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Andre Drummond, Lakers

Is Andre Drummond the best buyout pickup ever? That and 4 other reactions to the Lakers big move

As expected, Andre Drummond is signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, ending weeks-long speculation about the center joining the LakeShow ahead of their repeat run.

Here are five instant reactions to the signing with the Lakers, and what he brings the depleted defending champions.

1) Is Drummond the best buyout candidate ever?

We can’t project the future at ClutchPoints (yet), and it’s possible that Drummond won’t move the needle all that much with the Lakers. After all, rarely has an addition truly affected the title chase

Based on past performance and current form, though, it’s hard to argue that the 27-year old isn’t the best player to hit the buyout market in the decade-long history of the tradition.

LeBron James, now with the Lakers, has seen both sides of the coin.

In 2008, 38-year old P.J. Brown famously came out of retirement to join the Boston Celtics and hit the dagger in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Cavaliers. Boston went on to raise their 17th banner.

In 2011, the Miami Heat picked up Mike Bibby for their postseason push, who Erik Spoesltra kept in the starting lineup despite his historically-low PER. The Dallas Mavericks beat the Heat in the Finals. In 2013, Chris Andersen became a valuable rotation big in Miami’s championship run.

Drummond is different as he begins his Lakers career: a relatively young two-time All-Star without any career-altering injury in his recent past.

He hasn’t played since Feb. 12, but his top-line numbers this season don’t indicate a drop-off in skills: 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 1.2 blocks per game.

There are drawbacks, though, and he’s probably become a bit overrated by the buyout buzz. He was available for the Lakers for a reason.

Drummond has been one of the least efficient players in the paint on both ends, and his free-throw shooting is a hindrance His rebounding totals can be more impactful on the box score than the action. The Lakers are hoping that changes when he’s thrust into a winning culture. He’ll have to tighten the screws on defense to get playing time for Frank Vogel.

Regardless, the fact that a player of Drummond’s caliber and age was available on the buyout market for the Lakers is emblematic of how the times, they are a-changin’.

For about a decade, buyouts were usually washed late-30s guys (Derek Fisher, Michael Finley, Stephon Marbury) with name recognition and playoff experience that contenders hoped could provide marginal and clutch contributions. Now, far better players are hitting the market closer to their prime, with the intention of serving key playoff roles. In the last calendar year alone, we’ve seen the Morris twins, Enes Kanter, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, and Drummond engineer buyouts, to name a few. These are real guys.

Increasingly, players unhappy in their situations can jump ship to a contender such as the Lakers. Or, in Al Horford’s case, they can just go away. Advanced metrics aside, we’ve never seen a player in Drummond’s situation make the move. He won’t be the last.

2) He has something to prove with the Lakers

Drummond turned down real money to wear the purple-and-gold. The Lakers are financially constrained by their proximity to the hard cap and other suitors had more cash to offer the center for a few months of work.

But the Lakers could offer something more substantial in the present and lucrative in the future: the chance to start on a contender with his next contract looming.

Drummond signed for the amount he gave back to the Cavs in the agreement buying out the remaining money on his $27.9 million salary for 2020-21 — less than $800,000. He’s betting that will pay (millions of) dividends later on. That should be enough motivation to deliver.

His willingness to play on a bargain allows the Lakers to squeeze in one more signing to fill their final roster spot and remain under the hard-cap threshold.

The Lakers have $137.53 million committed in total salary, putting them roughly $1.39 under the hard cap. L.A. is expected to give that money, ideally, to a 3-and-D.

3) The stars want him

James and Anthony Davis, in their positions on the Lakers, actively recruited Drummond, who also met with the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, and Los Angeles Clippers.

Drummond’s ugly shot selection and unflattering metrics have, partially, been a consequence of his outsized role for talent-bereft squads. Drummond was often the focal point in inconsequential games, resulting in too many inopportune forces and post-ups.

That won’t be his role with the Lakers, and one has to believe Davis and James made that abundantly clear in their sales pitch. Drummond can maximize his minutes simply by bringing two-way energy and owning the paint, a la Dwight Howard in 2019-20. He surely understood that when signed the dotted line.

Now, somebody get LeBron and AD some coffee.

4) He fills basic needs for the Lakers

The Lakers have been in the market for front-court depth since February, and probably earlier. Drummond’s name was being mentioned before Davis re-aggravated his calf on Valentine’s Day, while The Athletic’s Sam Amick reported that the organization may not be satisfied with Marc Gasol’s performance.

The Lakers haven’t had somebody with his combination of power, swiftness, and size, and they’ve lacked a jumpy rim protector/lob threat type since losing Howard and JaVale McGee. Gasol’s advanced metrics and the team’s rim-defense numbers don’t show a noticeable dip in those areas from last season, but the eye test does.

The Lakers acknowledged that flaw by signing Damian Jones for two 10-day contracts. The 25-year old filled in admirably, and added a “dynamic verticality,” as Vogel said. Over eight games, including six starts, the lanky center made 16-of-17 field goals and opened up perimeter looks with his hard rolls and lob catching, especially early in games.

Drummond is more grounded than Jones but bouncier than Gasol, and much larger than the 6’8 Montrezl Harrell. His size and uptick in effort should be enough to adequately protect the rim against regular-season competition and second-units in the playoffs, when Davis will side to the five for the Lakers.

On the other side of the ball, Drummond will have to prove his pick-and-roll chops with James and Dennis Schröder, as Harrell has. At his best, Drummond can be a dangerous diver.

He’s no Gasol on the passing front, and the Lakers won’t use him as an offensive fulcrum like they do with Gasol. But he’s shown a low-key knack for dishing during his best Detroit Pistons years, and playing around James usually improves everybody’s play-making and headiness. Let’s see if Drummond can hit some backdoor cuts and kick-outs to three.

The Lakers are a solid rebounding group, but could always use the boost, especially without Davis. The Lakers need easy buckets while the stars are out, and they’re at their best when they turn boards into transition opportunities. In general, the Lakers need as many proven bucket-getters as possible for the time being.

5) Tough for Marc Gasol

Everyone roots for Gasol, so it’s tough to see him lose his starting role. (Beyond basketball, Gasol recently overcame a debilitating bout with COVID-19.)

Now, it’s valid to question how many minutes the Big Spaniard will see going forward with the Lakers. The 36-year old will split backup duties with Harrell for the rest of the regular season, depending on the matchup. When the playoffs rotation tighten, it’s easy to envision Drummond getting the bulk of back-up center minutes. How Vogel massages his big rotation of proud vets will be a fascinating juggling act.

On the plus side, they have plenty of dependable options should the Drummond fit prove problematic.

All things considered, Drummond represents an energizing infusion of talent entering the homestretch for the Lakers. For now, we don’t need to overanalyze it any more than that.