UConn freshman Andre Drummond has the physical attributes and talent to become one of the NBA's best big men. But can he put it together consistently?
"Andre Drummond needs to wear a mouth guard because he gets his mouth right up into the rim. He's going to knock some teeth out. Most guys dunk on the way down. He dunks on the way up. He had a dunk against Rutgers; he dunked it like he was 2 feet away and he was 8 or 10 feet away when he took off. It was unbelievable."
-- Jay Bilas
The University of Connecticut has a 6'11, 270-pound freshman center capable of catching a ball in mid-air, taking it between his legs and dunking in one motion.
His dunks comes at the :40 mark:
Let me repeat that with proper emphasis added: UConn has a 6'11 (!), 270-pound (!!) freshman center (!!!) capable of catching a ball in mid-air, taking it between his legs and dunking in one motion (!!!!!!).
There aren't many 6'10, 250+ athletic human beings in the world. That's at least three standard deviations from the average height and weight of a human male, the top 0.1% of the world's population.
So combine the importance of height in the game of basketball with the rarity of large, athletic centers and players with that body type almost always go No. 1 overall -- Kwame Brown (2001), Yao Ming (2003), Howard (2004) and Greg Oden (2007) are examples from the past 11 drafts.
Andre Drummond, the Connecticut Huskies' freshman prodigy, is more athletic than Yao, has a more natural feel for the game than Howard and Brown and doesn't have Oden's history of health scares. UConn coach Jim Calhoun has brought him along slowly, but he's still averaging 10.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks on 57 percent shooting in 28 minutes a game.
Even more impressively, Drummond has a smooth-looking turn-around jumper, good footwork in the low post as well as the ability to pass out of the high post. He has the potential to be a five-tool athlete at 6'11, 270+. There's no ceiling to how good he could become, which is also his biggest problem.
If he were European, he would have been a professional by the age of 15, like Jonas Valanciunas, the 6'11 Lithuanian teenager the Toronto Raptors drafted in the 2011 lottery. Valanciunas has been a roleplayer on a top European team for years, developing his game and keeping his ego in check while battling grown men.
In contrast, the best American players spend their teenage years on the AAU circuit, traveling the country while playing in poorly coached scrimmages in the name of "exposure." Drummond, an 18-year-old already more talented than most of the NBA's thin crop of centers, spent his adolescence wasting his time against 6'6 post players and 6'10 stiffs who had no business on the same court as him.
He's never had to work at the game of basketball until he came to Connecticut. There have been lots of whispers about his attitude and conditioning on the summer circuit, but what exactly did people expect? He was going to push himself when he could dribble the ball to the front of the rim and dunk at will his entire life?
In 10 years, Andre Drummond could be the best basketball player in the world or he could have banked more than $50 million without ever trying.
Most NBA fans operate under the misconception that a great player can "will" his team to victory and himself to greatness. That's not the case 99.9 percent of the time. Drummond is that other 0.1 percent.
6'11 freshman center
- Shot creation: Still somewhat raw in the low post, but has great feel for playing with back to the basket and using footwork to create easy looks in the paint. Will dunk the ball at will if given an open lane to the rim. Averaging 10.3 points on 57 percent shooting as a freshman, including going 9-12 against Georgetown and 9-11 against West Virginia.
- Defense: Projects as an elite defensive player at both interior positions, with size to hold ground in low post, footspeed to cover the lane and defend on the perimeter as well as length to be a devastating shotblocker. Averaging 2.5 blocks a game.
- Outside shot: 32.7 percent free-throw shooting percentage is deceptive, as he has decent-looking shot mechanics. People who question his concentration and effort level will point to this number.
- Rebounding: Grabbing 7.8 rebounds a game in only 28 minutes due to dominating combination of size and athleticism.
- Passing: Not given many chances to be a primary offensive option on dysfunctional Huskies team, but has flashed excellent floor vision from both low and high post. Averaging 0.6 assists and 1.7 turnovers a game.
- Best case: Black Swan -- a five-tool 6'11, 270 athlete capable of dominating the game on both sides of the ball from both interior positions.
- Worst case: Andray Blatche -- a supremely talented 6'10 250+ big man who drives teammates, fans and coaches insane with inconsistent effort level.
6'5 sophomore shooting guard
- Shot creation: Excellent ball-handler and shooter at 6'5, 180 pounds, uses preposterous 6'11 wingspan to create looks at the basket effortlessly. Emerged as second option next to Kemba Walker in UConn's NCAA championship run as a freshman. Averaging 17.7 points a game on 48.4 percent shooting as a sophomore.
- Defense: Projects as a top-level defender at both wing positions due to combination of length and footspeed. Averaging 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks a game this year.
- Outside shot: Pure shooter capable of using screens and quick release to get up shots quickly. Shooting 35.5 percent from beyond the arc and 85.1 percent from the free throw line this season.
- Rebounding: A tremendous asset on the boards from the backcourt due to extraordinary wingspan. Career 4.5 rebounding average.
- Passing: Biggest area for improvement, averaging 2.0 assists and 2.3 turnovers a game as a primary offensive option this year. The Huskies have been prone to long scoring droughts when Lamb isn't being aggressive, especially in terms of creating open shots for his teammates.
- Best case: Brandon Roy -- All-Star level shot creator from the shooting guard position capable of playing good perimeter defense.
- Worst case: Francisco Garcia -- Lack of elite athleticism makes him a versatile 6'5+ role player in an NBA rotation.
DeAndre Daniels: Long and athletic 6'8, 195 freshman small forward rated No. 10 in high school class. Displays an intriguing combination of skills in limited time as a freshman. Averaging 3.9 points and 2.0 rebounds in 15 minutes a game.
Ryan Boatright: Extremely athletic freshman listed generously at 6'0, 160. At that size, wouldn't be able to play at a high level in the Big East if he had had any glaring holes in his game. Has potential to be one of the most exciting players in college in a few years, but has been overshadowed by morally reprehensible way the NCAA has treated his family, which forced UConn to sit him for nine games due to "amateurism concerns." Averaging 9.0 points on 45.6 percent shooting, 2.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
Roscoe Smith: Long and athletic 6'8, 205 forward whose playing time has been cut this season. However, combination of defensive versatility and jump-shooting ability (shooting 75 percent from the free throw line this year) could make him extremely intriguing down the road. Averaging 3.3 points, 3.1 rebounds and 0.5 blocks in 15 minutes a game.
Alex Oriakhi: Bruising 6'9, 240 junior big man with a surprising amount of athleticism; game has regressed dramatically since playing key role in UConn's NCAA champioship last year. However, a lot of that has to do with Huskies' inconsistent point guard play and poor "fit" alongside of Drummond. Will need to return to Storrs for senior season to rebuild draft stock.
Tyler Olander: 6'9, 225 sophomore forward with decent athletic ability and a smooth perimeter jumper. Averaging 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 71 percent from the free throw line this season.
Shabazz Napier: 6'1, 170 sophomore point guard who has been unable to assume the reigns left behind by Kemba Walker. A lot of UConn's offensive struggles have come from Napier's difficulty running the team and creating shots for teammates, but he still has two more years in college to refine his game. Averaging 13.6 points on 39.7 percent shooting while handing out 5.9 assists and 3.0 turnovers a game.