Pistons Lead

Assessing Drummond’s Future in Detroit

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For being a middle-of-the-pack team in the Eastern Conference, the Detroit Pistons do not lack polarizing players.  Reggie Jackson has divided the fan base for years.  One side believes when he is healthy, the team has a star.  Others hate his cap drag and cannot wait to see him leave.  The Pistons’ second star behind Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, may be even more divisive.  As recently as January, parts of the fan base wanted to see him moved and thought players the level of Ed Davis could replace his production completely.  Drummond-stans saw his collection of 20-20 games and league-leading rebounding as a building block for the team’s future as long as management could add enough shooting.

While he is far from the only player to withdraw from Team USA activities, Drummond’s choice still sparked some discussion. This season will be vital for him and the organization as a whole and is just the first step.

Immediate Impact

At first glance, this choice looks benign given the number of people withdrawing from consideration for Team USA, with Landry Shamet being the latest example.  So why did Drummond reconsider?  Most Pistons fans believe he sees this as a contract year and wants to look his best to earn the most.  Drummond has a player option at the end of this season and with another productive season could be in line for a pay raise.

Drummond will likely be the best big man on the market next offseason.  Draymond Green just signed a contract extension to remain with the Warriors.  Anthony Davis is in Los Angeles, his long-known goal.  Drummond is an All-Star caliber talent, and another year in Coach Casey’s system, coupled with team success, could see him achieve that again.

Correct Fit

While he may not fit every team in the league, Drummond is still very appealing to the right franchise.  For the Pistons, the pairing alongside Blake Griffin saw Griffin post the best year of his career.  Playing alongside Drummond opens up pick-and-roll options for the entire offense.  This fact does not acknowledge that Drummond is the best rebounder of his generation.  He led the league in putback points for three of the last four seasons.  Averages of 17.3 PPG and 15.6 RPG will be tough to improve upon this season, but if Drummond continues his scoring, he could take a step toward elite status.  Simply improving on the effective FG% of 53.6 percent will help there, which is not too much to ask for someone who rarely moves beyond 10 feet.

Looking Forward

Next summer will mark the first offseason where Detroit will have significant flexibility in many years.  Currently, the team stands to have an estimated $30 million in cap space.  If Drummond opts out of his current deal, Detroit’s cap space will balloon to over $60 million.  All of this means the Pistons have to make a choice quickly to determine their current scenario.  Drummond is making $27 million this season and would be opting out of nearly $29 million in the last year of his contract.

If there is any indication he will opt-out and leave this summer, the organization will have to explore trade options to recoup any value for this franchise stalwart.  The cap space is enticing.  However, some of that should return assets for a team who still intends to build around Griffin. Detroit is not a free agent destination.  The return on any Drummond trade would be a rare chance to bring back real value.

Assessing the Market

If Detroit decides to keep Drummond and sign him for the long-term, that is still a complicated option.  Looking at contracts handed out to centers recently can give insight as to what this may cost the Pistons.  Clint Capela signed last year for five years and $90 million.  Brook Lopez signed this summer for four years and $52 million.  Rudy Gobert currently still makes less than Andre Drummond, earning $24 million this year and nearly $26 million in 2020-2021.

Probably the player most comparable to the Motor City big man is Nikola Vucevic.  The Magic All-Star made his first appearance in the showcase game this year and helped lead Orlando to the playoffs.  Vucevic excels on offense but cannot match Drummond on the boards.  Vucevic returned to the Magic this summer on a four-year deal that is front-loaded at $28 million this season but will decline in annual value to total $100 million.

If the Vucevic deal is available for Drummond, the franchise will likely quickly take the chance to re-sign him.  Ed Stefanski and team owner Tom Gores have been loud Drummond supporters.  The deal is team-friendly, and it is unlikely a better player will sign with Detroit in free agency.  The declining financial commitment will allow them to build around him better in the future.  However, there have been rumblings that he wants something along the lines of what Davis will sign and the extension Joel Embiid just started.  This scenario would see the Pistons paying around $30 million per year for Drummond as he moves into his thirties.

Possible Choices

The options — to keep Drummond versus letting him walk — are pretty straightforward.  Assessing his trade market, should he be moved before this year’s trade deadline, is murkier.  Expecting a package like the Pelicans’ return for Davis is not realistic.  Hassan Whiteside moved as an expiring contract as part of the Jimmy Butler trade.  Last season, Memphis netted Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles and a future second-rounder for Marc Gasol.

Center is a specific need for a team.  Only a team who thought they were close to contention would purse Drummond.  For instance, Boston needs to upgrade at center, given that Enes Kanter is their only option.  If they want to contend in the East, they will need a defensive anchor.  Jaylen Brown will be up for a max extension this fall.  If Boston decides they do not want that type of financial commitment, they could build a package around him.

Unless something like the Boston trade becomes available, Detroit is likely not changing. Locking Drummond into a long-term contract that benefits both sides will be the goal.  A contract year run will make things more transparent for both parties.

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