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DBB on 3: Andre Drummond and Free Agency

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A Twitter video got people buzzing about Andre’s future, we discuss

NBA: Playoffs-Milwaukee Bucks at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond has since clarified things a bit, but a video that circulated on Twitter with him hinting at his free agency plans got people talking. It is true that almost anything will be latched on to in the age of Twitter, and in the quietest time by far in the NBA cycle, but it does bring up the interesting situation that Ed Stefanski and his team have to be already working on themselves: What to do with Andre Drummond, who has a player option after this season?

We dig into it, and in this case “we” now includes a few names fresh to DBB as writers but by no means fresh to #PistonsTwitter.

Here we go!

1. What was your reaction to Andre’s comments about potentially opting out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent next summer?

Lazarus Jackson: “Let me get this on Twitter as fast as humanly possible,” haha.

It was a little surprising; normally, guys don’t announce their FA intentions 10 months ahead of schedule. However, it’s not a formal announcement (He hasn’t declined his player option yet and if, God forbid, Andre gets seriously injured, I doubt he will still decline it all), just a statement of where he is mentally coming into the season.

Personally, I’m excited for contract-year Andre. A full year of the way he played post-concussion last season would be excellent for the Pistons in the short- and long-term, in my opinion.

Ben Gulker: Meh.

Steve Hinson: My first reaction was that no one is going to pay his ass $100+ million. Then...oh yeah, the Knicks. The Knicks will totally do that.

But also, Contract Year Dre sounds terrifying. Which is more likely to be the way that Drummond plans on earning that big payday: winning Defensive Player of the Year, or hitting 20 points per game thanks to jacking up a bunch of ill advised shots?

Ryan Pravato: I’m in offseason mode -- Andre made comments? I heard about the one lite beer a day thing but not this.

Ku Khahil: This isn’t the first time we’ve heard something about Dre’s free agency this summer, dating back to his interview during this year’s Summer League. I’m not shocked, if this is indeed the route he takes. I’ve been under the belief he’d opt out for a minute now, so no real shock value reaction here.

Martin Mansour: It should come as no surprise that Andre Drummond will potentially opt out. Drummond will potentially be a top 3 free agent. And with other centers getting paid, Drummond will look for the same type of deal.

David Fernandez: Honestly, I’m not that surprised that he’ll be aiming to opt-out. When you look at the list of guys available next year, Andre’s near the top of the list, and he’ll be targeting significantly more than, say, Nikola Vucevic, who signed this past season at 4 years, $100 million.

Brady Fredericksen: My reaction is that he’s a smart guy. Why wouldn’t he opt out? His free agency class has weakened significantly and, despite what some think, he’s continuing to improve as a player. If Nik Vucevic got 4 years, $100 million this summer, Andre should be able to secure a deal with close to $30 million a year. When talent is scarce and cap space is prevalent, guys get paid. Period.

Justin Lambregtse: I’m not all that surprised because I am assuming Andre and his agent are both smart and can see what the free agent class looks like next offseason compared to the offseason after. He is going to be one of the best available free agents, so maybe a desperate team wants a “big name” and throws a lot of money at him.

Joe Sinke: I had mostly figured he was opting out after the season. Andre is unlikely to get much less per-year on a new contract than he gets now and may even get a raise. And seeing what has happened to Boogie Cousins has surely made him wary of waiting any longer than is needed to get paid.

2. If you were Ed Stefanski, what would your plan be for this potential outcome?

Lazarus Jackson: If I were Ed, I would’ve already approached Andre about an extension. It hasn’t been reported anywhere that one was offered, and by Andre’s excitement about being a free agent I wouldn’t be surprised if he would reject one, but that’s where you start.

From there, it’s about the market Andre can generate. On one hand, he’s a non-shooting big man in a league that has de-emphasized non-shooting big men (I think we’re due for a correction on that front, but I get that belief is not share by all). On the other hand, if and when Anthony Davis re-signs with the Lakers, Andre will be the premier free agent left on the market.

I’ve said, and still think that, an offer of 4 years, $110 million ($27.5 million Average Annual Value) is the outer bound of what I would give Andre. If another team is willing to give him more - $30 million AAV or a full 30 percent max contract - you work out a sign-and-trade with that team a la Durant-to-Brooklyn / Kemba-to-Boston. What I definitely would NOT do is trade him before the trade deadline; you can always work out a sign-and-trade later, and the destinations that really make sense for him as a player (the Celtics, the Clippers, the Lakers) don’t have the ability to offer him that kind of contract and don’t have the assets the Pistons would probably want.

I mean, if the Clippers are willing to trade Andre for Paul George, do that, but I don’t see that happening.

Ben Gulker: Start by exploring an extension. If Andre is determined to opt out to test the market, be patient. Andre is a desirable player, but big men like him are not in fashion right now. The worst-case scenario is losing him for nothing, so let’s not do that.

Steve Hinson: Andre Drummond should already be traded for basketball reasons. The Pistons have shown that they have a mid-40 win ceiling with him on the roster. Whether they continue building around Blake Griffin or if they tear it down and rebuild from scratch, either way they are better off moving him. Aim for an upgrade on the perimeter, a long-term solution at point guard, or young assets in case you eventually decide to move Blake.

Consider if Drummond wasn’t already a Piston and you were debating potentially trading for him. What would possibly be the reason to do so? Why would a high volume, mediocre efficiency center be the player you’d want to invest your assets in rather than, say, a wing who can take some of the offensive pressure off Griffin?

Ryan Pravato: Hopefully Ed is looking at all options and also hoping that Andre is outstanding this season. It’d be a win-win for everyone in one way or another. Andre is a pretty good player all things being equal. Can Andre be a top 20 player in the league? I don’t think it’s super crazy for that to happen. Offer to throw big money at the guy if he makes a big leap in his game. As one of Andre’s harshest critics, I’m still holding out hope that he’ll reach his potential.

Ku Khahil: Oof. This will be a nervous time for Pistons fans.

If I’m Stefanski, I’m not trading Dre this season. Ride out this team this year and see what happens.

Dre should be in this team’s long term plans, but at a certain price. I’ve maintained my position all summer that if Drummond plays all year this year how he played after January 25th last year, I’d pay him 30 million a year.

If he doesn’t maintain that kind of play all season this year, my price range is 25-27 million a year. If it costs more than that, then I think you let him walk. Try and work out a sign and trade.

Martin Mansour: If I were Ed Stefanski, I’d be on my knees praying Drummond plays up to the contract he will be asking for. If he plays the way he did since returning from his concussion, I could see the Pistons extending Drummond’s contract. If not, the Pistons could play the free agency game and hope another team doesn’t offer Andre a large long-term deal.

David Fernandez: Figure out what you believe Andre Drummond’s value is, and make a strong offer - maybe over a shorter time table. It’d be nice to have Drummond alongside Blake, so maybe make a shorter offer of 2-3 years with a higher salary figure. If you believe he’s aiming for 5 years and $190 million, look to move him before the deadline.

Brady Fredericksen: I think you have to play it out and see how the season progresses. Say Drummond and Blake Griffin are even better than last year. Say Griffin, Derrick Rose and Reggie Jackson stay healthy. If you’re legitimately in the hunt for a top three or four seed, play it out. But if injuries ravage this team, which is definitely possible, and you’re sitting in 9th or 10th place come February, you have to consider moving Drummond. He really does feel like a potential #FutureLaker.

Justin Lambregtse: I would probably be looking to trade him, but you are also still trying to win, so you can’t risk losing him for a bad package. Losing Andre Drummond would be a big blow, but it will also create financial flexibility which you could use to try to upgrade the roster around Blake Griffin, so it isn’t the end of the world.

Joe Sinke: Depends heavily on where they think Andre is leaning. If they have good reason to believe he wants out then they have to explore trading him. If they have good reason to believe he really wants to stay, they should get that worked out as soon as they can.

If it’s a mystery, I’d say ride it out, keep your ears to the ground for a trade, and whatever happens, happens. Don’t sell low on him, the worst-case scenario is he bolts, which would combine with Reggie Jackson and Langston Galloway coming off the books to get some actual cap space to either replace him or just start the tank. If a great trade deal comes up then go for it, but go ahead and be cautious.

3. What is your view of the current trend of player power in the NBA?

Lazarus Jackson: I think it’s good for the players. I think what’s good for the players is good for the league. I think the league understands that (which immediately puts them ahead of the MLB and NFL), but has to do a better job of pitching that to the fans who prioritize their team’s success (and the fans’ perception of the routes the team has to meaningfully alter the level of their success) over the long-term viability of the league.

Personally, I think working harder to acknowledge regular season success is the way to do that - creating more “winners.” Where’s the NBA version of the President’s Trophy (regular-season winner) and the Hart Memorial Trophy (regular-season MVP)? Where’s the system where the higher regular-season seed gets to select their playoff opponent? Those are tweaks the league could make that I think the fans (more trophies!) and players (more contract incentives!) would enjoy.

Ben Gulker: Our expectations of players and how they negotiate their own employment is inconsistent with our expectations of ourselves. We hold players to absurd standards that we would never consider applying in our decisions about our own employment. I don’t care for the drama and hype that surrounds these decisions going all the way back to The Decision. But I am in favor of players being in control of their own employment destinies.

Steve Hinson: I’m all in favor of it and I’d like to see even more player control over their own lives/employment. I love the idea of getting rid of the draft and replacing it with rookie free agency, like Tom Ziller described.

Ryan Pravato: If the players have a bit more power, then so be it. It’s a players’ league. They ARE the league. People come to see the PLAYERS PLAY. Let the players call a lot of the shots. There are already too many games (and I’m sure most of the players agree on this), maybe enough players can lead a movement to decrease the number of games. We know Silver and Co. are already thinking about this. No other professional hoops league plays more than 60-some games in a season, I believe. Why play 80-freakin-2. The product suffers. People get bored. The NBA understands what’s happening to the MLB, right? Too many games -- or rather, too many meaningless games. People’s attention spans are shrinking.

Ku Khahil: I think it’s obviously great for the players. Probably not as cool for front offices and ownership, but it is what it is.

I think it’s also obviously great for us writers and those covering the sport. Drama makes this whole thing fun and gives us so much more to talk about, so yeah, #GoPlayers.

Martin Mansour: I think it’s great that a player can have power in the NBA. It’s a players league! It sucks for the front office and fans who fall deeply in love with some of those players. But at the end of the day, those players have feelings too. And I’m glad more and more players are speaking how they feel.

David Fernandez: I’m all for it. These guys are the literal product that allows these already-billionaires to have 1-3 billion dollar evaluations of their team’s worth. I’d like for the league to figure out what will allow smaller market teams to compete in free agency, but, sadly, there might not be an answer.

Brady Fredericksen: I’m never going to feel bad about billionaire owners losing their star players, but it does feel a bit weird to see guys basically picking their spots these days. I miss the days when it seemed like every team had one star, and the teams with two (Kobe and Shaq, MJ and Scottie, Malone and Stockton, Duncan and Robinson) were the true contenders. But, alas, the NBA has changed and the reality is that the players — the reason we tune in, after all — finally have the power. I think it’s hard to say that’s not deserved or that it’s a bad thing.

Justin Lambregtse: I have no issues with it. I’ve always been somebody who is pro-player and I am all for them using what they have at their disposal to try and get what they want. It’s also easier to say this as a fan of a team who has never really had a “superstar” since I started rooting for them.

Joe Sinke: I’m all for players having power over their own situations, but there is no denying that the absurd power-plays of forcing trades by refusing to play (think Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving) is not a good thing for the league. Players sign contracts result in them getting paid whether they play or not. So if they want a trade that’s fine but essentially holding an entire team hostage because you want to play on one of the coasts is just a bad look for the player and the league. On the other hand, there’s really nothing that can be done about it that wouldn’t screw over the players, just wish that it didn’t happen.

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So that’s where our heads are at, what about yours? Copy/paste and play along in the comments as usual.

1. What was your reaction to Andre’s comments about potentially opting out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent next summer?

2. If you were Ed Stefanski what would your plan be for this potential outcome?

3. What is your view of the current trend of player power in the NBA?