The Detroit Pistons’ Andre Drummond era came to a depressing end Thursday.
The Pistons traded the two-time All-Star to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Brandon Knight, John Henson, and the less favorable of Cleveland or Golden State’s 2023 second-round picks. In other words, they dumped a two-time All-Star center for a pair of expiring contracts and a second-rounder.
Drummond was, um, not thrilled.
The writing had been on the wall regarding Drummond’s future for weeks.
In early January, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Pistons and Atlanta Hawks had “been engaged in talks on a trade centered” on Drummond. The Hawks then pulled back on those talks in mid-January, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.
Atlanta instead acquired Houston Rockets center Clint Capela in a four-team megadeal Tuesday.
By trading Drummond, the Pistons waved the white flag on this season. They’re effectively signaling that they’re ready to enter a ground-up rebuild. But they squandered one of their few assets by flipping Drummond for such a middling return.
Andre Drummond had long been a fixture of trade rumors. In March 2019, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reported he could have been “had for the right price over the last few years.”
Team owner Tom Gores all but put a “For Sale” sign over his head in January.
“We have to look at everything, because we’re not winning,” he told reporters . “If we’re not winning, you have to assess everything.”
Drummond’s upcoming contract decision didn’t help his trade value, either.
In September, he hinted to reporters that he would decline his $28.8 million player option in 2020-21 to become an unrestricted free agent. But salary-cap space is rapidly drying up throughout the league. The Pistons were justifiably concerned that he might opt-in this summer, per James Edwards III of The Athletic.
Financial uncertainty wasn’t the only thing looming over Drummond, though.
According to Edwards, some teams “heavily questioned whether or not his play equates to winning.”
Drummond is averaging a career-high 17.8 points and a league-high 15.8 rebounds per game this year. He’s led the NBA in rebounding in three of the previous four seasons, too.
Yet the Pistons are only 19-34 and have won exactly zero playoff games with him in the fold.
No one should blame them for wanting to move on from Drummond. But they sold him at his absolute lowest.
The Pistons can sell this trade as a reboot, but they won’t dig themselves out of this mess anytime soon.
Blake Griffin, who underwent likely season-ending knee surgery in January, is under contract for $36.8 million in 2020-21. He has a nearly $39 million player option in 2021-22 that he’s almost certain to pick up.
Beyond Griffin, the Pistons don’t have any horrendous contracts. Knight, Henson, Reggie Jackson, and Langston Galloway all expire this summer. Tony Snell will pick up his $12.2 million player option in 2020-21 and then become a free agent in 2021.
But the Pistons lack young franchise centerpieces to build around.
Luke Kennard is averaging a career-high 15.8 points per game this season, but the Pistons were shopping him ahead of the deadline, per Wojnarowski.
Rookie forward Sekou Doumbouya has shown promise, but he’s still somewhat raw.
Christian Wood has been a pleasant surprise, but he’s a free agent this summer. Will Detroit pony up?
The Drummond trade kicked off the beginning of a yearslong rebuild for the Pistons. But until they get their version of Zion Williamson or Ja Morant, they’ll be stuck in lottery purgatory.