So far, Drummond thrives in SVG’s reimagined role for him as facilitator

AUBURN HILLS – Andre Drummond led the Pistons in rebounds in their last preseason game with 22, which is dog bites man all the way. He also led them in assists with seven, which is man bites dog.

There probably won’t be many games this season where that stat holds up, but Drummond still figures to fill a much broader role within Stan Van Gundy’s offense than in the past.

Van Gundy talked to Drummond over the off-season about that role – about acting more as a facilitator – and about the tradeoff: fewer shot attempts that begin with both feet outside the paint.

“He’s really been receptive to that,” Van Gundy said. “He’s sort of played as the hub a little bit, like a point-center type guy. He’s got those ballhandling skills, he’s got quickness and his decision making has gotten better as we’ve gone on.”

“That’s a role Stan kind of gave me a couple of weeks ago. He wanted to start running the offense through me because I’m able to move the ball and able to find an open guy and get them open shots,” Drummond said. “It takes their bigger guy away from the rim, too, when I do dribble handoffs and gives me a chance to offensive rebound and attack.”

In Drummond’s first two NBA seasons, he shot .618 from the field; in the past three, he’s shot .521. His shots per 36 minutes crept up by about three per game as he became more adventurous with his back-to-the-basket arsenal, but he became distinctly less efficient. This is an attempt to accentuate his best attributes and streamline the offense.

“He should be part of the offense,” Van Gundy said. “He’s a really good player and he needs to be part of the offense. But we want to play to his strengths and I think that the other night, I thought Avery (Bradley) in particular was really trying to turn the corner. So even when you miss those shots, he’s cleaning it up on the glass and getting the ball to the basket. Those are great possessions with him. So he creates the opportunity for the guy to turn the corner on his pick and roll or his dribble handoff and then if they turn the corner he’s got a good chance, even if they miss, of cleaning up the boards. That’s good basketball for him. I think he gets it and I think he likes the way he’s playing and knows he’s playing well.”

Another dramatic change through Drummond’s three preseason games: his 80 percent success rate from the free-throw line, 16 of 20.

“It’s all a mental thing at the end of the day,” Drummond said after Monday’s practice with the regular-season opener at Little Caesars Arena two days away. “When I do get up there, I feel I’m making it every time and if I do miss I just shake it off and shoot the same shot again without any hesitation.”

No longer subconsciously dreading treks to the line, Drummond is being more aggressive at the rim, Van Gundy believes. He didn’t have to worry much about getting fouled while taking 12-foot hook shots.

“Around the basket, you see him going stronger,” he said. “Not a lot of double pumping because he’s got confidence in his free-throw shooting now, so he’s not trying to avoid being fouled. He can go stronger to the basket because he’s shooting the free throws so well.”

It might not always be reflected in his assist totals, but the things that don’t show up in highlight packages – the solid screens, the dribble handoffs – yet go such a long way in creating scoring chances for teammates could be the thing that helps Drummond get back to the All-Star game this season. And help the Pistons win, the ultimate litmus test for All-Stars.

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