It’s a big year for Pistons center Andre Drummond. He’s a two-time All-Star who just turned 26 and has led the NBA in rebounding the past two seasons. He’s coming off his second postseason appearance in his career, as Detroit held on to the No. 8 seed last year. Drummond was a big part of that. The Pistons were 22-14 when Drummond scored at least 19 points last season and 19-27 when he did not.
He’s not the picture of the modern NBA big man, not as a guy who makes his living off interior play, especially offensive rebounding and put-backs. He’s attempted only 68 3-pointers in seven seasons, after all, a sacrilege in today’s league. He did claim to be developing a 3-point stroke however.
Drummond can be a free agent next summer and after a whirlwind 2019 offseason that saw star talent shift at a dizzying pace, it’s likely that Drummond will be the highlight of the 2020 free-agent class, with Lakers star Anthony Davis expected to re-sign in L.A. without drama.
There may be little drama with Drummond, too. His opt-out year is worth $28 million, but he will likely sign a max contract once he makes the opt-out official. Around league front offices, the consensus is that Drummond will peek at the market but stick around in Detroit.
“He just won’t have a lot of options,” one front-office executive told Heavy.com. “Detroit won’t have a lot of options, either. There won’t be a lot of free-agent money and most of the teams that have it are rebuilding teams who might not want a big like him anyway. He’s kind of old-school and you have to be willing to make your roster around that. Detroit, that’s what they’re willing to do. He probably won’t get a better situation than what he has.”
Pistons Owner Says He’s ‘Committed’ to Drummond
At the opening of Detroit’s new practice facility on Monday, team owner Tom Gores insisted that keeping Drummond in place is a priority.
“You know how committed I am to Andre,” Gores told reporters. “We both know the process. I said it many times, he’s very underrated in a lot of ways, for that he does. Culturally, he’s been so good for this team, just in terms of his attitude. I met him when he was 18, just watching him grow up, I’m real proud of him.
“We’re committed to each other, but we just got to run the process. Everybody is talking at a business level. We have a lot of respect for each other. It’s early.”
Gores has long portrayed Drummond as an “untouchable” on the roster, but he has been available in trade discussions for the past year. The Pistons have wanted a hefty price in return and there has not been much of a market for Drummond. There is not expected to be a deal for him this year with free agency looming.
Market Will Likely Push Drummond Back to Detroit
The market for next season has already taken shape, and the market is likely to nudge Drummond back to the Pistons. There are a couple of factors on that.
First, there is a lack of money scheduled to be on the market. Rebuilding teams like Memphis and Cleveland could make a pitch for top-tier free agents and Drummond is projected to be the best available. But if Detroit offers the max, he can make more money and stay with a playoff-caliber team by re-signing.
Second is Detroit’s impetus to keep Drummond in the fold. The Pistons have been a sub-mediocre franchise for the past decade, only earning two playoff spots in Gores’ tenure and getting swept both times. If they let Drummond walk, there will be little chance the team can bring in a free-agent to match his production.
It could be argued that the Pistons would be better off letting Drummond walk and tanking their way to a potential star in the draft, but Gores has given no indication he wants to take that route. The goal is to stay competitive in the East, and that means keeping Drummond.
Finally, there is Drummond’s style of play. Because so many teams spread the floor in today’s NBA, a slow-footed big man like Drummond can be exposed, as he was by Brook Lopez and the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs last year, a Milwaukee sweep. Lopez shot 37.5 percent from the 3-point line in the series and Drummond’s cumulative plus/minus was minus-96 in four games.
Drummond was even booed by Pistons fans during the playoffs last spring.
Having Drummond in the middle requires a roster tailored around his skills. The Pistons have been trying to build that and are hoping they have enough perimeter shooting to keep the floor spread to benefit Drummond, whether he develops a 3-pointer or not.
He is a Piston for now. If things go as expected, he should be a Piston for a long time yet.