Many things about Andre Drummond’s game are a joy to watch. He’s a rebounding machine. He’s one of the most athletic big men the NBA has ever seen. Sometimes he dances after a made basket. These are all great things, characteristics Drummond would definitely highlight on his Match.com profile.
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There’s an ugly side to Drummond’s game, though, a singular inefficiency that could hold him back from becoming truly great—unless he fixes it. By now you know: his glaring weakness is free-throw shooting. During the 2015-16 NBA season, Drummond shot 35.5 percent from the free-throw line, the lowest percentage in the history of the league—including a time when men wearing short shorts were shooting at peach baskets.
He simply can’t make free throws, forcing Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy to remove him from close games in the final minutes to prevent the opposing team from using the Hack-A-Drummond strategy. Van Gundy told ESPN, “It’s just hard, for whatever reason, to translate from the practice floor to the game. Look, you’re standing there by yourself, with the game stopped and everybody’s watching. Let’s say a guy misses a jump shot, the play goes to the other end, and everyone’s focused on what’s happening there. But Andre’s standing there at the free-throw line, all everybody’s talking about who’s watching the game is his free-throw shooting. It’s hard. It’s really hard.”
Having tried everything he can think of to fix the problem without much success, Drummond may finally turn to a last resort: shooting his free throws underhand. Popularized by Rick Barry, who used the technique to shoot 90 percent from the line over a 14-year career, what the cool kids refer to as “granny style” is Drummond’s last hope, and it appears as if the big man is open to it. Another big man, Wilt Chamberlain, had success with it.
“As far as shooting underhand or anything else, it’s fair to say my discussion with Andre yesterday and the discussions [we] have had [with] staff—everything is on the table,” Van Gundy told the Detroit News. “We all know it’s an important thing—Andre more than any of us—he’s pretty open to anything. There’s a lot of ways to attack this problem, and we’ll all have a hand in it.”
Sure, Drummond will be laughed at and ridiculed if he adopts the underhand free throw next season, but if it boosts his percentage even to 50 percent and he stays on the court to close out crucial games, people will stop laughing real quick.