There were better situations for Andre Drummond than the Los Angeles Lakers when he signed with them in March. Not only did they already have a productive starting center in Marc Gasol, but they couldn’t offer him as much money as other teams like the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks or Charlotte Hornets, nor could they make him a competitive offer in the summer.
What they did have to offer him was an opportunity to start alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis on a championship-contending team, and according to Marc Stein of The New York Times, they did just that to get his signature:
The Lakers promised Drummond a starting role to secure his commitment in free agency, according to two people familiar with the situation who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
It’s been widely assumed that was the case for months now because of Vogel’s decision to remove Gasol from the starting lineup the day Drummond was available to play, but thanks to the report in Stein’s newsletter, we now have a legitimate reason to believe that they did.
Generally speaking, promising a player a starting job is bad practice because sometimes expectations don’t lineup with reality and that was certainly true in the Lakers’ case with Drummond. However, it’s especially bad practice when you know that 1.) one of your star players is going to spend most of his time at center in the postseason, 2.) you used the full non-taxpayer’s mid-level exception on a center and 3.) your starting center is pretty good already.
That may sound easier to say with the help of hindsight, but those same arguments were being made in March too. Was Drummond the best player available at a position the Lakers viewed as an area of need? Maybe, but “best player available” doesn’t have to mean “starter” — in fact, in the buyout market, it hardly ever does.
Hopefully the Lakers learned their lesson with Drummond and don’t promise starting jobs to non-star players in free agency again this summer.