The Detroit Pistons are dumping Andre Drummond on the Cleveland Cavaliers for peanuts. Here are NBA Trade Grades for both sides.
The Detroit Pistons are blowing it up, and at this point, they’re literally taking whatever they can get in order to do so.
In one of the most surprising trades of the day, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Pistons were moving Andre Drummond to the Cleveland Cavaliers — an unexpected landing spot, to be sure, but the biggest shock came from the return.
According to The Ringer‘s Kevin O’Connor, the Cavs are sending back Brandon Knight, John Henson, a second-round pick … and that’s it. Wojnarowski reports that pick will be the lesser of the Golden State Warriors or Cavs second-round pick in 2023.
This is a stunning return for an All-Star caliber center and the Pistons’ best player this season, but there’s a lot more that goes into this deal than that. In order to sort it out, here are NBA Trade Grades for both sides.
Make no mistake about it: This is a pitiful return for Detroit. Drummond is averaging a career-high 17.8 points, 15.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.7 blocks per game this season, has established himself as one of the game’s all-time great rebounders and is still only 26 years old. This kind of return for a former top-10 pick is brutal, especially since he was the Pistons’ best player this year.
With that said, centers — especially centers with notable flaws on the defensive end, at the free-throw line and in the floor-spacing department — are not at a premium right now. With Drummond’s $28.8 million player option looming this summer, Detroit opted for a much-needed rebuild, biting the bullet on Drummond and getting literally whatever it could for its starting center.
In the end, this is the unfortunate truth about Andre Drummond: He’s a very good player, but a notably flawed one, and certainly not one who can make a team competitive as long as he’s “the guy.” At least now Detroit can continue to invest in Christian Wood‘s growth and move forward unencumbered.
In this exchange, the Pistons get to press “Start” on a full-scale roster teardown with two expiring deals in Brandon Knight ($15.6 million) and John Henson ($9.7 million). Detroit has never been a prime free agency destination, but every little bit will help, especially without having to lose Drummond for nothing or even worse, having him on the books for another $29 million. The Pistons now have about $35 million in cap space to work with.
It’s too far away to project how valuable that second-round pick will become, but cap relief and a second-rounder is at least something. It’s not much, but it’s something. Now we’ll see what the Pistons are able to do as they begin the long and arduous process of starting over from scratch.
The Cleveland Cavaliers still had Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, Larry Nance Jr. and Ante Zizic on the roster at the time of this trade, and what’s more, one of the top prospects in the 2020 NBA Draft, James Wiseman, is also a center.
And yet, for such a low cost, it’s hard to avoid the “why the hell not?” sentiment for this kind of trial run.
The Cavs essentially have three months to evaluate Drummond and his fit with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland (spoiler alert: there will be major problems on the defensive end). If it somehow works out, they can re-sign him and address their long-term hole at starting center. If not, well, at least they gave up peanuts for this three-month test drive.
One potential complication would be the scenario where Drummond opts into his $28.8 player option while the Cavs would prefer the cap space, but if the two sides aren’t a great fit, it feels more likely he’d rather skip town and search for a longer deal elsewhere rather than stick out another year on a rebuilding team even worse than the one he came from.
Knight and Henson were largely unused expiring deals. Drummond is a very good player and a monster on the boards, so assuming the Cavs can move Thompson and/or Love, he’s worth a look. There’s a risk he clogs up the frontcourt and the cap sheet beyond this season, but considering the cost, it’s had to fault Cleveland for putting out feelers.
Now comes the hard part: gauging Drummond’s true value and figuring out what kind of team he needs to be on in order to find success in the NBA. That will determine the efficacy of this trade for Cleveland more than the minimal return it had to surrender.