Bulls Offseason Addition ‘Doesn’t Truly Move the Needle’

Andre Drummond, Chicago Bulls

Getty Andre Drummond #0 and Goran Dragic #9 defend

Did the Chicago Bulls make a mistake this offseason by signing Andre Drummond? In an offseason highlighted by its inactivity, Drummond is the Bulls’ biggest splash of the summer, both literally and figuratively.

He should be an upgrade over last year’s reserve tandem of Tony Bradley and the departed Tristan Thompson.

Their only other option was second-year big man Marko Simonovic.

The 6-foot-10, 279-pound Drummond spent last season split between the Philadelphia 76ers and, after being traded along with Ben Simmons, the Brooklyn Nets. And, while he brings a useful skill set, signing him did not address the Bulls’ biggest issue.

Return on Investment

Drummond signed a two-year, $6.6 million contract this offseason to help sure up a couple of problem areas for the Bulls. He will certainly be able to help uplift a group that ranked 28th in rebounding and 29th in offensive rebounding last season.

The 10-year veteran has led the NBA in rebounding four times in his career including three straight seasons from 2018, his last All-Star-caliber campaign, to 2020.

He is the leading active rebounder.

Still, Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz thinks that the Bulls missed their mark and that they would have been better off going in a different direction.

Especially given all of the things that starter Nikola Vucevic does (and doesn’t) bring.

“While Drummond will forever be one of the better backup centers as long as he’s in the league, the 28-year-old isn’t exactly a true rim protector, either. He allowed opponents to shoot 60.0 percent at the rim last season, ranking in the middle of the pack (21st out of 40) of players who defended at least 280 of such shots or more. Vucevic was 31st at 63.8 percent, so Drummond is a slight step up here.”

Does Drummond do enough to make a meaningful difference for the Bulls?

“Not really,” says Swartz, “Drummond is a better defender than Vucevic, but he’s not a plus rim protector, either.”

Numbers Never Lie Most of the Time

One of the arguments for Drummond is that, while he is not a rim protector in the traditional sense, his size alone presents problems in the lane for drivers.

He has posted a 102 defensive rating last season, per Sports-Reference. That was the third-most among players to appear in at least half of the games last season. It was also far better than the 110 defensive rating Vucevic sported.

But there is other evidence that shows that it was not necessarily as effective as it seemed.

Drummond was a net-negative defender last season. He also posted a minus-0.1 defensive efficiency differential with the Sixers, per Cleaning the Glass. But he put up a plus-4.3 defensive efficiency differential (17th percentile) with the Nets.

He has only posted a defensive rating ranked above the 60th percentile three times in his career.

Swartz tries to give the Bulls credit for the move but there is a rub.

“Getting Drummond on a two-year, $6.6 million deal (with a player option) is really good value for his rebounding alone, although he doesn’t truly move the needle on defense.”

As Swartz points out, Drummond is far from perfect. But he has also been called a potential ‘steal’.

Almost Doesn’t Count

Unfortunately for the Bulls, getting close to landing several players this offseason doesn’t buy them any extra favor. General manager Marc Eversley even said that adding rim protection to “complement” Vucevic was a priority.

But their efforts to do so are now quickly being forgotten or written off entirely.

The Bulls were rumored to have interest in Mo Bamba and Isaiah Hartenstein and even got into the mix for three-time All-Star center Rudy Gobert.

That none of them wound up signing is not necessarily the Bulls’ fault. But they have primed the fan base to have actual expectations after snapping their five-year playoff drought. Just making the postseason might not be a good enough follow-up.

Would opinions on the Bulls and their offseason have changed had they signed Bamba or Hartenstein? Probably not.

Gobert might “move the needle”. But there was no way the Bulls could have matched what the Minnesota Timberwolves offered.

Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas is banking on his moves from the last two seasons showing they can reach another level if they can just stay healthy. Drummond should help them achieve that.

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