Today in Fear the Sword’s season hiatus player review series: Andre Drummond. Follow the whole series here.
Andre Drummond will probably be a Cavalier next season. He has a player option worth $28.7 million next year – far more than the former All-Star is likely to get on the open market next year. Maybe he’ll opt out and pursue a deal for less money in 2020-21, but more over the next few years. Maybe Cleveland will be the team to sign him to that deal. But it seems more likely than not that he’ll hit the 2021 market when there is more money available.
But here’s the problem: The Drummond the Cavs have had for eight games — an admittedly small sample size — has not been worth that, nor a player that can help Cleveland win games. That player hasn’t meshed with anyone and hasn’t played in a way that is conducive to winning.
Drummond’s issues start with his desire to start launching three-pointers with the Cavs. Per Cleaning The Glass, 12% of his shots with the Cavs have been three-pointers. That is 9 percentage points higher than any other year in his career. Drummond also isn’t a Channing Frye-type whose three-point shooting was unlocked or emphasized by the right coach. To date, there is nothing about Drummond’s career that suggests he’ll ever be a good three-point shooter. When he takes them, it’s more often than not a wasted possession. The 28.9% he shot before the season stopped is probably as good as it’ll get.
The other problem for Drummond is that he is shooting 62% at the rim so far with the Cavs, putting him in the bottom quarter of all of the league’s centers, per Cleaning The Glass. It’s not much different than his numbers from the previous few years, and Drummond’s shots at the rim account for almost three-fourths of his overall shots, so it’s not all bad. But if the Cavs are going to get more out of Drummond, and really maximize what he can provide, his shooting at the rim must get better.
It’s also one of the things that separates from being among the elite at center. By comparison, Joel Embiid shot 68% at the rim, Karl-Anthony Towns shot 71% at the rim and Nikola Jokic shot 70% at the rim during the 2019-20 season, per Cleaning The Glass. He also doesn’t have the face-up game Embiid and Towns do, nor the passing of Jokic. Drummond’s also not close to the level of Embiid or Jokic on defense. The Drummond that exists right now is more akin to a mercenary type player vs. the star he’s being paid like.
This is ultimately the issue with Drummond. With the Pistons and now with the Cavs, he’s pushed to show he can do more and expand his role beyond being a monster rebounder and rim-running big. There’s something relatable about that — who doesn’t want to prove they can do more? — but knowing your role is essential for NBA success. Drummond has never quite settled into his and trying to expand it hasn’t worked. Finding a balance between empowering him to do more and what’s good for the team is essential if Drummond will work out for the Cavs.
For the Cavs, Drummond opting in is likely their preferred outcome. They acquired him for practically nothing. He’s better than any free agent the team could sign. In theory, Drummond as a lob threat, rebounder and rim-running big makes sense paired with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Both could be gone sometime in 2020 or 2021, but pairing Drummond with Kevin Love is an interesting basketball fit and two name players to market to fans. Perhaps he’ll also look better with more time to settle in when things are more normal.
Remember: Not only was Drummond’s season halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, but he was also acquired when John Beilein was still the head coach. That has to have had some impact. A possible training camp before the season restarts could give him practice time that isn’t possible when the season is full-go.
But for that to happen, he needs to be something different than he’s been so far with the Cavs.