The Cleveland Cavaliers weren’t able to find a trade for Andre Drummond at the deadline on Thursday, and as a result decided to buy him out. That move became official on Friday, meaning that he will clear waivers in the next 48 hours and enter free agency as long as no team claims his $28.7 million contract.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, it doesn’t sound like that’s happening.
But Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported on Friday — before Drummond’s buyout was even agreed to — that the recruiting from Lakers players had already begun (h/t @pickuphoop):
“They’re really focused on Andre Drummond right now. I know the Laker players have been trying to recruit him to L.A. Certainly there is an opportunity for him to step right in and become the starting center there. That Lakers team has missed the rim protection and how hard it was to get to the basket and get in the paint with Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee. It’s been a lot easier this year with Gasol and Montrezl Harrell, and so Drummond gives them that dimension.”
I already got into the larger picture of what Drummond would bring to the Lakers yesterday — mainly his historically good rebounding and being large — so I won’t rehash that too much. But Woj’s analysis is worth including because he is as informed as insiders come, so if he is saying this, it’s likely coming out of conversations he’s had with people who are aware of what the Lakers are looking for. So while you or I can point out that Drummond’s rim protection isn’t as great as his reputation would suggest, the Lakers appear to see things differently.
And from all the whispers and reports from insiders, it certainly does seem as though the Lakers are offering Drummond the starting center job. In that case, it’s worth noting that the numbers don’t actually say that Drummond is some massive improvement over Gasol defensively, so we should be prepared for that.
Within six feet of the rim, Drummond has allowed opponents to shoot 55.1% this season, which is 7.9% below their average, according to NBA.com. In the same area, Gasol has held opponents to 56.6% shooting, 4.8% lower than their average. Meanwhile, Gasol has allowed slightly fewer attempts (5.4) in that range than Drummond has (6.1). There is obviously larger team context that those individual numbers can’t account for — mainly that the Lakers are clearly a way better defensive team than the Cavaliers — but Gasol has been a part of that defense, and there is reason to believe that Drummond is not some massive improvement there.
Still, the Lakers might be able to get more out of Drummond than the Cavaliers have, and between their shopping of Montrezl Harrell, reported disappointment in Gasol’s play and their signing of Damian Jones to two 10-day contracts to see what an athletic center would look like with this roster, it’s pretty clear the Lakers want to at least have a different look they can go to at center. Whether Drummond is the answer or not, with two roster spots open, he’s at least worth a flyer as this team looks to load up for their playoff run.