What’s up with Andre Drummond: Rebounding edition

Andre Drummond has been one of the most polarizing Detroit Pistons for much of his career. Love him or hate him, we’ve gotten some things wrong about him.

If you’ve watched a single minute of Detroit Pistons basketball this season or last, you’ve got a take on Andre Drummond. We all know he’s supremely talented, he’s young, he should have a sky-high ceiling, but there seems to be something missing. Whether it be at a glance or a deep dive into Synergy, much of the Andre Drummond puzzle doesn’t make sense.

Like the rest of this Detroit Pistons’ squad and what has befallen them this season, not much makes sense at a glance and requires a deeper look to get a handle on.

One of the most puzzling things about how Drummond and the Pistons fit together is the fact that the team rebounds better with him off the floor than on. When Drummond goes to the bench, the Pistons gather in 52 percent of all rebounds, while they have a lowly 49.6 percent rebounding percentage while he’s on the floor. If Andre Drummond is reputed to be such a rebounding machine, surely there is an explanation for this disparity.

For starters, Drummond often shares the floor with the rarely-rebounding Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris. While from a practical standpoint, a rebounding vacuum like Drummond doesn’t leave many scraps for his teammates, Morris and Harris take this concept to another level when they’re on the floor with Drummond.

Morris has the 85th-best rebounding percentage (7.1) of all forwards who have appeared in 20 games and average 20 minutes or more per game, while Harris has the 69th-best percentage (8.8). In fact, Drummond has no teammate who has a rebounding percentage higher than Jon Leuer‘s 9.3 percent when sharing the floor with him.

Both Morris and Harris have career-low rebounding percentages this year, and both have lower rates than they did last season, with Morris having a 7.7 percent rate last year and Harris posting a 10.2 percent clip. Last season after the Pistons traded for Harris and slotting him into the starting lineup as an undersized power forward, Morris was similarly impactful on the boards when playing with Drummond, recording a 7.1 percent clip.

So we can determine from this that while Morris has been fairly consistent (if unimpressive) on the boards when playing with Drummond, Harris has taken a pretty big dip in production. Harris has been less productive on the boards with Drummond off the floor as well, as last season he grabbed 11.4 percent of rebounds and this season only grabbing 10.5 percent.

To narrow the equation somewhat, if we add the filters of Drummond and Harris ON, the Pistons have a 49 percent rebounding rate. If we modify it again to Drummond ON, Harris OFF, the Pistons’ rebounding rate jumps to 51.2 percent.

It’s worth noting that Drummond’s year-over-year rebounding percentage hasn’t budged. In fact, he has the exact same rebounding percentage he posted a year ago (24.5 percent) when he led the league in both defensive rebounding and total rebounding percentage, and this season he’s leading the league in defensive rebounding percentage at 36.1 percent. Contrary to what some believe, the Pistons rebounding issues don’t appear to be a problem with Drummond but with the fit of the roster around him, particularly with the lack of rebounding production from Tobias Harris.

To compare this to other notable rebounding centers and the kind of help they get from their power forwards, we can take a look at Dwight Howard and the Atlanta Hawks. When Howard is on the floor, the Hawks have a 53.7 percent rebounding rate. That’s largely due to the support Howard gets on the boards from Paul Millsap and his 11.3 percent rebounding rate and Mike Muscala‘s 12.4 percent rebounding rate.

Another example is DeAndre Jordan of the Los Angeles Clippers. Jordan has a rebounding rate just a touch behind Drummond’s at 24.1 percent, but he also gets a lot more help on the boards. Blake Griffin has collected 14.1 percent of rebounds this season (when he’s been healthy) when sharing the floor with Jordan, and Chris Paul has a rebounding percentage of 9.7 percent. The Clippers have a 52.6 percent rebounding rate when Jordan plays.

Whether the Pistons are rebounding worse as a result of a misguided schematic approach to get Drummond his boards or Harris (and to some degree Morris) are lax on the boards when playing with the big man, it’s clear to see that Andre Drummond is not a net negative in the rebounding department. No matter how dynamic a rebounder he is, Drummond needs help on the boards from his teammates just like every other big man.

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