Depending on who you listen to, Andre Drummond is either awesome, or trash. (Does everything need to be either or?) Some will cite his annually gaudy counting stats as substantive reasoning for his standing as an elite NBA center. Others will note that he was just waived and not traded, along with select advanced metrics and lack of winning, as proof of his shortcomings.
As with most things, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. And for the Los Angeles Lakers, they’ll hope that’s all they need when all is said and done.
After not being dealt for a second consecutive trade deadline — he was moved from the Detroit Pistons to the Cleveland Cavaliers last year in exchange for John Henson, Brandon Knight, and a second-round draft pick — Drummond was bought out last week and cleared waivers. He’s making $28.7 million this season before hitting free agency, and is now a Laker at a time where they need him most.
LeBron James was diagnosed with a high-ankle sprain 10 days ago, and will not return until the second half of April at the earliest. And Anthony Davis hasn’t played since mid-February due to a calf strain, still withholding an unclear return timetable, but it’s expected that he’ll be back at some point. And Marc Gasol, who hasn’t been a fully adequate starting center for the Lakers this season, might even get bought out now that Drummond is on the roster. Gasol has started all 38 of his Lakers’ appearances this season, logging under 20 minutes per contest.
Gasol’s productivity has been by far the weakest of his career, averaging just 4.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game. He’s also only shooting 40-percent from the field and 35.5-percent from three, where 63.7-percent of his attempts have come from. Remarkably, however, Gasol still has the team’s best defensive rating (104) outside of Davis and has a team-high defensive box plus-minus at 2.8. However, his offensive box plus-minus sits at -1.9, which ranks on the lower half of the roster, and he’s not giving the team an offensive-punch from the interior that Drummond could.
Drummond will likely start in Gasol’s place when he makes his debut sometime this week, and by default, would be the most individually accomplished active player on the roster outside of former Defensive Player of the Year and three-time All-Star Gasol, who is 36. Drummond, a two-time All-Star, has career averages of nearly 15 points and 14 rebounds per game, along with 1.5 blocks. (It’s like 20-20-4 on NBA 2K, which is aggravating as hell!)
This season, Drummond’s posting 17.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game, though, similar to Hassan Whiteside, the numbers are deceiving and don’t generally amount to winning, as touched on last week. Whiteside’s nine-season career has seen him average monstrous numbers of 18.5 points, 15.8 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per-36 minutes, yet he’s never been impactful in the way his numbers show. We’re pretty sure Drummond, whose career per-36 averages are 17.0 points, 16.1 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks, is much better, but if that were the case, the Cavaliers and Pistons would’ve gotten more — or anything — in exchange for his departure. Whiteside’s career defensive rating is an even 100, the same as Drummond, which is very good. Both of them have even led the NBA twice. But clearly, when watching, Drummond’s defense doesn’t impact in quite the same way that his peers do, i.e., Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, or Bam Adebayo.
The Lakers’ bottom-line is that without James or Davis, Drummond has to prove he could help win you games. The Lakers are just 9-10 since Davis went down and are currently 2-3 post-James’ ankle sprain, with their only two wins coming against the Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic. Following tomorrow night’s contest against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Lakers will embark on a seven-game road trip through April 13, including teams like the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, and Los Angeles Clippers. The Lakers are still 30-17, but they’ve dropped to fourth in the Western Conference.
Drummond has the best rebounding percentage in NBA history, but the Lakers will need more than just that to tread water without their two stars. Plus, it’s an opportunity for Drummond, a pending free agent, to earn one more big contract in his prime if he could help lead the Lakers to season-saving W’s. Needless to say, he’s beyond capable of making this work.