The NBA rumor mill is in full swing, and the latest surprising rumor contends the Los Angeles Clippers and Detroit Pistons discussed a swap of big men DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond, respectively.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on Wednesday’s “The Jump” that the Clippers are looking to change the roster in order to convince one or both of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, who are both unrestricted free agents, to stay in Los Angeles.
“If you want to change the roster to impress Chris Paul and impress Blake Griffin this is your best asset to move and that is why they are looking at the market for him,” Windhorst said.
The Jump co-host Tracy McGrady then asked what kind of pieces Los Angeles would want in return.
“I’ll give you another option — they have talked to Detroit about Andre Drummond,” Windhorst said.
Jordan is the team’s biggest trade piece because he is good, has one year left on his deal before he can opt out and, despite offensive limitations, is a strong interior defender and elite rebounder.
Why it makes sense for Detroit
Why would Detroit entertain such an offer? Well, first, if it’s true that the Clippers under new front office guru Jerry West are the ones gauging the market for Jordan they might be completely disinterested in such a trade.
Here’s the best case I can make, however. First, the minute Stan Van Gundy thinks Drummond will never develop defensively is the first minute he needs to move on from Drummond. If that decision has been made then sacrificing the youth and upside of Drummond for the defensive upgrade of Jordan makes sense.
Second, Jordan’s deal has one year left before he likely opts out and is staring down the barrel of being a 30-year-old big man looking for a $100+ million contract. I’m not saying it would be salary dump but I don’t think Detroit would make this move with an eye on keeping Jordan long-term.
Third, having an actual interior defensive stopper (your mileage may vary on how much that applies to Jordan) and a player who doesn’t get/need many touches could actually help balance the roster as it currently stands. Tobias Harris makes more sense as a power forward next to Jordan, and Reggie Jackson’s defensive struggles are less glaring when you have someone down low who can clean up the mess.
Why it makes sense for Los Angeles
The Clippers have a strong roster but seem to have reached a ceiling, and that makes it difficult to convince elite players to run it back and try again. Drummond provides a lot of what already works so well with Jordan but is five years younger.
He also could thrive in a role when he is the fourth or fifth most important player on the court, and could be served well by the tutelage and mentorship of a headstrong player like Chris Paul (it could also totally destroy him).
The trade would likely also mean that Drummond goes from a player that gets 11 shots a game to a player who gets six or seven shots a game. And that likely means Drummond goes from 335 post ups in a season to something much closer to the 93 Jordan attempted. Less post ups from Drummond means his true shooting percentage likely goes from the woeful 51.8 percent of last season to something closer to his 58 percent from his rim-running glory days.
Why it doesn’t make sense for Detroit
Drummond struggled but he’s far from simply being a sunk cost. The only reason you a 23-year-old under a long-term deal for an older player who isn’t likely in your long-term plans is if you view that 23-year-old as a sunk cost you just want to be rid of. We’re not there with Drummond yet. Far from it.
Unless more was attached to the package with long-term impact for Detroit, I don’t see how it has much appeal to the team.
Why it doesn’t make sense for Los Angeles
Drummond is objectively a worse player than Jordan right now, and while he could improve by leaps and bounds while Jordan is almost assuredly on the downswing of his career, you don’t convince guys desperate to go to the Finals that the best way to achieve that is to get worse from a talent perspective.
Is this going to happen?