Comparing draft classmates is nothing new, especially when the two players in question line-up at the same spot on the floor. As the Pistons' fortunes this season have caused many fans to look for excitement in the games within the game, it's only fitting that the focus of tonight's game against Toronto will be on the rookie match-up of Andre Drummond and the Raptors Jonas Valanciunas. Drafted this past year, both Drummond and Valanciunas are two young centers that have excited their respective fan bases with flashes of domination this season. Both players have already recorded a signature game that has their fan bases wanting more. Drummond's came at Oklahoma City with a 22 point performance in 21 minutes, and Valanciunas' has had two straight double-double performances coming into tonight's game. The only difference between the two is in the way their coaching staffs have handled them.
Maybe the only thing more frustrating than the Pistons' record right now is the way in which Lawrence Frank has seemingly handled, or rather 'hindered', Andre Drummond. Normally strong play is rewarded with stronger minutes, but following his 22 point, 21 minute performance on November 9th, Drummond's minute chart looks more like a peak-and-valley stock chart than it does steady growth. Since November 9th, Drummond's minute tallies are 20, 13, 11, 15, 18 and 19 minutes per game. It hasn't been foul trouble that's kept him out, Drummond hasn't recorded more than three personal fouls this year, but it seems to be Lawrence Frank's concern with having Monroe and Drummond on the floor at the same time that has kept Drummond on the pine. Drummond's athleticism is mind-blowing at times, and the impact he has on the game is felt within minutes of him being on the floor. Having both Monroe and Drummond on the floor together does pose some disadvantages for the Pistons, but when a player's talent is undeniable it is the coaches job to make it work.
As was already stated, traditionally, consistent good play is rewarded with more time on the floor. Call them old-fashioned, but the Toronto Raptors coaching staff has rewarded rookie center Jonas Valanciunas's improved play with just that: more playing time. Starting the season on the bench, Valanciunas has acquired the trust of his coaching staff and now has been inserted into the starting line-up. Valanciunas's two-game, double-double streak has undoubtedly played a role in his insertion into the starting line, but the major reason that Valanciunas has consistently been playing 25-plus-minute games is the fact that the Toronto Raptors are embracing the reality that the team is playing for the future. The Raptors have won three games this season, and will most likely return to the NBA Draft Lottery this offseason. With that in mind, knowing that they are still a high-draft pick away from having an effect on the Eastern Conference, they have wisely given Valanciunas the green light to play the big minutes that will pay-off next season: their future.
So far this season, Lawrence Frank has addressed Andre Drummond's playing time with typical coach-speak; preaching patience and stating that the staff is looking for more ways to get Drummond in the game. Before the season, Pistons owner Frank Gores stated that the NBA Playoffs were the goal for this season. With that pressure on the staff, Drummond's early low minute totals were understandable (especially with Jason Maxiell having his best season as a pro). But now that the team has only two wins to show for the first ten-percent of the NBA season, the Pistons may want to embrace the same inevitable reality that Toronto already has. Greg Monroe may be good enough for an All-Star roster spot, but the Pistons are playing for the future, and their future is dependent on Andre Drummond.Tags: Andre Drummond, Basketball, Detroit, Detroit Pistons, Greg Monroe, Lawrence Frank, NBA