enjoy due to the deeper 3-point line, this is a much bigger part of most teams' offense, and Drummond seemingly possesses ideal tools to benefit from that.
While Drummond's offensive game didn't make any noticeable improvements over the course of his freshman season, his play on the defensive end surely did. With his size and bulk, he's extremely difficult to post up on the block, not allowing opposing big men to back him down too easily, using his terrific length extremely well to contest their shots with both hands, and often being able to send their shots back without even leaving his feet.
Drummond has excellent timing as a shot-blocker, both playing man to man defense on the ball, and rotating from the weak-side. He ranks as the 6th best shot-blocking prospect in college basketball, and is able to do so without fouling very often, committing just 3.2 fouls per-40 minutes.
A mobile, athletic, monster finisher for the Pick n Roll with Kyrie?
NBADraft.net, John's favorite:
If his playmakers are shut down, it's possible Drummond will disappear through stretches, or even games ... Only attempted 2.6 free throws per game, and shot an appalling 29% from the line... Not much range on jumper with a low release right in front of his face ... Maturity issues, level of commitment and the need for vast offensive development could be a cause for concern from GMs not looking to take a chance in the top 3-5 ...
Basically, when the kid steps to the line, the rim cringes with fear.
"He’s so young and in need of some guidance, but if you think he can be anything like Bynum, you gotta take him," said one Western Conference GM. "If you’re rebuilding, and most teams in the lottery are, you could do a lot worse. He’d be a good piece, maybe great, if you can team him with another really good player."
The Cavaliers can do that.
Garrett Rindner over at Bleacherreport.com is enthusiastic:
Although he wasn't a scorer during his time in college, Drummond did manage to average 10 points per game on 53.8 percent shooting and finished with authority around the rim. He ran the floor as hard as any big man in college, and at the NBA level it is very important for bigs to establish position near the basket. He is surprisingly quick for a player his size and has the ability to put in multiple efforts to keep a possession alive for his team.
Drummond was a rock solid defender and rebounder for UConn last season as well. He used his strength and nose for the ball to grab 7.6 boards per game. As his team's most important defensive player, he averaged 2.7 blocks per game while also providing excellent help defense. He was an imposing presence in the paint and showed a good knowledge of when to rotate over or when to come from the weak side for a stuff.
I want to believe that Kyrie Irving and Byron Scott and the Cavaliers coaching staff can bring out the best in Andre Drummond. There are no character issues with Drummond, there is no history of feuding with coaches or of being a prima donna. In fact, I had to look hard to find even a single quote from Andre Drummond. The man is quiet. It is never ideal to try and develop two big men at the same time, and that is exactly what the Cavaliers would be doing with Tristan Thompson and Andre Drummond. But think of that youth and athleticism.
I don't know what type of player Andre Drummond will be in the NBA, and I don't want to pretend to act like I can make that judgment. But I won't be disappointed to see him in the Wine and Gold, and of the teams in the Lottery, I can't really think of a better situation for him to walk into. It won't be an Andrew Bynum situation where the team already has a Gasol and Odom so he can take his time working through injuries and development. Thompson and Varejao just aren't on that level, and the Cavaliers would need him to be an impact player a lot sooner. But we have a blooming superstar who isn't selfish, and we have a hard-nosed but still patient coach who will be on him one minute and pumping him up the next.
The Cavaliers might still be 2 or 3 years away from having a real opportunity to bring a championship to Cleveland. Wouldn't it be nice to have a potentially dominant big man coming into his own for a crucial stretch run?