The Pistons clinched their first playoff berth in seven seasons on Friday night, ending the longest postseason drought in the Eastern Conference, but their All-Star rode the bench most of the fourth quarter.
That wasn’t an aberration. Center Andre Drummond, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, sat the last 8:51 while his teammates finished off the Wizards. There was nothing wrong physically with Drummond. Instead, it was Drummond’s glaring weakness that made him a spectator while the game was still in doubt.
Drummond badly missed two free throws after Washington intentionally fouled him. Drummond is on pace to set the record for the worst single-season free throw shooting performance in NBA history, averaging 35.6% on 582 attempts.
That prompted Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy to wave in backup Aron Baynes to replace Drummond, who seemed to pout during the benching. Van Gundy offered words of encouragement afterward and even made a point of visiting Drummond in the locker room following his press conference.
“He’s really frustrated with the whole free-throw thing and coming out of games,” Van Gundy told the gathered media, including Hoops Rumors. “It’s all about winning and he has to understand that.”
Van Gundy has frequently brought in Baynes to finish out games, particularly since the All-Star break, rather than allowing opponents to send Drummond to the line.
It would be unfair to overstate Drummond’s major flaw without pointing out all the good things he brings to the table. He has led the league in rebounding throughout the season. He has the most double-doubles in the league by a wide margin, as well as the most 20-20 games. His post moves have improved steadily, and the Pistons’ offense is predicated on Drummond’s ability to draw defenders on pick-and-rolls with point guard Reggie Jackson.
Pistons owner Tom Gores called Drummond a max player last spring and the expectation remains that Detroit will give him the biggest contract possible this summer.
It’s still unsettling, and unusual, to have a supposed franchise player that the coach can’t trust to finish games.
This leads us to our question of the day: Given his free throw shooting woes, is Andre Drummond worth a max contract?
Please take to the comments section below to share your thoughts and opinions on the subject. We look forward to what you have to say.