Michael Bielecki

Michael Bielecki

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I'm a freelance writer, author, and blogger based out of Vero Beach, FL. I've been published in Vero Beach 32963, VeroNews.com, the Press Journal, Vero Beach Newsweekly, the Walt Disney World Comp., Poker Pro Magazine, Ante Up, the Sebastian Sun, the Milford Times, and the Oakland Press. My book, Tradition: Vero Beach High School Football 1980-2010, was published in 2011. I grew up in Highland, Michigan and graduated with a B.A. in History from Florida Atlantic University.

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  • Jay Wierenga posted 2134 days ago

    Jay Wierenga

    If there were such a thing as an NBA hipster, chances are he or she would be quietly obsessed with Detroit Pistons rookie center Andre Drummond.

    Drummond is toiling away in NBA obscurity in Detroit, where even the local fans are bored with their team -- the Palace of Auburn Hills is filled to only 60 percent capacity on game nights, by far the lowest in the league. The Pistons also might be the league's most nondescript team both in style and in name, so it's no surprise people might be snoozing on this guy.

    And while everyone is justifiably jumping on the Damian Lillard bandwagon, there's still room on the Drummond train. But it's filling up quickly.

    Drummond is currently producing at a level we've never seen in the NBA from a teenager. The 19-year-old big man is averaging 7.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks with 59 percent shooting, all in less than 20 minutes per game.

    He also has a 21.9 player efficiency rating, the highest PER for any teenager in NBA history. If it keeps up, he'll have a better PER than Kyrie Irving, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony when they were teenagers.

    Translate his numbers on a per-36 minute basis, and you're left with 13.0 points, 13.3 rebounds, 3.0 blocks and 1.5 steals with 59.7 percent shooting.

    Top PER among teenagers in NBA history*
    Player PER Mins. per game
    Andre Drummond 21.9 19.7
    Kyrie Irving 21.4 30.5
    Tracy McGrady 20.6 22.6
    Kobe Bryant 18.5 26.0
    LeBron James 18.3 39.5
    * - minimum 700 minutes

    But to fully appreciate Drummond, you have to see him in action. Sure, you could be lazy and pull up the CliffsNotes version in the morning's top plays. After all, he's a staple there. But don't take shortcuts, because you don't want to miss his array of talents.

    The first thing you notice about Drummond is that he moves like an oversized point guard. He is massive at 6-foot-10 and 270 pounds but he gallops around the court as if he were a foot shorter and a hundred pounds lighter. He runs circles around other lumbering 7-footers. To say he is athletic is to call Steve Nash mildly resourceful.

    You probably have already seen the dunks. As far as vicious big-man dunkers go, Darryl Dawkins, Shawn Kemp and Blake Griffin might have company. Drummond is that terrifying. And he throws them down often, having already tallied 55 dunks this season, which trails only JaVale McGee, DeAndre Jordan, Tyson Chandler and Griffin in dunks per minute.

    But it's the way he gets his dunks that's most impressive. On a half-dozen occasions this season, Drummond has stolen the ball on defense and started his own fast break, dribbling down the length of the floor for a thunderous slam on the other end. But it looks completely normal when he does it because he has that rare combination of skill and athleticism to pull it off. Can't say the same for most big men.

    However, he's not just a dunker. Like most youngsters, Drummond has a tendency to chase steals and blocks. But he also has displayed a knack for getting stops, as evidenced by the fact that he's currently the only player in the league to average at least 3.0 blocks and 1.5 steals every 36 minutes on the floor. Yes, he's raw, but he's already turning his tantalizing potential into a reality in the box score.

    This is where we arrive at the most logical destination when we talk about young talents: Who is his best comp?

    To answer that question, we turn to fellow ESPN Insider Kevin Pelton, whose SCHOENE player projection system uses key player stats, as well as height and weight, to identify the most similar predecessors at the same age (ranked from zero to 100, with 100 being the most similar).

    For Drummond, that's Dwight Howard. By a healthy margin.

    Most similar to Drummond by SCHOENE similarity score
    Player SimScore
    Dwight Howard 93.2
    Andris Biedrins 91.4
    Derrick Favors 91.3
    Kevin Garnett 91.1
    Josh Smith 90.6

    Like Drummond, Howard came into the league at a similar age and height, but Howard received more minutes from the start, which is why their per-game stats don't match up well. Howard averaged 32.6 minutes per game in his debut season, far more than Drummond's 19.8 this season.

    But on a per-36 minute level, we see Howard's averages of 13.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks with 9.1 shots per game are almost an exact replica of Drummond's season. Smart folks such as ESPN.com's Beckley Mason have made a comparison to Chandler, both in statistics and scoring style, but SCHOENE likes the Howard comp the best so far.

    However, look at that second guy on the list. Yes, Andris Biedrins is the second strongest comparative player, and that's somewhat discouraging. But it makes sense when you consider that both Drummond and Biedrins haven't figured out how to make free throws quite yet, although Drummond's 39 percent rate isn't quite as rotten as Biedrins' 25 percent rate over the past four seasons.

    If Biedrins is the worst-case scenario for the Pistons, they should be thrilled with that value at the ninth pick. It's easy to forget that before Biedrins' bizarre free throw affliction took over, he was a double-double machine who generated a $54 million contract from the Warriors.

    And the others? A future Hall of Famer in Kevin Garnett, a blossoming starter in Derrick Favors and a borderline All-Star in Josh Smith. That mixed bag seems about right for a player as equally raw and talented as Drummond. And that's what makes him so intriguing. He could be this generation's next great center or he could be a backup at age 26.


    David Thorpe breaks down the top rookie of the year contenders and one dark-
    horse candidate to watch.
    Rookie Watch Insider

    • 5-on-5: Five questions on the rookies

    Judging by his minutes, even the Pistons don't know exactly what they have. Despite his bubbling production and potential, the UConn product is still averaging only 21.3 minutes a night in January, down slightly from his 22.1-minute average in December. It's clear Detroit coach Lawrence Frank doesn't quite trust Drummond to play the minutes a player of his statistical caliber deserves.

    While Drummond figures out Frank's system, the teenager might have another roadblock to overcome: Greg Monroe, another talented Detroit big man. However, the Pistons have dabbled in playing the two together, and it has yielded some early success. According to NBA.com's stats tool, a lineup of Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince and the two big men has played 52 minutes together (the fifth-most among Detroit lineups) and has beaten opponents by 12 points.

    Those 52 minutes, however, are spread across just 16 games, indicating that lineup is only making cameos at this point. And although a point margin of plus-12 isn't exactly a home run, it's enough to make you wonder why it's not being used more often.

    Drummond hasn't broken into the starting lineup yet, but it might be only a matter of time at this point. It's certainly possible the Pistons are showcasing veterans Charlie Villanueva and Jason Maxiell for a potential deal before the deadline and Drummond might end up getting a promotion soon. At 14-24, Detroit remains in the playoff hunt, but according to Hollinger's Playoff Odds, the Pistons have only about a one-in-three chance at punching their playoff ticket.

    If the Pistons end up giving Drummond the minutes he deserves, East playoff bubble teams such as the Hawks and the Bucks better watch out.

    And so should Damian Lillard.

  • Brett Kaplan posted 2162 days ago

    Brett Kaplan

    Thanks Michael!

  • Marianne Goodland posted 2536 days ago

    Marianne Goodland

    Regarding your article on Kemba Walker - you commented that Isiah Thomas grew up in Gary Indiana. Where did you get that information? Everyone in the Hoosier nation that watched Isiah play his college ball (me included - I was at IU in 1981) knows that he was born and raised on the west side of Chicago. This is so well known a story that I'm dumbfounded about your claim that he grew up in Gary. The reason I'm bringing this up now is that a friend of mine insists, based on your article (and you and he appear to be the only two people on the planet who thinks this) that Thomas was born in Gary. Your source?

  • Asher Chancey posted 2661 days ago

    Asher Chancey

    Is your name really Michael Bielecki, and if so, are you related to Mike Bielecki, one of my favorite pitchers of all time?

  • Jay Wierenga posted 2666 days ago

    Jay Wierenga

    i need you to write more about things i can get into michael! all the work i have seen from you is top shelf, but my problem is that i dont get into poker or nascar! bring on some baseball, basketball or football! we have a new coach in detroit, a lions team that is exciting and a baseball team in a pennant race! come on, give me something my brotha!

  • Lee Moore posted 2757 days ago

    Lee Moore

    Thank you for the great article about Connor!