Rumour has it that the Raptors have got their eyes set on a trade for the Pistons’ Andre Drummond, a true “board man gets paid”-type who could drastically improve the team’s rebounding amongst other things. However, the Raptors would be smart to pass on this deal. The grass is not greener on the other side of this trade.
Drummond is looking forward to a player option for the 2020-21 season and is expected to enter free agency this offseason. The Pistons seem to think the all-star caliber centre is on his way out of Detroit after only making the playoffs twice in 7 years (8 including this year). The franchise may be looking to get something out of the valuable talent so their star player doesn’t exit stage left for nothing. Reports suggest the Raptors are offering Marc Gasol and a 2021 first-round pick for the big man. Not a poor price, considering Gasol is an old, injured player coming towards the end of an expiring contract. And a 2021 first-round pick shouldn’t mean much for the Raptors who are still in contention in the Eastern Conference this season, even with how unkind the injury gods have been.
Drummond this season is averaging nearly 18 points per game to go along with a league-leading 16 rebounds. He’s also averaging almost 3 assists and 2 blocks per game. Everyone knows the Piston’s big man can rebound but the steady improvement in assisting the basketball might make the loss of Gasol’s passing ability rather insignificant. Beyond that, Drummond’s presence from inside the paint could help the team when they’re going through their routine lulls in shooting.
Even advanced statistics point to Drummond’s overall value over Gasol. He has a higher player efficiency rating, more win shares per 48 minutes and a higher value over replacement player score. I mean the Raptors would be stupid to not take this deal right? Especially considering the youth of the 26-year-old Drummond who could still develop within Coach Nurse’s offence compared to the old and now hobbled Gasol. But there are reasons the Raptors should be hesitant.
First and foremost, Gasol is still an extremely high-IQ big man that passes exceptionally well and can also stretch the floor. Despite Drummond’s improvements as a passer, he is still not within Gasol’s league, especially with the Spaniard’s ability to pass out of the post and from the top of the key. And lord knows Drummond doesn’t want anything to do with the three-point line and for good reason. I mean, he’s currently attempted 18 threes this season and has made 0. He’s shooting 0% from the 3-pt line while Gasol, who’s having a down year from outside the arc compared to last season, is still averaging better than 35%.
In a Raptor offence predicated on guard play and constant wing movement, putting a 6-10, 280 pound Drummond in the middle will only clog up the lane. The Raptor’s reliance on a modern free-flowing offence that depends on quick cuts and intelligent reads will suffer from a new presence down low that cannot make those decisions with the basketball as well as Gasol could. If anything, the introduction of Drummond will likely slow down the offence even further, indicated by the fact that Detroit currently ranks 19th in pace. Also, the last thing the Raptors need is another player that isn’t a playmaker.
The team is already so heavily reliant on Lowry and VanVleet to open up plays for others and replacing Gasol with Drummond will only make the offence even more linear. The team would become completely sink-or-swim on the play of their two guards, while if Gasol makes the offence slightly more multidimensional. I know for a fact the Raptors could have used Gasol’s passing ability against the Miami Heat a couple of games ago. A zone defence like the one the Heat used against the Raptors would not work nearly as well against an intelligent passing big man such as Marc Gasol. Insert Drummond in that scenario and little changes.
Sure, Lowry and VanVleet would have a dominant pick-and-roll partner to play around in Drummond but then what? Intelligent squads will do what they’ve always done against the big man. Foul him. He’s a career 46% shooter from the free-throw line compared to Gasol whose career average is close to 78%. What’s the point in having a supremely talented big man on your team if you can’t play him when the game gets close in the fourth quarter because he can’t hit free throws? Oh right, there is no point.
And finally, even in his advanced age, Gasol is likely similarly valuable on the defensive end, especially considering his playoff experience. Even just last year, he helped put a number on Embiid, holding him to less than 20 points in 5 games out of their 7 game series (albeit a slightly compromised Embiid). He was also one of the key brick and mortar foundations of the “build a wall” strategy Coach Nurse applied against Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The rationale behind this deal makes a lot of sense but the on-court impact of trading for Andre Drummond is just not enough (and maybe missing altogether). The centre will also likely request a max the following season, forcing the Raptors to pay for a big man that is likely not worth as much as his asking price. Instead, the team should await the return of Gasol, surf around for better offers and at worst, save money this offseason to go after more marquee free agents like Antetokounmpo. This move is a bait for the Toronto Raptors and their fans. Don’t fall for it.