Andre Drummond was one of the biggest contributors in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 101-99 overtime victory over the New York Knicks on Tuesday. In 36 minutes of play, Drummond finished with 16 points, a team-high 18 rebounds and three assists, making 6-of-11 shots on the floor while starting alongside All-Star big man Anthony Davis.
The two-time All-Star was a huge reason why the Lakers got multiple chances to score and outrebounded the Knicks, 53-41. Moreover, Drummond outplayed centers Montrezl Harrell and Marc Gasol, two players who are competing for playing time with him. With the victory, the Lakers moved up to 39-30 this season with three games remaining.
With the regular season winding down, the Lakers also need to figure out which of their players will be fixtures in their rotation in the playoffs, when it gets trimmed down as the games start to matter more. The Purple and Gold’s coaching staff will need to make decisions regarding the playing time of their big men, as Davis, Gasol, Harrell, and Drummond can all play as the team’s center in the postseason.
While head coach Frank Vogel called it a “good problem for a coach to have,” the decision that he will make is an important one, especially as the Lakers will likely be in the play-in tournament, where the margin for error is small. Even if he played well against the Knicks, the Lakers should actually consider playing Andre Drummond less, especially as the playoffs approach.
1. He doesn’t have much playoff experience
In Andre Drummond’s first eight seasons in the NBA, the 27-year-old played just a total of eight playoff games, all with the Detroit Pistons, with both series ending in sweeps. Harrell, Gasol, and Davis have all played more minutes in playoff games. There have been calls to have Gasol as the Lakers’ starting center, which was the team’s usual move before acquiring Drummond in April. The move makes sense experience-wise, as Gasol has played a total of 94 playoff games, even winning a championship with the Toronto Raptors.
Harrell, while less experienced, has played 26 postseason games with the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers. He may not be a traditional center, but the Lakers will likely use Davis as their center for huge stretches in the playoffs, giving a small-ball center like the reigning Sixth Man of the Year an opportunity to play more minutes.
2. He has yet to mesh with the team’s other players
Since being acquired by the team in April, the Lakers have a 7-11 record with Andre Drummond, per StatMuse. That number, however, could be misleading since the defending champions have also dealt with injuries to some of their key players like Davis, LeBron James and Dennis Schroder. However, the fact remains that the former Pistons and Cavaliers center will have played just around 20 games for the Lakers before making his playoff debut.
The team’s other centers like Harrell and Gasol, meanwhile, have had more time to establish chemistry with the rest of the players on the team. In fact, among the three big men, Drummond has the lowest net rating, which stands at minus-0.2, compared to Harrell’s plus-1.9 and Gasol’s plus-3.9.
While he does a lot of things well for the Lakers like rebounding and providing energy, the fact remains that among the team’s centers, Drummond has the least playoff experience and has spent the least among of time practicing with his teammates. He may end up proving people wrong come playoff time, but for now, the best course of action is to decrease his minutes (unless he really has it going) and play Gasol and Harrell more as the stakes get higher and they begin an uphill climb toward back-to-back titles.