By Anthony Olivieri
Here’s my message to general managers selecting in the lottery of the 2012 NBA Draft: Anybody but Andre Drummond.
Look, it may come to the point in the first round where Drummond is the best player on the board. It’s also not out of the question that the ex-Connecticut forward-center ends up as a very good NBA player, but I’d stay away from wasting a top 10 draft pick on him.
There’s too much risk for what we know about his game, which is inconsistent and undeveloped.
ESPN’s Andy Katz projects that, after certain No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis, the second overall slot in next month’s draft will be a choice between Davis’ Kentucky teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Florida’s Bradley Beal.
According to Katz, Drummond could go next at No. 3. ESPN draft guru Chad Ford has him going fifth overall in his mock draft from late last month, while NBADraft.net agrees with Katz’s projection by placing Drummond in the third spot.
If Kidd-Gilchrist goes second and Drummond third, it would be a mistake to bypass Beal, Kansas forward Thomas Robinson, Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger, North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall, Tar Heels forward Tyler Zeller and even Drummond’s UConn teammate Jeremy Lamb – players who achieved a lot at the college level.
Take Ford’s description of Drummond in the aforementioned mock draft, which cites a warning sign for Drummond’s career going forward.
“Every year they tend to get the really huge upside guy who other teams pass on because of major red flags. In Drummond’s case, the red flags are production,” Ford wrote.
That’s a pretty big red flag. Ford might as well have said, “The only problem with Drummond as a basketball player is he hasn’t proven that he can play the game.”
Sure, the 6-foot-10, 275-pound Drummond is a man-child, but he has a gaping hole where his offensive game should reside. Drummond has an awkward jump shot, which he releases off-balance and provides genuine shock when it goes in.
And take it from me, a Connecticut resident and lifelong Huskies fan, there were long stretches in many games this season when those watching forgot that Drummond was on the floor. How is it possible for the most physically-gifted player on either team to disappear on most nights?
His post game was nonexistent and decision-making faulty. He seemed tentative and unpolished. Drummond generally looked in search of a way to capitalize on his considerable talent.
He won’t find the answer in the NBA – at least not right away. A team that drafts him won’t want to bide too much time while Drummond is off looking for it, either. The funny thing about the NBA is that teams regularly select “projects” high in the draft but then don’t have the patience to wait for them. Take it from former Arizona big man Jordan Hill, who played all of 24 games with the New York Knicks before he was shipped out of town, and former Husky Hasheem Thabeet, who at least made it halfway through his second season in the NBA before getting traded. Former Georgia Tech star Derrick Favors also didn’t make it to the end of Year Two with the team that drafted him – granted, the Nets did end up with Deron Williams in the trade.
Yes, there were big positives during his lone season in college. He helped the team defensively by blocking shots (2.7 per game) and often inspired a collective gasp from the crowd with vicious dunks (like this one in the Big East Tournament vs. Syracuse) that left fans wondering why he couldn’t do that more often. He also showed himself to be a great teammate – as evidenced by him voluntarily giving up his scholarship for the benefit of another – and have a developing face-up game.
But based on last season, there’s no indication that Drummond will be more effective than Hill, Thabeet or Favors during his rookie and sophomore years at the next level.
His points came in transition, on offensive putbacks, from alley-oop slams – mostly as a result of being bigger, faster and stronger than many in college competition. But while Drummond certainly has an NBA body and athleticism, he won’t be able to gather a volume of points at the next level just by being out there.
The solution for Drummond would have been another year in college, presumably playing under Jim Calhoun, who has effectively developed a host of big men over the years. Heck, he only averaged a paltry 7.7 rebounds for the season and flamed out in his lone NCAA tournament game, collecting just two points and three rebounds as the defending national champs went out in the round of 64.
Look, I understand why Drummond left school. The big man’s hands were tied with the Huskies banned from postseason play in 2013; he had to go pro before he was ready.
But that doesn’t mean GMs picking high in the lottery should draft him – eye-popping talent or not.
Anthony Olivieri is the managing editor of LostLettermen.com. His column appears on Tuesdays and Thursdays.