It’s not too often one of the worst teams in the NBA is a buyer (rather than a clear-cut seller or just stay put) team at the trade deadline, yet that’s exactly what took place Thursday afternoon. Having a number of expiring contracts, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson on the team, with the latter essentially asking to be traded in a story by The Athletic’s Joe Vardon on Wednesday, the Cleveland Cavaliers were expected to be involved on deadline day, but in a way that they would be considered sellers. Whether it was to take on a bad contract(s) or just be the third team to make another trade work, the wine and gold were hoping to acquire more draft assets to help the rebuilding process going forward.
At 13-39, including losing 12 of their last 13 games, the Cavs are currently the second-worst team in the NBA, one game ahead of the injury-riddled Golden State Warriors, who Cleveland lost to at home, 131-112, this past Saturday. Yet, even with their struggles, no real sign of identity on either end of the floor, and with plenty more questions than answers surrounding the current team, the Cavaliers shocked the NBA world on when they acquired two-time All-Star center Andre Drummond from the Detroit Pistons Thursday afternoon, the team announced later than night. Cleveland traded Brandon Knight, John Henson, and a future second-round pick for the big man.
So, the Cavs essentially traded two guys that they weren’t going to re-sign this summer anyways and a low pick. Not bad, right? While it seems odd that one of the worst teams in the league was a buyer at the deadline, it was the right move by general manager Koby Altman and company. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the move, one that has many more positives than negatives due to the fact that it was a low risk, high reward-type trade for the Cavs.
Pro: Acquired one of the best big men in the league
While the new-look NBA seems to have gone away from tradition centers, Drummond is one of the few very good ones remaining. He might not be a three-point shooter or even be much of a threat from outside of a few feet, but his post presence alone shouldn’t go unnoticed. The 26-year-old is averaging a career-best 17.8 points, 15.8 rebounds (leads the NBA), 2.8 assists, two steals (third), and 1.7 blocks (10th) while shooting 53% from the field in 33.8 minutes a game so far this season. Whether it’s his dominance in the post or ability to grab a bunch of rebounds, Drummond’s presence in the paint is huge on both ends of the floor and for the first time in his career, he will get a chance to prove that with a new team other than the Pistons.
Pro: Rebounding, rebounding, and more rebounding
Rebounding is important. While some teams (like the Rockets) are going small, having a center on the court that dominates the boards is important. Drummond has done just that and then some throughout his eight-year career so far. While he’s averaging 13.9 rebounds a game so far in his career, in four of the last five seasons he has led the league in rebounds per game.1
He has not only been dominant, but consistent as well, leading the league in rebounds in each of the last three seasons.
Pro: A solid fit next to Kevin Love
While we wish Love received more touches both in the paint and on the elbow, it’s clear that he loves being an outside shooter while also utilizing his ability inside when he has a mismatch. With a big man like Drummond in the post, it will allow Love to receive more touches both on the elbow and from beyond the arc. It’s quite a good pairing given how the two of them like to play.
Add in that Drummond has been counted on to make plays other than just post up and score and that makes things even better for the rest of the Cavs. It just comes down to if players such as Darius Garland, Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, and Kevin Porter, Jr. can get the ball to Love and Drummond in the right positions and then move and get open as well.
Pro: A half-season dress rehearsal for an upcoming free agent
Drummond is currently in his fourth year of a five-year, $127,171,313 deal he signed in 2016. That said, the fifth and final year, one in which he could be paid Just north of $28.7 million, is a player option. Many around the league believe that Drummond will accept the option, which would mean that he would be with the Cavs for more than just this season. If he leaves, they’re out only a second-round pick.
While it sucks that Tristan Thompson will all but certainly walk in free agency this summer, Drummond’s return not only gives the Cavs a legitimate big man this season and next, but it also allows the team and him alike to see how things go (and fit) in Cleveland. If it all goes well, the Cavaliers now own Drummond’s bird rights and can offer more money in an extension than any other team in the league; if things don’t go well, he can sign elsewhere in free agency. Either way, the wine and gold only really gave up a second-round pick in 2023 to figure this all out.
Potential Pro or Con: What does this mean for Tristan Thompson?
As I already stated above, Thompson will likely sign elsewhere in free agency and will no longer be a Cavalier for the first time in his career once next season tips off. While he made it known that he wants to be traded, the Cavs didn’t get an offer they liked for the big man, which is the reason he is still in Cleveland following the deadline. So, him still being on the team paired with the acquisition of Drummond, this could go one of two ways:
Some may think that Thompson should just be bought out since he wasn’t traded, but many reports state that he does not want that, or at least didn’t prior to the Cavs acquiring Drummond. His mindset could have certainly changed following the trade, but who knows at this point. Keep in mind, there’s also a chance that Cleveland could sign and trade Thompson this offseason as well. There’s plenty of scenarios on the table, it all just depends on the type of player and teammate Thompson will be the rest of the season.
Altman and the Cavaliers certainly can’t get the benefit of the doubt right now, but acquiring a player like Drummond was a smart move, both now and potentially for the future. A trade can be weird but that doesn’t mean that it’s not good, and that’s exactly the type of acquisition this was. Now we get to see how Drummond meshes with Love and the young core group of players on the Cavaliers. That’s the biggest question moving forward, especially when it comes to if the big man will be donning the wine and gold next season (and potentially beyond). Rebuilding is tough, but giving a potential free agent a dress rehearsal to see if he will fit on this team and experiencing life as a Cavalier is a smart decision.