Andre Drummond joins Reggie Jackson in SI’s Top 100

Rising two spots from his 2015 ranking in Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 NBA Players, Pistons center Andre Drummond recently found himself slotted as the NBA’s 35th best player according to SI contributers Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney.

Drummond appears on the list ahead of fellow big men Derrick Favors (No.37) and Tyson Chandler (No.36) and falls right behind a pair of guards in Eric Bledsoe (No.33) and Kyle Lowry (No.34).

SI detailed Drummond’s ranking, touching on his impressive offensive rebounding rates while pointing out his troubles with consistency:

“While he’s established himself as the league’s premier offensive rebounder and posted impressive block rates, he’s also struggled to finish consistently in the paint, he’s led the league twice in personal fouls, he’s compiled such a horrific free-throw shooting percentage that he makes Dwight Howard look like John Stockton, and he’s still a ways from mastering the finer points of life as a back-line defender. Predictably, there have been consistency issues too: there’s the Drummond who posted two 20/20 games in 2014–15, joining DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan as the only players to accomplish the feat multiple times, and then there’s the Drummond who, too often, couldn’t seem to buy a basket.”

Despite these inconsistencies and a crowded frontcourt for much of the year, Drummond still managed to average 13 points and 13 rebounds per game as a 21-year-old playing in just his third NBA season. An improved offensive game could go a long way toward thrusting Drummond into potential superstar status. To some, that may sound outlandish, but head coach Stan Van Gundy is building this current Pistons team in a very similar fashion to the way he built his Orlando Magic team that made the NBA Finals in 2009. Sports Illustrated drew an apt comparison between Drummond and the center who anchored that 2009 Magic squad, Dwight Howard:

“Slowly but surely, Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy has reshaped a flawed roster to better suit Drummond, ditching space-killing big men Greg Monroe and Josh Smith, adding a pick-and-roll point guard in Reggie Jackson, and upgrading his perimeter options in hopes of mimicking the Howard-centric roster he fielded during his days coaching the Magic. These are all fantastic developments for Drummond, who should see an uptick in his minutes, touches, responsibilities and comfort factor next season.”

Drummond was the highest ranked Pistons player on SI’s list for the second straight year. And if this team is to ascend to the heights that Van Gundy hopes for, Drummond is going to need to take another step forward, especially on the offensive end. He doesn’t necessarily need to be at the level of 2009 Dwight Howard, but improving his post game and his post passing will be the key to Detroit making a playoff push in 2016.

Don’t Forget About Reggie

Meanwhile, Drummond had a small bit of company on Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 rundown. On the heels of a freshly inked 5-year $80 million signed this summer, Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson was named the 94th best player in the league. While the Pistons front office seemed to be hedging their bets on Jackson’s future potential, SI touched on an array of points as to why Jackson he was ranked so low, mainly citing his lack of a standout skill:

“Finding something that Jackson, 25, has mastered requires real straining: he’s not an efficient outside shooter, he’s not an above-average finisher in the basket area, he’s not a standout when it comes to drawing fouls, he’s not a plus defender, and he’s not the world’s most natural playmaker for others.”

Still, making the list of Top 100 players stands as a worthy accomplishment, particularly considering the magazine’s belief that Jackson could lead this Pistons team to the next level:

“So why did Stan Van Gundy hitch his wagon to Jackson, emptying the bank vault in the process? Because he needs a pick-and-roll point guard to initiate his spread offense and get the most out of franchise center Andre Drummond. Jackson looked up to those tasks in averaging 17.6 points and 9.2 assists after the trade (with the Oklahoma City Thunder). Detroit posted a strong 106.9 offensive rating with Jackson on the court, and the Jackson/Drummond pairing posted a +4.4 net rating in nearly 700 minutes together, albeit in mostly meaningless games down the stretch of a lottery-bound season.

“If a revamped Pistons roster can build on those narrow successes and push into the 2016 playoff chase, Jackson’s middling reputation should be in line for a boost.”

Tough Break

While Jackson’s 94th overall ranking may seem a touch low, it was still enough to edge out much-maligned former Pistons forward Josh Smith, who checked in at No. 96 on the countdown. Smith dropped 43 spots after holding down the number 53 ranking before the start of last season. After being waived by the Pistons in December, Smith’s reputation was at an all-time low before getting himself together and becaming an integral part of a Houston Rockets team that reached the Western Conference Finals. Smith signed with the Los Angeles Clippers this past summer.

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Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated revealed one more Piston, Brandon Jennings, was on the verge of cracking the Top 100 if not for a season-ending injury this past January. Contributor Rob Mahoney touched Jennings’ rise and how he could make his way onto the list next year:

“Only the basketball gods could be so cruel as to end the most fruitful stretch of Jennings’s career with a ruptured Achilles. The Jennings we saw at the turn of the calendar year had the makings of a top-100 player; for 13 magical January games, Jennings averaged 26.1 points and nine assists (on improved shooting percentages) to profoundly positive overall impact. That stretch proved inscrutable. We never were quite able to figure out how long the surge in Jennings’s play might last or how painfully he might have regressed to the mean. Now that concern comes secondary, as any expectations for Jennings must be reset relative to his injury. If the 25-year-old guard really is the player we last saw in January, he need only to prove it by picking up where he left off.”

Having two top 100 players just at the point guard position could be a huge asset to Detroit over the course of the season. But for it to pan out into a playoff appearance, both will need to play up to their potential or at least very close to it.

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