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Why Andre Drummond is a no-brainer for the Lakers

Andre Drummond, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Lakers

On Monday, The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported that should the Cleveland Cavaliers reach a buyout agreement with Andre Drummond, the center will give the prospect of signing with the Los Angeles Lakersstrong consideration.”

This is good news for the Lakers, and it should rattle — or gently shake — every other contender.

Drummond last played on February 12th. Since then, the Cavs have held him out as they explore a trade (the organization’s preferred exit strategy) or a buyout.

Drummond’s ex-employer, the Detroit Pistons, took the same route with their former big, Blake Griffin, who left $13 million on the table to join the Brooklyn Nets (the Lakers reportedly had interest in Griffin).

Last week, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported that Cleveland’s ability to find a trade partner was in doubt and the Nets and Lakers were the favorites to land him via a buyout. With the Nets off the board now, the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, and Los Angeles Clippers could also be vying for Drummond.

Drummond’s talent holds value, but his $28.8 million salary for 2020-21 is difficult to match in a trade. If he’s willing to eat some cash, Drummond could follow Griffin’s lead and hit the open market via a buyout.

Lakers Need To Repeat

The Lakers (24-13) hit the All-Star break with three legitimate needs.

First and foremost: they need Anthony Davis to fully recover from his calf strain (assuming that’s all it is).

Roster-wise, the Lakers could use a 3-point shooter to bolster the team’s shaky three-point shooting and represent a general wing upgrade over Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Wesley Matthews. P.J. Tucker (for the right price) or Trevor Ariza could be logical fits.

Furthermore, the Lakers would strongly benefit from a quality backup big, especially until Davis is back to full strength. The team knows this, considering the recent 10-day signing of journeyman Damian Jones.

Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell have not provided the rim protection that Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee did last season. Gasol’s positioning and IQ remain elite and his offensive contributions render him a worthy if underwhelming, starter.

And, while head coach Frank Vogel can claim to have all the faith in the world in Harrell’s defense, he’s tellingly kept him on the bench against both big and small lineups.

What Drummond Brings To The Table

Detractors will say Drummond’s game is out of style. After all, he’s a slowish, traditional center who can’t shoot threes or free throws. On the other hand, the two-time All-Star is still an undeniably productive player.

In 25 games before being controversially exiled, Drummond averaged 17.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, and 1.6 steals per game. In the past, he’s been a more shrewd passer than folks may realize — a trait the Lakers deeply value. Plus, he brings instant credibility to the locker room as an accomplished vet.

The downside of Drummond’s veteran status is that he could want his paint touches, which typically come via rhythm-breaking, plodding possessions. Smartly attacking the paint is a staple of the Lakers’ offense, but only if it produces high-percentage looks and threes, and they don’t sacrifice pace. Troublingly, Drummond has shot a career-low 47.4 percent from the field this season — well-below his career mark of 54.2 percent.

Drummond has played on just one winning team (2015-16 Detroit Pistons) in his 10-year career. If the 27-year-old is willing to sacrifice touches, embrace a smaller role, and relish rim-running, screening, and paint defense, he could provide a valuable role on a title-winning team, a la Howard and McGee.