In an interview in the summer of 2019, Andre Drummond dropped a bit of a bombshell by stating that he was looking forward to being a free agent. Dre has a player option on the final year of his current contract (2020-21) and was making it known he planned to turn it down and become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.
“Yeah, it should be fun. I’m excited. I think I’m the only one that has a big contract coming up for that year.”
It was done in a harmless and playful way in a seemingly meaningless interview but it has lead to a very awkward position for himself and the Pistons organization. By announcing to the world that he was looking at his options he in effect showed his cards, and the hand he had is not exactly turning out to be the sure fire winner he thought it was.
It’s unfortunate on many levels because now he finds himself in a fairly no-win situation. The Pistons are actively trying to trade him based on his stated desire to opt out but there seem, for now, to be no takers. Or at least takers that want to do anything more than trading one expiring contract (Drummond’s) for another, be it Chandler Parsons or any number of bloated contracts around the league.
This is not the world Andre had in mind when he stated his desire to opt out. The world he saw based on his opt out comments was a world that would be clamoring for his services in the summer of 2020, a relatively down year for free agents before the summer of 2021 when players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard could hit the open market. But from the lack of apparent interest now that he is very openly on the market it seems he may have gotten things wrong.
“I enjoy adding things to my game. This year I’ve added a three point shot to my game. I’m able to bring the ball up the floor for my team as well which takes a lot of pressure off our guards.”
Part of this is of course the death of the traditional big man. The age of the unicorn is at its zenith. Gone are the days of the bruising hulk down low. In its place are the floor stretching, ball handling bigs like Karl Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, and most recently Giannis. Andre is not a unicorn. Watch him attempt threes, bring the ball up the court or try to dribble drive by his defender and it’s more than apparent. This is not his game. But unfortunately that is the game that is expected from the superstar level he aspires to.
One other current casualty of this unicorn era is Rudy Gobert, who despite being a two time Defensive Player of the Year wasn’t even named to the All Star team last year and may not be again this year.
“The evolution of the game has changed but I’m doing a really good job of changing as well.”
Looking back now at the Stan Van Gundy era it is ironic that SVG was hired to run a team that featured in many ways a beefier version of the player who was the first of the non-unicorn type trying to shoehorn himself into the mold of a new superstar center: Dwight Howard. Dwight suffered a very similar reality in trying to be more than he was built to be in order to reach superstar status. He started demanding the ball in the post when he clearly lacked the touch inside. It wasn’t, as in the case of Drummond, totally his fault. In order to fit the superstar mold he had to have an offensive game that was more than dunks and put backs. But he couldn’t be that guy because he wasn’t that guy.
There is no question that Andre Drummond is a fantastic NBA player. He is the greatest rebounder of his generation and may well go down as one of the the greatest of all time. But he is finding himself to not be seen as a max player, a superstar, and that must be a tough pill to swallow. He is however still young and it seems in his best interest to accept his limitations and be the best at what his is elite at.
Otherwise he may find himself on the carousel of self discovery his antecedent Dwight had to ride until he finally came to grips with himself as a player, a player who wasted his prime years trying to be something he wasn’t.