Stan Van Gundy has found success in this league when he's got a dominant center. He had Shaq in Miami, Dwight Howard in Orlando and now, Andre Drummond in Detroit. Drummond is a load in the middle, averaging 18 & 16 and making the Pistons one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league. He put up 24 & 13 against Dwight and the Rockets, 20 & 18 vs. Brooklyn and Brook Lopez, and 25 & 18 against the big front line of the Cavs.
How'd he fair vs. the Celtics? By his standards, a modest 16 & 12. Detroit won the game Wednesday night despite Brad Stevens effectively employing the Hack-a-Drummond in the third, but it was Jared Sullinger's down and dirty work that neutralized Drummond's size when they went head-to-head.
Sorry if I'm burying the lede here with Sully, but that's really been Sullinger's persona all year. After all the social media campaigning this summer about his weight loss, Sully came into the season looking the same and buried fifth in the big man depth chart. He's steadily come along and he's back in the starting lineup, but even now, he takes a back seat to his teammates. He's not the leading scorer, the most vocal leader, or the team's best defender, but through November, he nearly averaged a double-double. He's had a bad stretch of late, but he bounced back last night with an efficient 17 & 10.
However, most of his work doesn't appear in the box score. There are the counting stats that look impressive--particularly his four offensive rebounds--but his effect on the bigger Drummond is substantial.
Sullinger doesn't get credited for the rebound here, but more importantly, neither does Drummond. Sullinger may have lost the rebounding battle to Drummond 10-12 and the Celtics would eventually lose the war, but this loss wasn't on Sully. According SportsVU player tracking, Drummond had 23 rebounding chances on the night but only grabbed just over half of them.
Sullinger pulls down the defensive rebounds, but he won't get credited for the shot contests. He's not exactly a rim protector, but he's able to help on D and then recover quickly onto Drummond to secure the board.
Here's Sully defending the pick-and-roll and drawing a charge on Reggie Jackson. Sullinger knows that that's the only way to defend that play. If he contests with verticality, Jackson simply hits Drummond with a pass for an easy dunk. Sullinger has to take the hit.
Sullinger's biggest contribution might have been holding back Brad after Isaiah Thomas got whistled for fouling Jackson on a three pointer late in the game. The Celtics were already down and couldn't afford a technical and Stevens kicked out of the game.
Limiting Drummond did lead to a few missed rotations and easy buckets for driving Pistons, but all things considered, Sullinger was a plus player tonight (disregard his -7 plus/minus in the box score). The numbers don't bear out Sullinger's impact at all. So far, he hasn't exactly been the most attractive fantasy player, but for the Brad Stevens and the Celtics, he's remained one of the most consistent bigs for the franchise. He's a value pick at FanDuel right now and it'll be interesting to see if he remains a value pick for Danny Ainge when he enters restricted free agency this summer. If you haven't joined FanDuel, you can sign up here!