The NBA trade deadline has passed, but its results are hurting one man in particular. That man is Andre Drummond.
As the hours were passing by on Thursday, many fans and media pundits felt the two-time All-Star would remain a Detroit Piston.
Then, it happened.
Approximately half an hour before the 3 p.m. deadline, the Pistons sent Drummond to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Brandon Knight, John Henson, and a 2023 second-round draft pick. The immediate reaction on social media saw trade receiving mixed reviews, and there are several reasons for that, one being the value of the trade on paper. Drummond is arguably having the best season of his career. His per-game averages are 17.8 points, a league-leading 15.8 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1.7 blocks. He is the only player in the NBA this season in the top-ten of rebounds, steals, and blocks. Along with that, he’s tied with reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo for the most double-doubles this season (42). Knowing these accolades vs. the returning value of the trade may look like a headscratcher. The thing is, one must look beyond the surface.
With the state of Drummond’s position (center) evolving, it’s safe to surmise that he would’ve exercised his player option this offseason for $28.7 million, instead of testing the free-agent market. The reason for that is because while there were reports were that Drummond would look to test free agency, there was no expectation he would receive a max offer. In his own words, his real desire was to remain in Detroit; retiring as a Piston. There was a problem with that though.
Drummond opting in would have prevented the Pistons from a proper rebuild. Pistons’ executive Ed Stefanski alluded to this on the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket.
“Where we’re going in the future, we have to rebuild”, said Stefanski. “Just making the playoffs is not good enough.”
Creating Cap Space
Moving Drummond yesterday was the first falling domino of the Pistons’ efforts to rebuild. Trading him to the Cavs was essentially a salary dump. Knight and Henson’s contract expire at the end of this season. Additionally, Reggie Jackson and Langston Galloway both have expiring contracts, along with former Piston Josh Smith’s contract finally coming off the books. Now they will potentially have around $35 million in cap room to retool their roster. It’s something they would not have been able to do with Drummond on the roster. Blake Griffin is also on the books for $36.6 million next season.
That means the Pistons would have just over $65 million tied to Drummond/Griffin alone.
They are now in a position to acquire assets that can either help reshape the image of the team or become potential trade assets down the line.
Combo guard Fred VanVleet of the Toronto Raptors is a potential target for the Pistons during NBA free agency this Summer. VanVleet, whose contract expires at the end of this season is currently averaging 17.6 points, 7 assists, and 2 steals per game. Prying VanVleet away from the Raptors won’t be an easy task though. The Raptors are currently in second place in the Eastern Conference and a year removed from winning the NBA title. Convincing VanVleet to leave a winning situation in Toronto to head to a rebuild in Motor City might require the Pistons to engage in a bidding war with the Raptors and other teams.
Another potential target would be San Antonio Spurs shooting guard DeMar DeRozan. Should DeRozan decided to opt-out of his contract with the Spurs, it would clear the way for a potential reunion with Pistons coach Dwane Casey, whom he played for during his tenure with the Raptors.
Under Casey, DeRozan was a four-time NBA All-Star and two-time All-NBA team honors.
An Opportunity for Wood
The departure of Drummond creates a tremendous opportunity for Christian Wood to find a permanent home in Detroit. Wood, who is only 24 years old, is already on his fifth team as of now. Backing up Drummond this season, he’s averaging 10.5 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. His free-throw shooting percentage is 74% and he’s 38% from three-point. Both of these are significantly higher than Drummond. Wood has also shown flashes of what he can do with extended minutes.
Over the last two games, he’s averaging 19 points and 6.5 rebounds in 33 minutes.
Wood’s athleticism and ability to stretch the floor are positives for the Pistons’ offense, but the question that remains is his awareness on defense. There also questions about his effort and lack of focus. Even still, that did not prevent teams from trying to pry the young big man from the Pistons. Ultimately, the Pistons decided to see what Wood can do with more responsibility.
“We want to take a longer look at him to decide what we want to do going forward, but he has talent”, said Pistons’ executive Ed Stefanski.
Drummond’s Legacy in the Motor City
Make no mistake about it. Andre Drummond did not want to leave Detroit. Following the news that he was heading to Cleveland, he released a series of tweets stating as such. The Pistons’ decision to trade him is a touchy subject right now for some local fans; partly because of what he meant to the city. Affectionately dubbed “7 Mile Dre”, by fans and media, Drummond embraced the city of Detroit and its’ culture like few athletes ever have. Outside of being known for his on-court talent, Drummond was one of the city’s most accessible and visible athletes, donating countless hours of his time to community service efforts.
Drummond leaves behind a complicated legacy in Detroit. As a ninth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the former UConn Huskie made an immediate impact on the Pistons roster upon arrival, which earned him a 2013 NBA All-Rookie team honor. He is also second all-time in total rebounds for the Pistons, but first all-time in offensive rebounds. Drummond’s career in Detroit saw him break many team records. He also led the Pistons to two playoff berths. Unfortunately as great as all of this is, it did not transpire to winning basketball.
All of that isn’t his fault though.
The Pistons’ front office is guilty of some mistakes also.
One can make the argument that they did not properly surround Drummond with adequate talent via free agency and how they have mismanaged their drafting over the years (prior Sekou Doumbouya). The choice to draft Stanley Johnson (whose is no longer a Piston) over Devin Booker, who’s currently averaging 27.6 points per game for the Phoenix Suns, is one of those that sticks out. At a time when the Pistons needed spacing, the decision to not draft arguably the best shooter in that year’s draft (2015) was a headscratcher.
Drummond wasn’t born here, but he became a man here. He now leaves the only place he has ever known professionally to begin a new chapter of uncertainty in Cleveland. So how should fans remember Drummond’s time in Detroit?
Well, fans here don’t have to love him. They also don’t have to hate him either. Instead, fans should just be appreciative of his tenure.
Because he became one of our own.
If there’s one thing I learned about the NBA, there’s no friends or loyalty. I’ve given my heart and soul to the Pistons , and to be have this happen with no heads up makes me realize even more that this is just a business! I love you Detroit…
— Andre Drummond (@AndreDrummond) February 6, 2020
Cont… you will always have a special place in my heart! But on to the next @cavs hope your ready! Let’s finish the year off the right way 🦋
— Andre Drummond (@AndreDrummond) February 6, 2020
— Andre Drummond (@AndreDrummond) February 7, 2020