Over the next few weeks, we’ll be profiling every player currently on the Sixers’ roster ahead of training camp, which begins on September 28.
Contract status: One year, $2.4 million (veteran minimum cap hit at $1.6 million)
There was a time not that long ago when Drummond was regarded as one of the best big men in the league. The ninth overall pick out of UConn made the All Rookie team in 2012-13 with the Pistons. He’d go on to capture four rebounding titles, make two All-Star appearances and was even an All-NBA selection in 2015-16.
Drummond was traded by Detroit to Cleveland at the 2020 trade deadline in what was essentially a salary dump by the Pistons. Drummond got off to a solid start last season for the Cavs. Through 22 games, he averaged 18.6 points, 14.2 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. The combination of injuries, an ugly 10-game losing streak and the addition of young big man Jarrett Allen as part of the James Harden deal made Drummond expendable.
The Cavs and Drummond came to an agreement that Drummond would sit out while the team looked for a trade partner. With Drummond’s sizable cap hit, there were no takers and he was eventually bought out. From there, Drummond signed with the Lakers. His tenure in L.A. didn’t go as planned. Drummond struggled in the postseason, even getting a DNP in an elimination Game 6 that the Lakers lost to the Suns.
Season outlook: It’s no secret that Drummond’s stock is low after his stint with L.A., which is why the Sixers were able to bring him in on the veteran minimum to be Joel Embiid’s backup. With that said, for a player with Drummond’s resume and skill set, he has the potential to be great value.
While Dwight Howard had his moments last season, the 35-year-old has his limitations — many of which he shares with Drummond. The biggest differences are age, mobility and defensive discipline. While the Sixers still lack a veteran backup stretch five — something that would seem valuable on the slim chance Ben Simmons is still here — there’s a fair argument to make that Drummond does represent an upgrade.
The biggest positive Howard provided on the court was his ability to rebound, especially on the offensive end. You’re not really missing anything there with Drummond. Howard averaged 17.5 rebounds (5.7 offensive) last season. While Drummond’s numbers are a little lower (14.8, 4.5), they’re still elite rebounding numbers.
But Drummond is a bigger positive in most other areas.
While Drummond isn’t exactly someone you feel comfortable switching onto guards, he does offer more versatility in pick-and-roll defense than Howard. Drummond is able to move enough where the Sixers won’t have to play drop coverage every single time. He’s not exactly Embiid defensively, but he is better than Howard in the modern NBA. Drummond is also fairly disruptive for a big, averaging 1.6 steals per 36 minutes in his career.
He’s much better from a discipline standpoint as well. He’s more disciplined positionally and commits almost two less fouls per 36 minutes than Howard. How many Sixers’ possessions ended with a Howard illegal screen last season? Drummond is an effective screener and tends to draw a whistle much less.
And speaking of fouls, we’re at the point where Drummond has proven to be a better free-throw shooter than Howard, albeit only slightly.
The biggest concerns for Drummond are the same concerns you have for Howard — neither are ideal in lineups with Simmons and they both have a propensity to do weird stuff offensively.
Andre Drummond with what may be the most incredible offensive possession of all time pic.twitter.com/SUgpw6lDnq— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) January 8, 2021
The above highlight not withstanding, there’s reason to believe Drummond will also be better than Howard in DHOs, something the Sixers utilize often.
Drummond is a much better player when he’s staying within himself and not a main option offensively. He’s better off getting his points as a roller and off offensive rebounds, something Howard had ample opportunity to do last season.
In his opening media session, Drummond gave the impression that he understands his limitations and his role.
“In life, things change and it’s nothing that is affecting me at all or making me feel any type of way,” Drummond said of his new role as a backup on Aug. 5. “That’s the role that has been given to me and it’s something that I’ve accepted and I’m willing to do if it’s in the best interest of the team. It has to get done.”
So, if Drummond plays his typical defense — luckily he will only have to guard Embiid at practice — and sticks to his role on offense, he should be a nice fit.