Fantasy Basketball: Andre Drummond Is Posting Yet Another Quietly Dominant Season

Drummond can't make his freebies, but he's outright dominant across many other categories.

With the disappointing Detroit Pistons squandering their preseason promise and wallowing on the fringes of playoff contention, it’s easy to overlook yet another dominant season from fifth-year center Andre Drummond.

Then again, being overlooked in fantasy circles is nothing new for Drummond.

Despite routinely averaging robust point-and-rebound double-doubles, strong block and steal totals, and elite field goal efficiency, Drummond remains a pariah on draft day, with his sub 40-percent career free throw rate causing most owners to look elsewhere for more balanced production.

But for fantasy owners who embrace the free throw percentage punt in head-to-head leagues, Drummond is posting yet another quietly monstrous season.

Uniquely Prolific

One of Drummond’s signature traits as a fantasy asset is his ability to post elite production in both the rebound and steals categories.

For reasons that are fairly intuitive, production in these categories to this degree is very rarely found in one single player. After all, steals require quickness and court vision, features most often associated with guards, while rebounds require the sort of size and low-post positioning skills common in forwards and centers.

His combination of size and athleticism allows Drummond to excel in both categories in a manner that is truly special.

Indeed, Drummond’s combined rebound and steal scores in fantasy category value, according to our algorithm, put him in some elite company.

Player Reb Score + Stl Score
Andre Drummond 5.48
Russell Westbrook 4.33
Draymond Green 4.00
Giannis Antetokounmpo 3.65
Anthony Davis 3.59
Trevor Ariza 3.50
DeMarcus Cousins 3.45
James Harden 3.34
Jimmy Butler 3.06

With the exception of Trevor Ariza (who has sneaky elite fantasy value of his own), most of the players who combine prolific boards with plus-steals also happen to be top-of-the-draft assets: Russell Westbrook, Draymond Green, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, James Harden, and Jimmy Butler.

Marquee names indeed, and Drummond outpaces them in these combined categories by some margin.

Many of these players also pose the sort of negative value in field-goal percentage that mirrors Drummond’s own struggles from the charity stripe. Look at how this group lines up if we factor in our field goal percentage score as well.

Player FG% Score + Reb Score + Stl Score
Andre Drummond 8.38
Giannis Antetokounmpo 5.40
Anthony Davis 4.99
Draymond Green 3.74
DeMarcus Cousins 3.33
Jimmy Butler 3.05
James Harden 2.88
Trevor Ariza 2.77
Russell Westbrook 2.74

Drummond is truly in a class of his own here. In terms of combined production in steals, rebounds, and field goal percentage, Drummond’s elite output is peerless.

And as an offensive player, he might still be getting better.

Beyond the Dunk

It’s fair to assume that with down-low bruisers like Drummond, what we call “shooting skill” is a rather one-dimensional topic. Catch ball, dunk ball, or so it seems. Drummond’s average shot distance has indeed hovered firmly in the low single digits throughout his five year NBA career.

That said, there has been some tangible growth on the part of Drummond to expand his range as an offensive player. Drummond’s average shot distance is “all the way” up to 4.5 feet this year, a career high by some margin.

Indeed, a closer look at Drummond’s shot selection breakdowns shows that he has, over the past three seasons, incrementally expanded his shooting range.

Season FG% 0-3 ft. 3-10 ft. 10-16 ft.
2012-13 .608 .816 .146 .020
2013-14 .623 .814 .172 .010
2014-15 .514 .682 .292 .019
2015-16 .521 .592 .358 .042
2016-17 .534 .489 .422 .070

What’s notable here is that the increase in shooting distance has not come with an associated dip in field goal percentage. Since the 2014-15 season, while Drummond has ever so slightly moved away from the hoop, his field goal percentage overall has also shown slight improvement.

Drummond’s make rate per distance breakdown confirms this trend.

Season 0-3 ft. 3-10 ft. 10-16 ft.
2012-13 .688 .300 .000
2013-14 .682 .379 .250
2014-15 .600 .345 .111
2015-16 .611 .409 .227
2016-17 .686 .380 .487

Now, the near 50 percent success rate on shots between 10 and 16 feet feel like an anomaly that’s bound to correct itself, but then again, Drummond did show notable progress from that area between his 2014-15 season and 2015-16 seasons, so it’s not out of the range of possibilities that Drummond’s selective success on midrange jumpers is here to stay.

In other words, we’re not looking at a put-back-only offensive center here, in the mold of DeAndre Jordan or Bismack Biyombo. Drummond is, in his own way, adding some offensive polish to his game. If this marginal skills growth can push Drummond back to the 16-point-per-game mark that he posted last season, look out.

Free Throw Punt as Scarlet Letter

There is no sugarcoating Drummond’s woes from the charity stripe. He is downright bad at shooting free throws -- his 44-percent mark last year was a career high. Most fantasy owners would take a weekly 44 percent free throw make rate from Drummond and count their lucky stars.

What’s odd, though, is the way that the free throw punt strategy that a player like Drummond necessitates is often treated as a scarlet letter in fantasy, whereas the field goal percentage punt that a player like Russell Westbrook requires is usually treated as the mere cost of doing business.

Think about it -- few batted an eye taking Westbrook first overall this draft season, while many players taking Drummond in the third or fourth rounds held their nose while doing so.

But fantasy owners who have shrewdly planned around Drummond’s free throw woes certainly know better. Drummond remains the prototypical punt-free-throws stud and should remain so for seasons to come.