This shouldn’t be news.
Last season, Andre Drummond posted per-36-minute scoring (13.8), rebounding (13.2) and shot-blocking (2.8) rates that have been matched only by Dwight Howard, Hakeem Olajuwon, Bill Walton, Robert Parrish, Marvin Webster and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (minimum: 300 minutes). With the exception of Webster, those are all Hall of Famers.
And Drummond did it as a 19-year-old rookie.
Yet, Drummond played just 20.7 minutes per game. That’s on a 29-53 team starting Jason Maxiell.
The strange decision to relegate Drummond to the bench for most of the season probably cost Lawrence Frank his job, and without the right breaks, maybe his NBA head-coaching career.
Now, Maurice Cheeks steps in acts sensibly.
Cheeks said he isn’t looking to limit Drummond and expects big things in his second season.
“I’m going to put him out on the floor for sure,” Cheeks said. “I’m not looking not to play him, I’m looking to play him. He’s going to be out on the floor. There’s no other way to say it.”
There are plenty of reasons to somewhat limit Drummond’s minutes. He’s still building up his conditioning, and a 6-foot-10, 270-pound frame probably isn’t easy on his knees. Plus, with Josh Smith and Greg Monroe also starting, Cheeks should probably stagger the rotation so, as often as possible, just two of those big men share the court.
But Drummond can be Detroit’s best player. He’s a shot-blocking, lob-finishing giant who can could lead a team to the playoffs. He needs to be on the court.
He should have been more last year, but it’s too late to fix that. Cheeks can control only this season’s playing time, and it sounds like he’ll do better than his predecessor.