Kyle O'Quinn played Andre Drummond on one of his first days in the NBA.
O'Quinn, a second round pick from tiny Norfolk State, stood toe to toe in the summer league game against the Pistons' first round pick Andre Drummond. He showed that day he was not afraid of the young but athletic player in those early days.
Drummond struggled a bit to find his way in his rookie year. It seemed his struggles from his years at Connecticut followed him to the NBA. Still, he showed plenty of flashes that his defense, athleticism and size will make him a very good player in the NBA for years to come.
So far this preseason, chalk him down as an early candidate for Most Improved Player and maybe even Defensive Player of the Year. The player O'Quinn saw in Summer League last year is not the player he saw Sunday night during the preseason.
"He's an athletic beast," O'Quinn said. "That goes a long way in the league. He's learning the game, you can tell. He's going to be an All Star."
All Star might be going a little far, especially since we only have a rookie season and preseason stats to go off of.
Last year, Drummond averaged 7.9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game to go with 1.2 blocks per game in 20.7 minutes per game. Against the Magic on Sunday, Drummond scored 14 points and grabbed 15 rebounds with two blocked shots and a ton more changed. For the preseason, Drummond is averaging 13.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
This is just preseason too. So take those stats with whatever grain of salt you want or imagine what he can do in regular minutes.
And this year comes with new challenges. Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings will be joining the fold hopefully giving Drummond a bigger stage on which to play with the chance to make the Playoffs. There is still an adjustment to go through with the new pieces and seeing how things fit together — particularly with Jennings being out for most of the preseason.
Figuring out how the pieces of Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Josh Smith, three players with similar skill sets, fit together offensively will be a special challenge for Maurice Cheeks.
"We all can pretty much do the same thing," Drummond said. "Josh obviously shoots the three but can also bring the ball up the floor and create for the other players. Greg's passing of the ball and and can create off the block . . . the same with me as I can create for people off the block. I can just grab rebounds, block shots and dunk everything I get my hands on. It's just fun. We have never played with each other befoer event for Greg and me. We are figuring it out and it is all starting to come together."
The Playoffs are the bare minimum goal it seems for this Pistons team. They spent their money and made their moves to make the team better. What Drummond does will be a key to achieving that goal.
Some have pegged this young center as the real future of the franchise. They certainly see an athletic rim protector that can anchor a strong defense. Now whether Drummond's offense catches up is another matter. Or whether the Pistons' offense actually works with Smith at the three.
There is still the sense that this is going to be a big year for Drummond.
Even Drummond feels it, even after a hard-fought preseason loss.
"This is already my season," Drummond said. "I take every game seriously. Every day is a stepping stone for all of us. We are starting to come together. I am proud of everybody tonight. We came out and were getting killed in the second quarter, things were going south and we came togehter, figured it out and it came down to the last shot."