Former Bulls Player Sounds Off on Free Agent Signing

Andre Drummond, Chicago Bulls

Getty Andre Drummond #0 of the Brooklyn Nets dunks

The Chicago Bulls are more than justified in their signing of Andre Drummond. If they are going to go further than the first round of the playoffs next season, they need to be healthier than they were last season.

Much of that will be up to fate.

But they can help by minimizing the wear and tear on their top stars all of whom have either a sketchy injury history or are getting up there in age (relatively speaking).

That is where Drummond can come in and prove his worth. And Drummond’s impact may go beyond just being a depth add. There is a lot to like about this signing and what it could do for the Bulls next season. But it all starts with the Bulls getting a player with something left to offer.

“A Lot Left in the Tank”

Former Bulls player and current team analyst Kendall Gill joined NBC Sports Chicago’s Rob Schaefer on the August 11 episode of the “Bulls Talk Podcast”. Their overarching theme was whether the Bulls could sneak into being a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference when all is said and done next season.

Schaefer asked Gill what he thought of the Bulls’ much-maligned offseason that saw them emphasize continuity over a splash move.

That led them, in part, to Drummond whom Gill likes for this team.

“ [I] really liked the Andre Drummond signing because I still think he has a lot left in the tank…So now, I believe with him coming on board, it gives us a viable backup. A guy that has been around, that knows the league, that is going to be solid. He’s not going to hurt you when you put him in the lineup.”

Drummond averages 12.8 points and 13.3 boards against the Bulls in his career.

This past season, split between the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, he averaged 7.9 points and 5.3 boards. His production scaled too, with Drummond averaging 11.8 points and 10.3 rebounds as a 24-game starter with the Nets.

Schaefer concurred that adding Drummond “improved” that backup center position for a Bulls team that ranked 28th in rebounding and second-chance points.

“In terms of improving the backup center spot, I think he’s actually a pretty significant upgrade,” Schaefer said in response, “And that’s not to denigrate any of the guys they tried out there last year. But it was a revolving door.

The Bulls trotted out several players in the backup center role this past season such as conventional options like Tony Bradley and Tristan Thompson to no avail.

They even tried using smaller players like Derrick Jones Jr. to fill that void.

What is Andre Drummond’s Role?

Part of fans’ consternation over the Drummond signing is his lack of shot-blocking prowess. He averages 1.5 swats per contest over his career. But that number did fall to 1.0 across both teams last season.

Schaefer asked Gill what his thoughts were on Drummond in that regard.

Gill was honest that Drummond is not likely to be a solution for what general manager Marc Eversley relayed as being a priority.

“I think he’s more of a all-around guy. I’ve never looked at him as an elite rim protector. [He is] a guy that can get some blocks…I think most importantly his value is going to come on the boards. Where we can rebound. Where…Giannis [Antetoukoumpo] can’t just bully his way into the lane. Guys like that, that’s what we need him for. To solidify our defensive presence in the middle. Because, quite frankly, we just didn’t have one last year.”

Antetoukounmpo led both teams with 13.4 boards per game against the Bulls in the playoffs.

Drummond won’t stop him – no one can. But his 279-pound frame will certainly be a lot more daunting in the paint. The two also have a bit of a history in the postseason so there will be no love lost when the Bulls and Bucks meet.

Not everyone is as bullish on the Drummond signing as Gill and Schaefer, though, even if he fills more needs than some realize.

Did Bulls Overpay for Drummond?

Drummond signed on a two-year, $6.5 million contract with a player option for the second year. Despite that ranking 50th among all centers in total value, Dan Favale said on the “Hardwood Knocks” podcast thinks the Bulls should have looked elsewhere.

He even offered up a name he would have rather seen join the Bulls this offseason

“Could they have found someone who would’ve space the floor in the frontcourt? Or, a better rim protector…I would have preferred probably Hassan Whiteside to Andre Drummond here…I’m still just very uninspired about the frontline rotation.”

Favale shapes his argument much in the way Eversley framed the Bulls’ offseason priorities: a complement for Nikola Vucevic.

“There’s still too many questions upfront after the season Vooch had. And if you look at some of the bigs that were available…could they have done something?”

Favale names Isaiah Hartenstein and Mo Bamba as potential targets the Bulls should have gone after. He also mentioned forward Kyle Anderson who left the Memphis Grizzlies for the Minnesota Timberwolves in free agency for $9.5 million per season.

Bamba would have signed with the Bulls were it up to him.

Bulls Walking a Fine Line

They did pursue those players. But the problem is that the Bulls created for themselves in landing free agents was their intent to split up their non-taxpayers mid-level exception which presented two issues for fans and those who cover the team.

First, why nickel and dime a potential building block for the future with Vuceivc’s contract set to expire after the season on top of the veteran’s defensive woes? Second, only the Miami Heat can claim “title contender” status while still being below the luxury tax line.

Paying the tax is not a prerequisite to competing for a title. But it is almost certainly a symptom.

The Bulls openly trying to avoid paying – and instead receive a payout from the taxpayers – is counterintuitive to what the rest of the NBA financials suggest. It also seemingly goes against this front office’s aggressive nature.

But, after Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas got hired, he allowed for an evaluation period before making drastic roster moves, starting with trading for Vucevic.

The same plan could be in motion here which is why some view the Bulls as a candidate for a major in-season move.

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