The return of Joel Embiid from COVID-19 means we won’t be seeing Andre Drummond in a starting role for the Sixers, but he does deserve a hat-tip for the job he did in Embiid’s absence. Drummond, in 10 starts this season, has logged a modest 8.6 points but has been, as usual, a terror ono the boards, pulling down 13.9 per game. He’s also averaged 1.5 blocks, playing 28.9 minutes as a starter.
Considering the Sixers got him on an NBA veteran minimum contract worth $2.4 million, Drummond is a bit of a bargain. But will he remain a bargain? Former Grizzlies front-office executive John Hollinger does not seem to think so.
In an early ranking of 2022 NBA free agents, Hollinger expected that Drummond would get somewhat more expensive going forward.
“Everyone dunks on Andre Drummond for what he isn’t,” he wrote, “but his tenure in Philadelphia this year has reminded people of everything he can do — rebound like crazy, provide some quick feet on the perimeter and operate respectably out of the elbows. Centers are permanently out of favor, and that will limit his market, just as it did a year ago, but he has a chance to get paid as a starter.”
Top-Heavy NBA Free-Agent List in 2022
Here are what Hollinger sees as the 25 best free agents this summer. It is not an especially deep pool, especially at the top, where it would be hard to imagine players like Zach LaVine or LeBron James changing teams. It’s possible that won’t apply to Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, but in each case, the smart money would be on them staying put.
Even the two good restricted free agents are unlikely to leave their current situations, because the teams that employ them now can match any offer. Basically, the only truly available free agents will be fringe starters and top bench players.
- Zach LaVine, SG, Bulls
- Bradley Beal, SG, Wizards(player option)
- Kyrie Irving, PG, Nets (player option)
- James Harden, SG, Nets (player option)
Tier Two (Restricted)
- Deandre Ayton, C, Suns(restricted)
- Miles Bridges, SF/PF, Hornets(restricted)
- Montrezl Harrell, C, Wizards
- T.J. Warren, SF, Pacers
- Donte DiVincenzo, SG, Bucks(restricted)
- Jalen Brunson, PG, Mavericks
- Collin Sexton, PG/SG, Cavaliers(restricted)
- Mitchell Robinson, C, Knicks
- Bobby Portis, C, Bucks (player option)
- Ricky Rubio, PG, Cavaliers
- Kyle Anderson, SF, Grizzlies
- Victor Oladipo, SG, Heat
- Robert Covington, SF, Trail Blazers
- Jusuf Nurkic, C, Blazers
- Dennis Schröder, PG, Celtics
- Dorian Finney-Smith, SF, Mavs
- Joe Ingles, SF, Jazz
- Nic Batum, SF, Clippers(player option)
- Andre Drummond, C, 76ers
- Marvin Bagley, PF, Kings(restricted)
- Pat Connaughton, SG, Bucks
Sixers Developing Young Backup Centers
Keeping Drummond around for one year is, of course, what the Sixers expected when they signed him in August. He was coming off a terrible year in which he was released by the Cavaliers on a buyout after playing only 25 games, then signed by the Lakers, where he was one of the scapegoats for L.A.’s disappointing finish.
Getting a chance as a part-time starter when Embiid is out and playing solid minutes off the bench in Philadelphia has given Drummond a chance to rebuild his value heading into next summer. He won’t land an eight-figure deal, but he probably will do better than signing on for the veteran’s minimum.
Meanwhile, the Sixers hope to develop their own backup center among one of their young players, either Paul Reed or Charles Bassey, each of whom has shown flashes of being productive reserve big men.