The Los Angeles Lakers finally came out on top in the Andre Drummond sweepstakes on Sunday, signing the former Cleveland Cavaliers big man on a minimum deal for the rest of the season. Drummond, arguably the biggest name of the buyout market, is expected to join the team soon and his Lakers coaches and teammates are already excited to see the center get on the court.
Frank Vogel said he was “thrilled” to get the opportunity to coach Drummond, specifying his value as a screener, roller, and offensive rebounder as what the team is hoping to get from him. That’s effectively the role that Drummond will have, though his finishing at the rim this season (just 54.5% from zero to three feet) leaves something to be desired.
Still, the players seem to be excited to have Drummond in that role as well. Dennis Schröder cited his ability to put pressure on the rim. Kyle Kuzma talked about his rebounding ability (“I got somebody to battle with on the boards”) and the Lakers being able to overpower opponents on the offensive glass between the two of them as well as Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Montrezl Harrell spoke about Drummond’s presumed hunger to get on the court after not playing since February 12th, saying “we’re going to welcome him with open arms.”
Andre Drummond will be competing with Harrell and Marc Gasol for minutes in the frontcourt behind Davis. That’s not to mention the likes of Kuzma, Markieff Morris (his former teammate in Detroit) and LeBron who can all slide down and play minutes there if needed.
Drummond’s impact can’t immediately be known. He should easily be able to contribute with his rebounding — the Lakers only secured eight offensive rebounds on Sunday despite missing 48 shot attempts — and his underrated passing acumen could be useful for a team with adept backcutters like Schröder and Alex Caruso. (I would recommend this film breakdown of Drummond from Nekias Duncan of Basketball News that accurately portrays his strengths and weaknesses).
Beyond that, whether Drummond can contribute defensively or with his finishing at the rim depends strongly on how he fits alongside the team’s two stars. While those are concerning limitations, it has to be noted that situations matter. As we saw last year, the Lakers got the very best of JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard throughout the season and Vogel was not afraid to bench them when their limitations could be exposed in the postseason. Additionally, just the motivation of joining a team with championship aspirations (as well as that of seeking a long-term contract in the summer) could be enough to get more out of the big man. We have seen that play out elsewhere in the league this season with the likes of Nicolas Batum on the Clippers and former Drummond teammate Blake Griffin in Brooklyn.
That’s not to say that it’s a guarantee that Andre Drummond will be the missing key to another championship puzzle. He is very clearly a flawed and limited, albeit talented and productive player. But the Lakers may be the perfect situation to get the most out of him and his teammates and coaches already seen up to the challenge.