DETROIT — How slim was Andre Drummond entering his rookie season in 2012?
“I was probably the size of my pointer finger; I was real skinny,” he told the NBPA recently in Detroit. “The training staff did a good job of really getting me to eat the right foods and lift consistently to get my body to where it’s at now, where I’m a very powerful man.”
How powerful how he’s become? The NBA’s most dominant rebounder as the Pistons’ 7’0″, 279-pound All-Star center—the team’s first draft pick to receive that honor since Grant Hill in 2000—who’s averaging a league-best 14.9 boards per game along with 17 points, 1.6 steals and 1.5 steals. Drummond is also averaging a league-best 5.0 offensive rebounds per game and, in a minimum of 25 minutes per game, he’s first in offensive rebound percentage (15.2), according to NBA.com/Stats, which is an estimate of the percentage of available offensive rebounds a player grabs while he’s on the court.
At the start of the season, Drummond became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1970-71 with 135 rebounds and 135 points through seven games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Drummond now has five 20-20 games this season and he’s the league leader in double-doubles with 45, keeping the Pistons (27-27) active in the playoff race.
“Actually when I first came in the league, my goal was to be the best rebounder in the league and the best rebounder to ever play,” he said. “And it’s between DeAndre Jordan and I for the first three years of my career, and I think I did a good job this season of coming out early and trying to take that lead, and right now I hold the No. 1 record. To have my name be mentioned with Wilt, Kareem and Bill Russell is amazing. It’s an overwhelming feeling knowing that I’ve accomplished something that was so big, but I couldn’t have done it without teammates. So thanks for missing shots.”
The NBPA hit the Pistons’ practice court with Drummond, who’s also an All-Star dunk contest participant on Saturday night, to discover the rebounding tricks and tactics of the 22-year-old. Below are 10 unique DNA strands that make up Drummond’s rebounding speciality, presented in a first-person perspective and edited for clarity and length.
1. Long arms and massive hands
I’ve got a 7’5″ wingspan. It makes it very easy for me to jump up and grab rebounds. I’ve just got a real good knack for it. Not many people have this length in their arms. I’ve got very big hands, too—big mitts for grabbing rebounds.
2. Strong base
I make sure I have a really good base when I’m going for a rebound. I kind of keep my legs spread a little bit, try to move my defender out of the way. And it’s kind of like a quick instinct. As soon as I see the ball coming off the rim, I just explode and jump off and go get it. I work on my legs every day, too, so my legs are very strong. I do a lot of squats, a lot of single-leg squats, a lot of running, a lot of conditioning with my legs, too, to keep myself from not getting tired from jumping so much. It’s just a lot of work, a lot of mini-band work.
3. Timing tricks
Sometimes I’ll watch my defender to see the way he blocks out. If he doesn’t block out at all, I kind of stand back a little bit. As soon as his teammate misses, I’ll run right back in around my defender quickly. Some of my defenders do a good job of blocking me out. I try to get a knee up into their leg and try to shift them under the hoop, try to tip the ball in or sometimes I just try to out jump them and try to grab the ball over their head.
4. Acute awareness
I follow the flight of the ball. By the time it’s about to hit the rim, I position myself to where I need to be. I already know where the ball is going. Most people look for the ball; I follow the flight of the ball and I can tell. As soon as he shoots it, I’ll look, “It’s going to the right or it’s going short.” Most of my rebounds usually are in the middle of the paint close to the basket, or right around the left block because of more right-hand players driving right or shooting on the right side.
5. Offensive glass tap-backs
Every time I go in for a rebound, I don’t really necessarily try to grab it. I try to tip it to an area where nobody can get it and I try to finish it. I have a really quick first jump, but when I jump I don’t really necessarily try to score it right away. I try to get myself a good position to tap the ball back in again. So I tip it to a certain part of the backboard and by the time it gets there, my opponent is just taking his first jump and I’m already tipping it back in again. So it kind of works out in my favor. I get two rebounds and two points. I work on tap-backs in practice, just timing the ball where it may land.
6. Boxing out big men especially
When it comes to bigs that rebound well, the key is to block them out. There’s no really technique on how to stop somebody from rebounding. It’s gong to happen. You’re going to miss shots, so one way or another the ball is going to fall in your hands, or guys like myself, DeAndre Jordan, Kenneth Faried, are the kind of guys you’ve got to put two or three guys on to keep them off the glass. DeAndre Jordan is my favorite matchup. It’s always fun playing against him because we do similar things. So when I play against him, I try to get the best of him.
7. Rebounding when a midrange shot is coming from the elbow
I think the midrange is a little bit easier to rebound. So let’s say we do a pin-down and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is about to shoot a shot on the left side, more times than not I’ll be on the right side closer to the basket. When he shoots it, I’ll pause for a second to trick my defender, and then go. And I’m already there for the rebound.
8. Rebounding when a floater shot is coming in the paint
Floaters are tough because sometimes you can’t tell if it’s going to go in or not; sometimes it bounces off high and I’ve kind of got to wait. So with those, I stand about five feet from the basket in the middle of the paint. There are a lot of back rim misses. What’s also tough are guards now shooting with their off leg. It kind of throws people off. Sometimes you have guards come down and jump off their right foot to shield you off and try to lay the ball in. Sometimes guys will use their body to jump off of you and try to shoot a jump shot, too.
9. Rebounding when a three-point shot is coming from the baseline corner
I’ll be on the weak side. So if he’s in the corner and I see him getting ready to shoot, I can go one of two ways: either I’ll circle around my defender to the middle or as soon as he shoots, I’ll just get behind my defender and try to step right in front of him. 65 percent of the time the ball comes off the opposite side he’s shooting from, so I’ll have a better chance of getting it on the weak side. Or if it comes off the front rim, I’ll still have a better chance to step forward and grab it in the middle. But if I come to the middle, it makes it a little tougher because when it bounces off that way, my defender can have better position on me.
The game has changed. A lot of guys can shoot the three—bigs, smalls, everybody is really taking the three, and a lot of long rebounds are coming off. A lot of guys can really shoot, so it makes the game a lot more interesting and it makes you want to key in more because you don’t want to keep getting people to shoot threes on you. We defend the three well, which helps my rebounding. That was one of the things we really keyed in on earlier in the year—to stop people from shooting threes and to really run them off and send them to the paint to come see me. We’ve done a good job of really running guys off, making them take tough spots and making bad decisions.
10. Wanting more
I just have to continue to watch film and watch positioning on where guys are on the floor, pay attention to where the ball comes off the rim and just continue to go off my instincts.