In a dream world, he’s the next Dwight Howard. In reality, he could be the next Kwame Brown or Darko Milicic.
To say Connecticut center Andre Drummond is the highest-risk, highest-reward player in the NBA Draft is putting it mildly. He could be the steal of the entire proceedings Thursday night, or he could be the biggest bust in years.
It’s going to be several seasons before that pendulum swings decisively in one direction, but when it does, it will likely swing hard, because there might not be a whole lot of in-between with this 6-foot-11¾, 279-pound 18-year-old.
“He could be Darko Milicic or Dwight Howard,” NBA scouting director Ryan Blake said. “That’s how low the basement is and how high the ceiling is.”
The Cavs brought Drummond in for a workout last week, but they were likely doing that just to cover their bases.
Cleveland is a team with a lot of holes — it desperately needs a starting shooting guard and/or small forward who can score — and it probably needs to fill one of them with the No. 4 pick in the draft.
“But how many All-Star centers are there in the East? There aren’t many,” Pro Basketball Draft’s Joe Kotoch said. “Drummond could get you on the fast track to contending.
“He’s a very real option at No. 4, but I don’t think he’s their first choice.”
The Cavs could gamble on Drummond if they aren’t enamored with the wing players available at No. 4 — say, if Florida’s Bradley Beal and Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are both off the board — but even then they might attempt to trade down a few spots.
“He’s hard to pass up, but he’s also a big risk,” Blake said. “He’s not like a (DeMarcus) Cousins (chosen by Sacramento with the fifth pick in 2010), who may have been a hothead, but on the court could do some things consistently. I wouldn’t have passed on Cousins. On Drummond, there’s that window: Let someone else develop him.”
A native of Hartford, Conn., Drummond doesn’t turn 19 until Aug. 10. Not only does he have incredible size — he could end up playing at a muscular 300 pounds down the road — he’s got a 7-6¼ wingspan and just 7.5 percent body fat.
“Physically, he’s everything you would want a center to be,” Kotoch said. “He’s a shade under 7 feet, he’s got an incredible wingspan, he’s an explosive athlete, laterally he’s very quick and he can really defend the pick-and-roll.
“His transition to the NBA game defensively shouldn’t be too difficult. The biggest question is on the offensive end. How will his post game develop with his back to the basket? But I like him a lot.”
In his one season at UConn, Drummond averaged 10.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 0.4 assists and 2.7 blocks in 28.4 minutes. He shot .538 from and field and — ready for this? — an incredibly bad .285 at the line.
“I don’t think he’s a 29 percent free throw shooter,” Kotoch said. “I talked to him and he says he’s better than his numbers indicate. Everybody needs to take a look at the circumstances there.”
Drummond was set to attend Thomas More prep school in 2011-12, but in late August things changed and he wound up enrolling at UConn. With a late start in college life and college hoops, he was behind from the get-go and didn’t really catch up the entire season.
“He was not quite up to speed when he got there, but he learned a lot from it,” Kotoch said.
“Physically and athletically, he has as much upside as anybody, including (projected No. 1 pick) Anthony Davis (of Kentucky).”
In a league where virtually every team is looking to add size — and everyone is looking to add quality size — someone will take a gamble on Drummond. History says it won’t pay off, but if it does, it could pay off in a big way.
“He could be a Dwight Howard type of center, but he comes with significant risk,” Kotoch said. “He could bust out. You could be talking about Kwame Brown.”
Blake takes a similar view while adding that no matter how big and talented Drummond is, it’s impossible to know for sure how much he wants to succeed.
“He can be explosive and he’s got that NBA body,” he said. “He could turn into a physical specimen with a professional work ethic, if that comes. Right now, he’s inconsistent. He can get you 15 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks one night, then disappear the next.
“We can’t really look into a guy’s heart, so the jury is still out on this guy. If he commits, the ceiling is huge, because he’s already so much higher in the tower. He’s not really far from being somebody special.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com.