Andre Drummond is heading to Los Angeles.
After securing a buyout with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the two-time All-Star has signed with the Lakers after clearing waivers.
OFFICIAL: We got Dre. Welcome to the Lakers Family, @AndreDrummond! pic.twitter.com/AGtLwOq38h- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 29, 2021
On Feb. 15, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst broke the news that the Cavaliers were no longer planning to play Drummond as they looked to move him ahead of the trade deadline, clearing the way for the recently acquired Jarrett Allen to take over as the team's starting centre. Drummond was having a productive season prior to being benched, averaging 17.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks in 28.9 minutes per game.
Drummond has his limitations - more on that soon - but he now finds himself in a situation where he can be a difference-maker on a title contender.
Drummond's greatest asset has always been his rebounding. The Lakers are already a decent defensive rebounding team, but they've been an average offensive rebounding team this season. It's where they feel the losses of JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard the most.
Since entering the NBA, there's only been two seasons in which Drummond hasn't averaged the most offensive rebounds in the league. The first time was 2012-13, when he was a rookie. The second is this season, although he's still among the league leaders. His 4.0 offensive rebounds per game rank third behind Clint Capela (5.1) and Enes Kanter (4.3).
Not only is Drummond a massive presence around the basket, standing at 6-foot-10 and 279 pounds with a reported 7-foot-5 wingspan, he has a nose for the ball. The combination makes him someone teams have to account for at all times, otherwise they run the risk of him sneaking his way into the paint and clearing out space.
Playing next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis should lead to even more offensive rebounds for Drummond because of the amount of attention each one of them commands. His defender will have to think twice about helping off of him when either one of them has the ball and switches will lead to favourable mismatches for him underneath the basket.
Offensive rebounds are a huge source of offence for Drummond. According to NBA.com, he's averaging 3.4 points per game off of putbacks this season, accounting for nearly a fifth (17.0 percent) of his scoring. The only players averaging more: Capela (4.3), Kanter (4.2) and Jonas Valanciunas (3.9). The problem is he hasn't been particularly efficient. With an average of 0.96 points per putback possession, Drummond ranks in the 24th percentile in efficiency. He wasn't much better last season (33rd percentile) or the season before that (46th percentile).
As much of an asset as Drummond's offence rebounding could be to the Lakers, they'd benefit from him looking to kick the ball out more than he does. He doesn't have great touch around the basket and has a tendency to settle for ill-advised shots.
It'll be interesting to see how else Drummond's game changes with the Lakers because he's used to having a decent amount of the offence run through him, mostly out of the post.
According to NBA.com, Drummond is averaging 5.4 post-up possessions per game this season, the fourth-most in the league. It would be one thing if he was a good post-up scorer, but he's once again struggled with efficiency, ranking in the 29th percentile with 0.82 points per possession. Unless he's the centrepiece of bench-heavy lineups, it's hard to imagine him getting anywhere near the same opportunities to create for himself with the Lakers.
Ideally, Drummond would be a supercharged version of McGee and Howard, giving the Lakers an athletic centre who is relentless attacking the offensive glass and provides the type of vertical spacing they don't currently have in Howard and Montrezl Harrell. He hasn't even been an efficient scorer as the roll man or off of cuts for most of his career - again, he doesn't have the best touch around the basket and he can force the issue - but he's never played with a playmaker like LeBron and the Lakers should have enough shooting to open up the floor for him to focus on rim-running. There's reason to believe it will work. It'll mostly come down to how willing Drummond is to sacrifice and adapt.
Drummond should have plenty of motivation to show up with this being a contract year. He's already an established player, but cutting some of the bad tendencies out of his game and proving that he can contribute to a contender could set the tone for the next part of his career, whether it's in Los Angeles or somewhere else.
The other end of the court isn't much different. Drummond has his limitations on defence, but he's a more active defender than Gasol at this stage of his career - Drummond has always posted some of the best block and steal rates at the centre position, this season being no exception - and he's far better suited to match up with the league's best centres than Harrell, which will come in handy should the Lakers face Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid or Rudy Gobert in the playoffs.
The Lakers already have the league's best defensive rating, so they're not expecting Drummond to transform them. As long as he buys in and plays with effort, he should be fine.
So it is the cleanest of fits? Not exactly. Does it still have the potential to work? Absolutely. After all, it's rare for two-time All-Stars in their late 20s to be available on the buyout market at this point of the NBA calendar. Considering their need for another centre and the price, it's a worthwhile roll of the dice for the Lakers.
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