AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Pistons selected Connecticut big man Andre Drummond with the ninth pick in the NBA draft Thursday night.
The 6-foot-10, 270-pound Drummond averaged 10 points and 7.6 rebounds last season as an 18-year-old freshman for the Huskies. He’ll join Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe — Detroit’s last two first-round picks — as part of a young nucleus the Pistons hope they can build around. Detroit has missed the playoffs the last three seasons.
The Pistons took Knight last year at No. 8 when some of the top big men were already taken. Now they’re adding another inside presence who may be able to make an impact down low alongside Monroe — or take some of the attention from him.
Detroit had already made one big move this week, trading guard Ben Gordon to Charlotte on Tuesday along with a future first-round pick for forward Corey Maggette. That move cleared Gordon’s contract off the books and left little doubt that Knight and Rodney Stuckey are the team’s top backcourt options. Tayshaun Prince remains in the fold, so the biggest remaining need was in the frontcourt.
While Monroe has shown promise offensively with his skill around the basket, the Pistons are trying to become the type of smothering defensive team they were when they won championships in 1989, 1990 and 2004. Drummond could help in that regard. He was 14th in the nation and third in the Big East with 2.7 blocks per game in 2011-12.
Big men like John Henson and Tyler Zeller, both of North Carolina, and Kentucky forward Terrence Jones were expected to be available around the time Detroit was picking. Drummond’s availability was a bit more of a surprise, and the Pistons nabbed him.
Drummond still has some maturing to do at the offensive end — he shot under 30 percent from the free throw line last year — but the Pistons may not ask him to score much, at least at first.
The 6-foot-11 Monroe averaged 15.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game last season, and Knight made 105 shots from 3-point range.
Detroit went 25-41 last season, playing better toward the end of the lockout-shortened schedule. In addition to the ninth pick, Detroit had two second rounders — Nos. 39 and 44.