Welcome to our annual Lakers season in review series, where we’ll be taking a look back at every player on the team’s roster this season, evaluating their play, and deciding if they should be a part of the organization’s future. Today, we take a closer look at Andre Drummond.
How did he play?
Well, that’s a loaded question.
Andre Drummond's midseason arrival in Los Angeles after getting a buyout from the Cavaliers created so much buzz and drama that it sparked calls for the league to change its rules on the matter. That buzz created expectations and an environment that, barring a return to his prime form, amounted to a no-win situation for Drummond.
Certainly, no favors were done with reports of a promised starting spot, and the ire of fans only grew larger the more Marc Gasol found himself benched. By season’s end, Drummond served as a lightning rod for the criticisms and frustrations for how the season ended.
In reality, Drummond was a rotation player that had moments where he did resemble something like his best self. But it was everything he wasn’t that that fans often focused on.
What he did bring to the table was about what you’d expect. As a Laker, he had a 23.1% rebounding rate, which means that when Drummond was on the floor, roughly one out of every four rebounds were his. The only players who ranked above Drummond from the time he joined the Lakers in rebounding rate (not including the playoffs) were Dwight Howard, Clint Capela, Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert.
When Drummond was on the floor for the Lakers, they were 4.8 points better per 100 possessions than they were when he sat on the bench. In that span, only Marc Gasol and Markieff Morris had higher figures.
Therein, though, lies the conundrum with Drummond. For much of the season, the Lakers were swapping out big men. Drummond was brought in because of lengthy absences from Anthony Davis with Achilles tendinosis and Marc Gasol with COVID. With both out or limited, Drummond’s role was rather clear. When both returned, however, the Lakers had an abundance of talented bigs, and only 48 minutes to play them. Last season, JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard were benched, the Lakers won and it was all chalked up to necessary sacrifices to win a title.
This season, a title didn’t come, which means second-guessing and finger-pointing. Drummond, the midseason acquisition that came with such fanfare, was the easiest target. He wasn’t an innocent bystander by any means, as his defensive shortcomings limited what the Lakers could do effectively on that end of the court. Whereas the aforementioned McGee and Howard could be rim protectors, Drummond could not, and struggled at times in the Lakers' schemes.
He also was an old-school player offensively, unable to stretch the floor either horizontally to the 3-point line or vertically as a lob threat. When Davis was healthy, that often forced him out of the paint and clogged the driving lanes for the Lakers.
Still, Drummond played 24 minutes in the Lakers Game 2 win over Phoenix in the first round, and 20 minutes in the Game 3 win, combining for 21 points and 23 rebounds in those two victories. But in the same vein, when the chips were on the table and the Lakers were in a win-or-go-home situation, just like Montrezl Harrell, Drummond was strapped to the bench.
It’s hard to draw a sweeping conclusion, then, of Drummond’s time in Los Angeles. Ultimately, he was a role player who had good games and bad. But when you come with the expectations and promises that Drummond did, simply being “one of the guys” was not enough to satisfy everyone.
What is his contract situation moving forward?
Drummond signed for just the remainder of the regular season when he joined the Lakers. He will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and his market will be interesting. He certainly will be valued by teams, but it also certainly won’t be anything remotely close to his last contract.
In an era where big men are interchangeable and seemingly a dime a dozen, it’s hard to imagine the market for Drummond being much more than a veteran’s minimum.
Should he be back?
It was quite interesting the degree to which Frank Vogel spoke about a desire to keep Drummond long-term during the season. It was also quite interesting that Drummond has taken to social media during the offseason to criticize Vogel and what he felt were a lack of minutes he received. Even if he later claimed that criticism was just to draw attention for his NFT — yes, seriously, he actually said that — that doesn’t exactly scream “I’m ready to come back.”
Even if Drummond played the role of good sport during the year and much of the criticism surrounding him was out of his control, it seems like a split makes the most sense for both sides. Fair or foul, Drummond will represent a Lakers season that went awry to many fans, and that will be a hard stigma to lose.
The Lakers frontcourt also needs de-cluttering and the Lakers already appear to have acknowledged the need for Davis and LeBron James to play the center and power forward positions, respectively, more often. Drummond, maybe more than any other big man in that frontcourt, is expendable. It feels likely the two sides wash their hands clean of the situation and move on.