No player has been more prominent this trade season than Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond. Thanks to a raft of injuries and quickly accumulating losses, in a season where just about every team is still in the playoff hunt, the Detroit Pistons sent signals they were willing to trade their star center.
Weeks on the trade block and with around eight teams allegedly reporting interest according to reputable reporters throughout the NBA, and Andre Drummond might still find himself on the Pistons come Thursday night.
The reason Drummond was on the trade block in the first place is pretty straightforward — the Pistons are a bad team and all reports indicate Drummond serious about declining his massive $28 million player option to become one of the marquee free agents this offseason. The Pistons wanted to get something for their longtime star instead of losing him for nothing.
The reason Drummond might still be on the Pistons after the deadline ends at 3 p.m. Thursday is that Detroit’s definition of something is not something the market agrees with. Reports indicate the Pistons were looking for a good first-round pick in exchange for Drummond.
Atlanta was one team that almost traded for Drummond before switching gears and eventually landing Clint Capela. They were reportedly scared off by indications from Drummond’s camp what it would take to re-sign him this offseason.
Weighing the uncertainty of a pending free agent like Drummond against the certainty of a center on a long-term contract like Capela made the choice easy for Atlanta. Teams that could lose Drummond for nothing, like Detroit is poised to do, just aren’t going to give up much for Drummond. Maybe a flyer on a player, maybe a high second-round pick. But not much more than that.
That’s just not good enough for the Pistons front office. And it’s a shame, because Detroit should take any offer of an asset for Drummond.
That uncertainty that is driving other teams away should be the same thing driving Detroit’s motivation to get a deal done. No, the assets might not be too valuable but a Drummond trade now provides one extremely valuable thing for the Pistons — certainty.
Trading Drummond for “nothing” provides Detroit a direction — a path forward that will help clarify their rebuilding strategy and allow them to maximize their options and flexibility going forward.
If Drummond is traded, the Pistons know for a fact that his $28.7 million salary will not be on their books next season. That means they will know they are entering free agency with roughly $75 million in committed salary (assuming a mid-lottery pick and the unlikely scenario where Markieff Morris picks up his player option). The salary cap next season is projected at $115 million. That would leave the Pistons with roughly $40 million with an offseason shopping list that consists of re-signing Christian Wood, taking a flyer on any young players and preserving as much cap space as possible to facilitate trades in exchange for picks and other assets.
If Drummond isn’t trade then maybe true to his word he opts out of his deal and the Pistons lose him for nothing. But what if Drummond’s representatives take a look at the NBA landscape and determine there is no team out there willing to give their client his big payday? Suddenly, that $28.7 million play option looks awfully enticing.
Drummond picking up his option and returning to Detroit for one more lame duck season is a version of the status quo the Pistons just can’t afford.
If Drummond picks up his player option then suddenly the team has roughly $11.3 million to work with. Now, re-signing Christian Wood is far from guaranteed. Even if they commit to minimum salary players to replace Reggie Jackson, Langston Galloway and Thon Maker, it’s not long before you’ve chipped away at that $11.3 million and suddenly can’t offer Wood more than team’s armed with the mid-level exception.
Losing a 24-year-old prospect like Wood and instead having 27-year-old Andre Drummond with no discernible future on franchise is simply not an option the Pistons can entertain.
Instead of looking at a Drummond trade for a measly second-round pick as nothing, the Pistons need to look at it as affording them the opportunity to be in the driver’s seat as Wood enters free agency.
Wood might not be a foundational piece, but he’s a young-ish, multi-skilled, athletic big man who can knock down 3s and block shots. The exact kind of player Detroit needs to target and develop.
Far from nothing, a Drummond trade would also pile a few more losses onto this already miserable season. That could be the difference from having the 12th worst record in the NBA and the fifth worst record in the NBA.
With the flattened lottery odds, it might not be a race to the bottom of the standings as it once was, but coming into next season with a player like Killian Hayes seems to have a lot more promise than coming in with Nico Mannion.
Finally, can I just say emphatically, that I have no personal interest in a zombie Andre Drummond season. The team deserves better than that, the fans deserve better than that and Drummond deserves better than that.
Everyone just going through the motions while the franchise looks to unload Drummond all over again and Dre plays out the string of his deal serves nobody’s interests except for maybe Drummond’s bank account.
And, to be clear, I will never begrudge any player their opportunity to make the most money possible. Drummond earned that paycheck the moment Detroit offered it to him. But let’s trade Drummond and put him on an actual winner and see how the narrative around him changes. Or just let him find what might be his next long-term home as soon as possible.
I also don’t entertain the notion that the Pistons should be interested in re-signing Drummond if the price is right. I like Drummond more than some, but even if his asking price goes way down, what good does it do the Pistons to have a good center for their ages 27-30 seasons? By the time the Pistons are good again Drummond will be gone or washed up.
And never assume that “any player is tradeable” or else Drummond would have already been gone by now. Heck, just ask the Cavs how that philosophy seems to be working out with Kevin Love.
Far from being a deal for nothing, trading Drummond now likely helps Drummond, helps the Pistons and allows everyone involved to turn the page to the next chapter. For the Pistons that is a significant rebuild, and the path through that rebuild becomes much clearer without the specter of a returning Drummond hanging over their heads.
So do it. Do it for a mediocre player. Do it for a second-round pick. Do it for someone who you immediately plan to release, I don’t care. Just trade Drummond and provide this franchise the clarity it so desperately needs.