Will Drummond Change the Lakers Or the Lakers Change Drummond?
There’ve been great conversations in the media and blogs whether Andre should change his game to match the Lakers’ needs or whether the Lakers should take advantage of his unique strengths and adjust their approach?
Now that Andre has reached agreement to join the Los Angeles Lakers, it’s going to be fascinating to find out exactly what his role on the team will be and how much the Lakers’ strategy on offense and defense will change. Drummond brings skills the Lakers need to repeat as champs, including elite rebounding, low post scoring, physical size, and solid rim protection. But integrating him into a championship team is not a simple slam dunk.
Drummond is looking at the starting center position on the Lakers as the perfect team and situation to best showcase his talent so he can convince a team to offer him a max contract as an unrestricted free agent next summer. Ideally, he wants to start and close games, play big minutes, and be featured on offense. Money and even the lure of a championship are not paramount. Drummond is primarily focused on helping his career, brand, and future.
The Lakers, of course, know all of this but they also needed to sell Andre that joining the Lakers would give him the ideal stage and best opportunity to show the world what he can accomplish playing on a championship team. The Lakers goal is a championship with everybody pulling in the same direction. That means Andre and the Lakers had to reach an important meeting of the minds to balance the needs of the player and team.
So let’s take a look at the role Drummond and the Lakers could have agreed upon and highlight the areas where the needs of the player and team could have conflicted and how those conflicts might have been resolved.
STARTING AND CLOSING
There’s no question Andre Drummond will be the Lakers’ starting center. The more important question is will he close games, especially once we get into the playoffs when the Lakers prefer to close with AD at the five?
While there will be matchups where LA may need Drummond and Davis on the floor together to close games, there’s no way the Lakers promised Andre that he would automatically be on the team’s closing lineup for every game. While Frank Vogel has usually stayed with a consistent starting lineup, he’s also always preferred to adjust who closes games for the Lakers, depending on the matchups and who’s been playing well. That’s not going to change.
While Andre is likely to be the starter most of the time, there may be games where teams go small and the Lakers decide to matchup. In the end, the Lakers and Andre have likely agreed coach Vogel would make those calls.
FEATURED ON OFFENSE
The Lakers are first and foremost LeBron James’ and Anthony Davis’ team and Andre Drummond signing with them is not going to change that. Andre will get his share of touches but he’ll still be the Lakers’ third option.
Whether the Lakers feature Andre Drummond on offense will be another decision that has to be matchup driven. The Lakers won’t have a problem dumping the ball inside to Andre if he has a clear cut matchup advantage. However, they’re not going to suddenly turn into a team whose top priority is to feed the ball into the post as if Andre Drummond was Shaquille O’Neal. Andre will get his opportunities but only within the flow of the game.
Drummond is smart enough to understand this is LeBron’s and AD’s team and knows that proving he can play winning basketball on a championship team will be worth more in free agency this summer than inflated stats.
MINUTES AND SHOTS
Andre Drummond will average around 32 minutes per game depending on matchups, which is in line with his recent and career numbers. But there will be sporadic games where he’ll play fewer minutes due to matchups.
As for shots, Drummond averaged a career high 15.2 shots per game for the Cavs this season. He’s not going to get that many shots with the Lakers, who will be looking for him to improve both his shot selection and efficiency. LeBron James averages 18.4 and Anthony Davis 16.7 shots per game for a total of 35.1 or about 40% of the team’s 86 shots per game. The only way Andre is going to get 15 shots per game is dominating the offensive glass.
Andre Drummond will be the Lakers third star when it comes to minutes, shots, and points scored but playing on the Lakers with LeBron should enable him to discover and showcase his best possible version as a player.
IMPACT ON ROSTER
Andre Drummond’s arrival will have major consequences for the Lakers’ current two centers, Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell. Gasol will probably find himself playing rarely and Harrell his minutes dramatically reduced.
Vogel faces a daunting challenge distributing center minutes. Harrell is averaging 25.3 and Gasol 19.8 minutes per game. Without AD, that leaves just 16 minutes for the other centers if Andre plays 32 minutes per game. Until AD returns, Harrell should get most of the remaining minutes while Gasol sits. The big crunch will come when AD returns. Vogel may have to get creative to find minutes for Harrell with Davis to avoid losing his impact.
Once we’re in the playoffs and the Lakers go small and need Anthony Davis to play more minutes at the five defensively, Drummond and Harrell could both see their minutes and roles diminish significantly the deeper LA goes.
There’s no question signing Andre Drummond was a big and necessary move by the Lakers. They desperately needed more size and athleticism at the five than either Gasol or Harrell could provide to repeat as NBA champions.
The big challenge now that Drummond is aboard is still finding a way to take advantage of Trezz’s great energy and scoring at the rim. Unfortunately, Drummond and Harrell together just doesn’t work in the modern NBA. Further complicating the situation, the Lakers may need Davis play the five in the playoffs even more this year than last year as neither Drummond or Harrell are great fits for the team’s championship defensive schemes.
The Lakers were fortunate to sign Andre Drummond and hopefully he and the team have agreed upon a role that will bring another championship but Frank Vogel and the coaches will have to figure out how to make it work.
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