How the historic pace Andre Drummond is on from the line will help the Pistons further shake up the already volatile Eastern Conference
By: Bogart Lipe
Andre Drummond used to struggle at the line. He was a free throw shooter the same way that Olive Garden is an Italian Restaurant. The same way XXXTentacion is a rapper. Meaning he was not very good. But alas, Andre has clearly worked meticulously on his mechanics at the line and the benefits have been outstanding. He is currently shooting 75% from the line, nearly double his percentage of 38.6% last year, which would be an NBA record for improvement over one year. It doesn’t appear to be a fluke either. Although we are still early in the season, the results have been undeniable. Drummond is no longer missing badly left and right of the basket, and his touch has been superb compared to what it used to be. His 14/16 night from the line in a win over Milwaukee was pure ecstasy for Pistons fans, and he even outshined the early season poster boy Giannis Antetokounmpo.
It cannot be understated how important Dre’s free throw shooting is to the Pistons and their goals for this season and beyond. If Andre is able to keep any amount of this momentum onward, there will no longer be Hack-A-Dre eyesores during games. He will instead be able to finish games on the court rather than on the bench, and be an offensive weeapon in the clutch periods of the game. Other than the direct impacts, the secondary effects may be even more vital. Confidence at the line for Drummond has so far bled into confidence all over the court. He is now heavily involved in the offense, and frequently is found having to make decisions on the perimeter in order to start a set play. This has proven to lead to many pick and roll opportunities, on which Dre feasts. On defense, he has looked sprier as well as more engaged. As a 7 foot behemoth of a man, he’s averaging 2.1 steals per game, a plainly ludicrous number. As perimeter harassers such as Stanley Johnson and Bradley make it difficult for opposing wing players, having Dre anchor the defense instead of Eric Moreland or Jon Leuer is paramount. Dre is, make no mistake about it, an elite big man in the NBA and will become a perennial All-Star. His impact is crucial to this current team’s aspirations, and it starts with his free throw shooting and his ability to stay on the floor.
There is frankly no telling what this Pistons team can do this season. Despite the constant doubters, this team is built to challenge in the East playoffs. A top 4 seed was possible before the season and continues to project as a goal for the team. With a lineup of Drummond, Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson, Bradley, and Reggie Jackson, the Pistons have one of the better starting units in the East. That’s not even beginning to mention the newfound depth on the bench, with key contributing players like Ish Smith, Langston Galloway, and the previously mentioned basketball heartthrob that is Anthony Tolliver. These Pistons have always played better when Drummond is playing to his potential though, and he will have to be an All-Star type player for the team to have real success. Re-implementing the pick and roll into the offense has proven useful yet again, and the more Dre is utilized in this system the better.
It’s up to Dre and the Pistons to keep their winning momentum, starting again tonight against the Indiana Pacers at home at 7pm. A three game home stand following a well needed three days off could prove to serve as another catalyst for this Pistons team to continue their success, and who knows, maybe even contend in the lowly Eastern Conference this year. In an Eastern Conference that bluntly doesn’t house a single team the Pistons can’t match up well against, the sky is the limit. If anything, Andre’s sudden success at the line shows us anything is possible.