The question remains for Detroit Pistons rookie sensation Andre Drummond: Stay on the bench or join the starting lineup?

Although impossible to prove now, around this time last year there was an influx of online mock drafts that ranked Andre Drummond the number one amateur prospect leading up to the 2012 NBA entry draft. But as Drummond’s freshman season with the University of Connecticut began to crumble down the stretch, Kentucky phenom Anthony Davis carried his Wildcats to a National Title victory, shuffling draft boards in the process.

Fast forward to June of last year where words like “raw” and “project” were being tossed around at the very mention of Drummond, so much so that he found himself sliding all the way down to the ninth pick, as eight NBA teams said thanks but no thanks to the 7’0” New York native on draft day. Fast forward farther than that, and Drummond is making some of those very same teams sick to their stomachs during his rookie campaign. In fact, his defensive numbers are even comparing favorably with the man who stole his number one spot---Anthony Davis.

In a miniscule 19 minutes per game thus far for the Pistons, Drummond is averaging 7.1 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game (tied with Davis for first among rookies) and 1.6 blocks per game (also tied with Davis for first among rookies), all the while shooting a

[caption id="attachment_240" align="alignright" width="200" caption="Andre Drummond, pictured here in street clothes following a private workout this past spring, is exceeding expectations for the Pistons. (Photo credit: Delfort)"]Andre Drummond[/caption]

sky-high 59.3% from the field. The major difference between Drummond and Davis (aside from the unibrow) is that Davis is averaging 30.4 minutes per game---over 11 more than Drummond.

It’s safe to say that even Andre’s most devoted supporters didn’t see him performing this well, this fast, at only 19 years of age. So in light of the startling revelation that is Drummond‘s rookie year, Pistons head coach Lawrence Frank has come under heavy scrutiny from the Detroit media for not inserting Drummond into the starting lineup.

Frank continues to play the “I’m the guy in charge, so I think I know a little bit more than you do” card, but for a young, rebuilding team, whose best case scenario sees them squeaking into the number 8 seed in the East, is holding the big man back really the right decision?

In short, yes. Jason Maxiell, the 8th year forward who Drummond would be replacing in the starting lineup, essentially provides the same things that Drummond does at this stage of his career. Sure, Drummond’s ceiling is that of a cathedral compared to Maxiell’s dog kennel, but at this point in time, they are both asked to provide energy, defensive prowess and rebounding. So by flip-flopping the two, you’re really not adding much to the starting five. Off the bench, however, Drummond goes head-to-head with teams’ second units, which means he gets to tangle with inferior talent. Is Drummond more likely to go off against Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol or Robert Sacre and Jordan Hill? You be the judge.

In addition to that, when backtracking to the Davis/Drummond comparison, Davis has managed to do his damage while averaging only 2.3 fouls per game. Drummond is fouling guys 2.0 times per game, and at only 19 minutes per contest, it’s crystal clear that Drummond would be in foul trouble far more often than he is now as a reserve. On a nightly basis, Drummond would be competing with crafty veterans such as Kevin Garnett, Carlos Boozer and Roy Hibbert, who would surely coax him into foul trouble early in some games, thus derailing any momentum or impact he might have down the stretch of that particular contest.

Would it hurt to throw him into the fire right now? Well, no, I‘m sure the foundation of the Palace wouldn‘t come tumbling down. But why rush? He’s still very young and needs plenty of refining on the offensive end of the court. Despite what those eight teams who passed on Drummond might have thought back in June, he is going to be a starter in this league for a long, long time. It just doesn’t have to start tonight.

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