Just under a year ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers acquired veteran center Andre Drummond from the Detroit Pistons. That deal sent away two players who weren’t in the Cavaliers’ plans and brought in a high-salaried player the rebuilding Pistons were looking to move.
Drummond returned this season with the Cavs on a player option, but with his contract now expiring at the end of this season, he’s not likely to be with the Cavaliers beyond the 2020-21 campaign.
The Cavs now need to make a decision on what to do with Drummond. Their three options consisting of either trading him away, buying out his contract or keeping him for a potential playoff bid and then seeing him leave in free agency
None of the options are especially inviting for the Cavaliers, but below are the things to consider regarding each of them.
This option for the Cavaliers will presumably bring little back in return unless the acquiring team can be assured that Drummond will be more than a rental for this season. Some teams could be willing to part with future assets if they feel that bringing in the big man can be the difference in any potential title run.
Another consideration might be trying to find a team that’s looking to reduce payroll after the season to try to make a serious dent when the free-agency period begins.
Yet, the likelihood is that any such deal will see the Cavaliers only ending up with the bad contracts of players who aren’t seen as building blocks for the team’s future.
At best, the Cavaliers would likely receive future draft picks that would either be late second-rounders in the next few years or perhaps a first-rounder deep into the future. In short, neither scenario will end up helping the Cavaliers continue their own laborious move back into contention.
Buying Out Drummond
The premise of this situation is based on the Cavaliers making such a move after they fall out of contention for the postseason.
At present, that’s not something that’s taking place since the Cavaliers are currently tied for the seventh playoff seed in the Eastern Conference with the Charlotte Hornets with a 9-10 record. The Cavs have largely gotten past early-season injuries that put the brakes on a fast 3-0 start, but still face a challenging five-game Western road trip this month.
Drummond has been in the starting lineup for all but one of the Cavaliers’ games this season and has delivered double-double performances in all but three of those contests.
While there’s no guarantee that the Cavaliers will fade as the season goes on, they’ve thus far been the beneficiaries of slow starts by a pair of title contenders in the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors.
Those two teams should eventually get back on track and make a playoff bid by the Cavs a more tenuous proposition. However, simply buying out Drummond sends a demoralizing message to the Cavaliers’ remaining roster.
Helping the Nets or any other team make a championship run in order for the Cavaliers’ front office to save some money makes no sense, which is why this idea should be avoided.
The final option the Cavaliers have is to actually do nothing and let Drummond simply play out the season with the team before he presumably leaves in free agency.
While the Cavaliers haven’t completely ruled out re-signing Drummond, the one reported idea that they’d offer him a multiyear deal which would nearly cut his salary in half has no chance of happening.
After the Cavs acquired Jarrett Allen earlier this month, it became clear that he’s seen as the future at center for the Cavs. He’s currently coming off the bench, but figures to take Drummond’s starting role next season.
The Cavaliers could expedite the 22-year-old Allen’s development by trading Drummond or buying out his contract, but the team needs to get past the futility of consecutive 19-win seasons and make a playoff run.
Reaching the postseason may very well result in a quick exit for the Cavs, but simply getting a taste of that atmosphere is something that this young team and the franchise needs. That won’t happen with Drummond playing elsewhere.
For the first time in three seasons, the stability of the Cavaliers has the team thinking of the playoffs. That premise is based in part on the steady leadership of head coach J.B Bickerstaff, who helped put an end to the coaching musical chairs that had plagued the Cavs.
During the four-year postseason drought that the Cavaliers endured after LeBron James left for the Miami Heat, the team was never a serious contender to even reach the playoffs.
In the post-James sequel currently taking place, the Cavaliers are in a legitimate position to make a bid for the playoffs and need Drummond’s nightly production to make that happen.
While getting nothing in return for Drummond after this season may be the unfortunate reality of his situation, it’s the best of the three options available and should be the path the Cavaliers take for the remainder of the 2020-21 campaign.