Today we continue our look at the Portland Trail Blazers' 2012 NBA Draft prospects that began last week with Thomas Robinson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Bradley Beal. Currently under the microscope is the favored center on this year's draft board, Connecticut center Andre Drummond.
You only have to spend two seconds looking at Andre Drummond move to see what entices NBA scouts. Watching him get up and down the court, or even cross the lane side to side, forces you to double-check his vital statistics. "He looks pretty big, but he can't be that big, right? Not the way he's moving." Then you look it up. Yes, he's 7'0", or close enough. Yes, he's 260+ lbs. He's got the agility of a guy three inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter. He can jump too. If you're used to thinking of centers as plodding, space-eating hulks, this guy is going to open your eyes. No battleship, he. He's a cruiser all the way.
A 7'5" wingspan lets Drummond excel as a shot-blocker. He feasts on the offensive boards as well. He's almost certain to make an impact in both those areas, plus basic defense because of his fleetness of foot and lateral agility.
Here's the problem: We've just run through the list of his proven strengths. Most of them are physical, allowing for a couple opportunity areas in shot-blocking and offensive rebounding. That leaves plenty of holes and guesswork. Granted, he's a freshman and just 18 years old. How developed do you expect his game to be? He'll have plenty of time to grow. But as Blazer fans well know, draft picks can be cruel and fickle. Getting selected near the top of the list doesn't put a draftee one inch closer to answering questions or filling gaps in his game. The high selection just raises the expectation that he will do so.
Most of the cracks in Drummond's game come on the offensive end. The salient question: You've got that body and great mobility...what are you using them for? In Drummond's case all too often the answer has been "not much". His post game suffers from twin lacks of refinement and aggression. He doesn't pound hard enough. His footwork is sloppy. He doesn't have a go-to move either direction. He ends up looping shots from 10-12 feet that have little chance of going in. To his credit he's quick enough to get those loopers up, but he shouldn't be shooting them in the first place. He either has to develop a mid-range shot or commit to getting and holding deeper position. Either way, he's got a lot of work ahead of him.
To say his free throw shooting is atrocious is an understatement. If Shaq and Chris Dudley had a love child, that would be Drummond. And they'd still both be ashamed of him. There's no way to play him in critical situations until that's fixed.
Drummond's lack of aggression and fundamentals also shows up on the defensive boards. It's not like he's incapable. When playing straight-up defense he looks great. He uses body and speed to advantage. But as soon as it comes time to rebound on the defensive end he looks closer to a ground-bound 6'6" rec-league player than the top center prospect in the draft. Perhaps he's not as interested in gaining possession as he is gaining points on the offensive boards. More likely he processes the game fine as long as he can see it, but as soon as he turns his back to someone--say to box out--he loses track. Part of that is age and experience, but some guys never get over it.
Andre Drummond isn't a risk-free pick. You can't point at this guy and say, "star in the making". More accurately he's a project with enormous upside. But the Blazers need a center. The only way to get a quality center is to draft one. Plus the Blazers could take full advantage of the speed, offensive rebounding, and defensive help he'd provide. Therefore selecting him is going to make a ton of sense should he fall to #6. Portland will be hard-pressed to pass him up, especially in a draft class where everyone comes equipped with ready-made doubts and flaws.
The bigger issue for the Blazers will be the desires of teams ahead of them. Anthony Davis is going to be the #1 pick. After that four more teams--any of whom could use a defensive center--will have to say "No" for the Blazers to snag him. If that happens Portland won't look a gift horse in the mouth but they also should be asking what those other teams saw (or didn't see) in making their judgments. Some claim that Drummond is going to bust...probably defined as being a mediocre or situational player given his talent. The Blazers can't afford that. They stand in a tricky no-man's-land when it comes to centers. Anybody obviously good is going to go earlier than they pick. But they're drafting too high to go for a pure project. They're going to feel that tension as they contemplate selecting Drummond.
Nevertheless, no pain equals no gain. Drummond is certainly worth trying on for size at the 6th spot and may even be worth trading up for. The Blazers don't have a greater need right now and there's no better center around and available...nor is there likely to be for a while.
How about you? How would you feel about Drummond at #6? How about moving up for him? Do you think he has Portland's name on him? Weigh in below.