It's NBA Draft Tarot Reading Week at Sactown Royalty! Enjoy Aykis' Best Case Scenario Reading of Andre Drummond, Sacramento King.
The Kings did it again. Despite all the "red flags" they swung for the fences on a big man with huge potential with the 5th pick in the draft. The similarities stop there though, because Andre Drummond and DeMarcus Cousins could not be any more different as players. Where Cousins is skilled, Drummond is raw. Where Cousins excels on offense, Drummonds focus on defense. Where Cousins is slow and lumbering, Drummond is quick and explosive. They could not be any different, and for that reason, they complement each other perfectly, each covering the other's weaknesses.
Drummond suffered in college by trying to be the man. In Sacramento, he doesn't have to be the man. All the attention is on Cousins, who has continued to improve from even his monster sophomore season, coming into camp in better shape than ever. The Kings also re-signed Jason Thompson, and so Drummond isn't getting thrown to the fire immediately, but instead gets to ease into the NBA slowly with a bench role.
The glimpses are promising. During Vegas Summer League, a fast paced Kings team alternately led by Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette consistently finds Drummond running the floor for some jawdropping dunks and alleyoops. On the opposite end, Drummond's great timing on blocked shots starts intimidating attacking guards. In a much hyped game against the Hornets and big man Anthony Davis, Drummond holds his own against the #1 pick.
When the season starts, fans have become convinced that Drummond was a steal of a pick, in part due to his great Summer League Performance and a very fun pre-season performance against the Lakers in which he totaled 7 blocked shots off the bench. Drummond has become a favorite target of Kings guards already with his amazing explosiveness and ability to finish around the basket. Occasional pairings with Cousins look exceedingly promising on both ends of the floor.
As most rookies do, Drummond struggles during his first few weeks of real NBA basketball, often getting lost on defensive rotations, or not running plays correctly on offense, or not boxing out effectively. But then in an early road game, Jason Thompson goes down with a mild ankle sprain early and Drummond has to play big minutes. He more than delivers playing with the Kings starters. Cousins makes the other team pay for doubling him by finding Drummond streaking towards the basket. One particular dunk of Drummond's makes the top play on Sports Center.
After the game, the national media begins to start watching and talking about the Kings and Andre Drummond. Thompson continues to miss the next few games to rest his ankle, and Drummond fills in exceedingly well in his absence, posting up a double-double average of 13 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks a game. When Thompson comes back, Smart puts him back in the starting lineup, but Drummond has left his mark. He's got confidence now.
Drummond is one of the first selections to the NBA's "Rising Stars" game, which keeps the same format as last year in which two captains pick their team from a group of rookies and sophomores. Charles Barkley is again a captain and selects both Drummond and Isaiah Thomas to his team. With Thomas leading the charge, the two pair up for some ridiculous highlights, including a breakaway in which Thomas throws the ball off the backboard to a trailing Drummond, who then jumps over Thomas for the windmill slam. Teammate DeMarcus Cousins (selected to his first All-Star team) cheers wildly on the sidelines.
The Kings improve mightily from their previous season, staying in playoff contention all the way until the last month, losing out on the 8th spot but still finishing with a winning record. Drummond's emergence plays a big part in that, especially after the All-Star break when he supplanted Jason Thompson in the starting lineup. Together, Drummond and Cousins make the cover of SportsIllustrated in April 2013 with the caption "BIG Things Are Happening in Sacramento".
With the Kings on the uptick once again, the Maloofs finally decide to sell the team and capitalize on the increased net worth of the franchise. While Ron Burkle makes an offer, he is outbid by Filipino telecommunication magnate Manuel V. Pangilinan's ownership group which included Chris Webber. The new group also meets with the city about a new arena and even increases the private contribution from $67 million to $90 million to smooth things over and get things back on track.
With a new ownership group, a young team on the rise, fans begin to renew and buy season tickets at a crazy rate. Drummond and Cousins both come into training camp in the best shape of their lives, and both have spent the summer working with Clifford Ray on their offensive game. Drummond expands his game from dunks and finishes around the basket to adding a short jumper and a bevy of half hooks, his length and explosiveness allowing him a lot of space to do so.
Thanks to the offseason regimen, Drummond's sophomore season echoes DeMarcus's, in which he begins to show that he not only can be good, but also a force in the league. Drummond and Cousins combined interior defense anchor the Kings there, and they also strengthen Keith Smart's philosophy of "rebound and run". Drummond in particular thrives in the system, often beating other forwards and even some guards down the floor. With the Lakers on the decline after Kobe Bryant retires due to a sudden infection of his elbow (Doctors later discovered that the infection was caused by Mike Bibby's nose and had been lying dormant for years), the Kings form a new rivalry after a couple more heated matchups with the Los Angeles Clippers. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond both get posters on each other, but the Clippers get the last laugh when DeMarcus Cousins gets ejected midway through the 4th quarter of a close game after unsuccessfully arguing a crucial non-call. With the game going down to the wire, it's up to the 20 year old Drummond to shut down Blake Griffin, and with the Kings up two with 20 seconds left, Drummond gets the game winning block on Chris Paul as he successfully denied the ball to Griffin and forced Paul to drive.
The Kings finally make the playoffs that season, and end up meeting these same Clippers in a matchup of the 2nd and 7th seeds. The Clippers win the series, but it takes 7 games and leaves the young Kings hungry. The following season is a little bit better. The Kings finish as the 4th seed this time and match up with the 5th seed New Orleans Hornets. Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon have turned the Hornets into a defensive behemoth, but the Kings win the series in 6 games despite that, with Drummond outplaying Davis most of the way. They meet up the next series with the defending champion Oklahoma City Thunder however, and the Thunder are able to win the series in six after Kevin Durant scores 52 in the final game.
The following season the Kings make the jump from pretenders to contenders. DeMarcus Cousins is a legitimate MVP candidate, and Andre Drummond is voted to his first All-Defense team. Both he and Cousins make the All-Star team (Cousins by the voters, Drummond by the coaches). The Kings finish as the 2nd seed, and again meet the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs, this time in the Western Conference Finals. Unfortunately for Oklahoma City, the Kings big front line proves too much and the Kings win the series in 6 games this time, reaching the NBA Finals to face the Miami Heat.
The young Kings make a series of it, but unfortunately are just outmatched. Drummond and Cousins both outplay the Heat big men, but it isn't enough to make up for masterful series by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Steve Nash. The Heat win the title in five games, giving Nash the ultimate retirement present.
The following season is to be the Kings last at Smart Communications Center nee Power Balance Pavilion nee ARCO Arena before moving into a brand new downtown arena. Andre Drummond is now just 23 years old and Cousins 25, but they proceed to turn the NBA into their own personal playground that year. Both players average 20+point/10+rebound double-doubles, and they carry the Kings to the top seed in the Western Conference. They similarly cruise through the first two rounds of the playoffs, sweeping first the Nuggets and then the arrogant Clippers. They face the New Orleans Hornets in the Western Conference Finals, and Drummond comes out on fire, set to prove that he's a better player than Anthony Davis. Drummond shuts down Davis defensively, and offensively, both Cousins and Drummond manhandle their way into the Hornets interior, winning the series in six games.
The Brooklyn Nets await them in the NBA Finals, fitting considering that if the 2002 Kings had beaten the Lakers, they would have faced the New Jersey Nets. The new-look Nets are built around Deron Williams, former King Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez and Dwight Howard and they beat the Miami Heat in a grueling 7 game series. This series is no less grueling and also goes to 7 games becoming one of the instant classics in modern memory. With Game 7 in Sacramento, the game is tied at 103 apiece with 23 seconds left. Isaiah Thomas gets the ball inbounds and dribbles the clock out at the top of the key. The crowd is dead silent, with the only noise being the constant bounce, bounce, bounce of the ball on the hardwood. With 8 second left, Isaiah makes his move. Drummond sets a screen up top on Williams and Cousins comes across the middle to set another double screen on the help defender. Isaiah pulls up for the mid-range jumper and time slows to a standstill as the ball leaves his hands. It hits the rim. It bounces out. An audible groan begins to simmer in the audience, but only for a moment, because Andre Drummond comes out of nowhere and slams the ball back into the hoop with 0.6 seconds left. The groans turn to excited screams as the crowd erupts. With no timeouts left remaining, the Nets have to force a full court shot and it badly misses. The Kings players swarm Drummond at halfcourt, and then the fans begin rushing the court as the constant barrage of sound continues unimpeded. A "SAC-RA-MEN-TO!" chant begins as Jerry Reynolds crowd surfs the sea of Kings fans while holding the Larry O'Brien trophy.