Is Andre Drummond Really So High Risk? And is MKG Worth a High Lottery Pick?

The consensus among NBA draft pundits seems to be that Connecticut Center Andre Drummond is one of the highest risk (and highest reward) players in the draft. However, I would posit that Drummond's physical profile actually gives him one of the higher floors in this draft.



By all accounts, Drummond is pretty much a once in every 3 or 4 years prospect athletically. He has an enormous 7'6" wingspan, excellent jumping ability for a center, a sturdy 280 lbs frame, and most impressively a lateral agility that bested many of the guards at the camp. Watching him, he's one of the few players with true rise when he dunks; when he throws it down it looks like he's still going up as the ball flies through the hoop. As I thought more about Drummond, I tried to remember a player with his athletic ability who was a huge bust at the center position. I couldn't think of any, but to test my theory I reviewed the last 30 years of NBA centers and big power forwards in an effort to find those who (to my subjective eye) possessed anywhere near Drummond's combination of size, strength, leaping abilty, and quickness. The resulting list, in reverse chronological order*:


Drummond

Derrick Favors
Greg Oden
Dwight Howard
Shaquille O'Neal
Patrick Ewing
Darryl Dawkins

DeAndre Jordan

This is quite a list. Probably the worst player on this list is DeAndre Jordan, and he had two teams deem him worthy of a 4 year/$43 million contract just last summer. Oden was famously felled by ill-health, but when healthy he showed that he would have been an extremely effective player and likely an All-NBA center given a normal development curve.  Even the famously flighty Dawkins put together several effective league-average seasons offensively, though I don't recall him having a particularly good defensive reputation. There is a very good argument that these players represent Drummond's floor, and Ewing, Howard, and O'Neal his ceiling.

*Some might quibble with my selections here, and I would certainly welcome any thoughts on players I might have missed. The most obvious example one might accuse me of leaving out is Kwame Brown. But it's forgotten that Brown was a power forward prospect coming out of high school and was not really projected as a back to the basket player. I also don't think he has the strength or jumping ability of these other players. But if you want to include Kwame Brown, feel free. If so, however, you might also include the next two players I left out as not being bulky enough: David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon. Michael Olowokandi is another possible example, but I left him out based on lack of quickness and jumping ability. Plus, he was 23 when drafted. Andrew Bynum is another potential, but he doesn't qualify on the leaping ability and quickness traits. Finally, you might also argue that Favors isn't quite bulky enough, but I think he's on his way there with how much weight he's put on in the 3 years since high school.


Certainly this totally subjective analysis has some flaws. One is the relatively small sample size of physically comparable players; it's hard to say that just because they largely succeeded that Drummond is likely to succeed. Another is the fact that I'm pretty much just eyeballing the comparable players instead of using real data. Nevertheless, the brevity of this list shows just how rare Drummond's physical gifts really are. It is difficult to imagine how Drummond could be worse than Jordan, who in many ways had a similar freshman season to Drummond at Texas A&M. But Drummond is a much better prospect than Jordan at the same age, especially on defense. He jumps higher, weighs more, and has much better lateral agility. (Curiously though, Drummond's standing reach is 4 inches shorter than Jordan's despite having the same wingspan and height. Either Drummond has a really wide chest or a really long neck compared to Jordan.) Drummond's block rate was almost double Jordan's. Most importantly, Jordan was a year older than Drummond when he was drafted despite the fact they were both freshmen.


At UConn, Drummond exhibited good if not excellent shot blocking at 2.7 per game in 27 minutes and solid offensive rebounding. While his defensive rebounding was very disappointing, this seemed more the product of a lack of boxout technique that can be relatively easily remedied. His solid effort on the offensive glass would indicate that effort was not the problem with his rebounding. In Drummond, I think a team is getting a player who will at the very least be an above-average defensive center who can finish hard around the rim and be a threat on the offensive glass. And athletic bigs who can defend the pick and roll and also protect the basket have taken on an ever increasing importance in recent years. Combined with this high defensive floor, I think Drummond's upside should make him the #2 pick in a draft that lacks another clear-cut star aside from Anthony Davis.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist May Be a Reach.

Count me among those who thinks Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would be a reach in the top 5. It's hard to imagine Gilchrist ever scoring more than 15 ppg in the league unless he significantly improves his scoring ability, a development most scouts do not necessarily think will be in the offing. I've heard Gilchrist thought of as a better version to Gerald Wallace, but Gilchrist lacks Wallace's nuclear athleticism. The Scottie Pippen comparison Chad Ford put out also raised my eyebrows. It's difficult to imagine MKG ever operating as a point forward. Instead, all of the "intangibles" arguments in favor of MKG remind me of those made in favor of another player from a winning program who was reached for in the top 10: Corey Brewer. Don't get me wrong, as I think MKG is a much better prospect than Brewer due to his strength, finishing ability, and youth. But it's really difficult to justify spending a top 5 pick on a wing who is not an elite scorer, shooter, or passer. Having a wing who cannot shoot in today's zone-friendly NBA can make life very difficult on the offense, especially because a team would have to surround MKG with a dynamic scorer at either the 1 or 2. In MKG, a team is basically getting a wing who will defend and play hard. While those skills are valuable, they are not rare enough to merit a top 5 pick regardless of how much MKG can change the team's culture. Moreover, his ability to change the team's culture is debatable if he is not going to be one of the best players on the team. I think MKG would be a reach at anything before Toronto with the 8th pick.

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