Head coach Frank Vogel could not hide his pleasure in the aftermath of free agent Andre Drummond’s decision to join the Lakers. He used the word “thrilled” and could not help but resort to hyperbole in heaping profuse praise on their pickup off the buyout market. For all his compliments, the immediate past Cavalier is not “one of the best centers in the league.” And, in the pace-and-space era, it’s fair to argue whether the position remains relevant, and whether rebounding, the acknowledged strength of their new addition, continues to be a coveted skill.
Make no mistake. Drummond will provide immediate help to the undermanned Lakers. With All-Stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis still out due to injury, he figures to jump-start a stagnant offense and serve as a solid foundation on defense. His presence is especially welcome in the face of slotman Marc Gasol’s evident swoon. Bottom line, he’ll be what he has always been: a double-double machine capable of also making an impact on both ends of the court. At the very least, he’ll be a welcome addition at a time when change — any change — is needed.
That said, the jury is out on whether Drummond can help the Lakers’ cause in the playoffs. As advanced stats will show, the defending champions are at their best when they play small — okay, relatively small — ball and Davis is at the five spot. This leaves the immediate past Cavalier from the outside looking in; from a certain vantage point, he can even be deemed a downgrade from Gasol, who, if nothing else, has an outside shot that extends to the three-point line. Of course, it didn’t stop James and Company from recruiting him heavily and selling him on a major role moving forward. Not that they can be blamed; he comes on the cheap at $794,546, what with the Cavaliers footing the rest of his $27.9-million salary.
Whether Drummond is a stopgap measure or an asset ultimately worth keeping for the Lakers remains to be seen. He definitely believes he’s the latter; he shook off overtures from the Celtics and Knicks in order to sign with the purple and gold. And, as he noted, “I’m not here to do anything besides win.” How much he is willing and able to contribute as well as sacrifice will determine his capacity to walk the talk.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.