CHICAGO – Dethroning the Los Angeles Lakers won’t be easy – when they’re completely sane. There’s a reason the defending champions are considered betting favorites. Matching the star power of the Brooklyn Nets – Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden – could prove difficult for the rest of the Eastern Conference, though the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks are currently higher in the standings.
Now imagine one with Andre Drummond.
This is the Cleveland Cavaliers’ best and only leverage as the Front Office continues to take over the league in search of a potential trading partner. Multiple sources speaking to cleveland.com viewed the odds of a Drummond trade as a 50:50 proposition late Wednesday night. The other half of that equation is a buyout – the path that leads to Drummond picking his next team.
The widespread belief when the buyout takes place: The Lakers and Nets would be the front runners and would beat the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, or any other team that got into this crazy one Month was connected.
Does any of these self-described competitors want to stand idle and allow the Lakers to meet their most pressing needs? The same applies to the nets, which have been looking for a further presence in the interior since Jarrett Allen left the Harden Exchange. Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Big markets with talented rosters and the ability to play big minutes.
How does Drummond refuse that? ESPN reported that he was already in the Los Angeles – and it certainly wasn’t that he met his Cleveland teammates on the tarmac early Thursday.
While Drummond isn’t the best stylistic fit alongside LeBron James – thanks to Drummond’s propensity to eat offensive post-touch possessions, face-ups, and weird isolation attacks – the Lakers’ starting point is ridiculous. Currently, those who “occupy” this position averaged a tiny 4.8 points at 43.5% shooting and 4.0 rebounds. Drummond with the Cavs: 17.5 points on 47.4% of the field and 13.5 boards.
There is a starting gig just waiting for him. Given its other options, this addition would only make Los Angeles more impressive.
The nets need playable bodies for little money. They already added Drummond’s former teammate, Blake Griffin. Iman Shumpert. Norvel Pelle. Noah Vonleh. Tyler Cook. Andre Roberson. Alize Johnson. Brooklyn tried to put the back half of its rotation together with spare parts. Given the cost of acquiring Harden, it’s unlikely to see any effective trading happening on Thursday. Just like in Los Angeles, Drummond could play a sizable role in the Nets.
This is where the other Drummond suitors come in. You want to improve the forecourt and keep him out of Los Angeles or Brooklyn? Probably the only option is a trade for him.
The Dallas Morning News reported interest from the Mavericks, but only through buyouts. Dallas is currently the seventh seed of the Western Conference. The Lakers – still without the injured James and Anthony Davis – are 1.5 games away from second place. The Mavericks could move up and the Lakers could move down. In either case, Dallas-LA could be a first-round playoff series. If the Mavericks, who have obvious flaws and a few expiring contracts like Drummond, have enough to sign, why not pay the low price on a trade?
It’s also worth highlighting the Knicks, which are a wild card due to their salary cap. New York, with former Cavaliers manager Brock Aller in the front office, is $ 15 million below the ceiling, which means two paths that others cannot take.
The Knicks don’t have to hit his full $ 28.7 million for Drummond. New York would only have to send out around $ 14 million in players along with that cap square. It’s much easier to find expendable, non-rotating players to add that up. Therefore, they continue to look like the best trade adjustment. On the flip side, the Knicks on a Drummond buyout could offer a lot more than the minimum. There’s a unique opportunity to pre-spend Summer Cap Place, something Aller in Cleveland did several times, including with Drummond last February.
That result could also please Drummond, who, according to sources, told his teammates earlier this season that he would get the maximum amount of free agency in the summer. How often do players sign for the minimum and then turn around and get big deals? It’s hard to change your perception, especially when you go into an important off-season.
The Cavs believe there is a trade out there – even if it means bringing in a third or fourth team. Opposing executives disagree with an easily understandable pessimism. It’s not for lack of interest. Drummond is a two-time all-star with an expiring contract that, if used properly and taken over completely, could be a stretch run boost – two variables that shouldn’t be an issue. It is this massive salary that limits the number of realistic matches.
Most of the players around his cap number are either really good – and therefore unavailable – or overpaid and unattractive.
It’s not worth breaking a competitive core in a deal. But competitive could become a relative term if Drummond joins the Lakers or Nets. Isn’t it inherently valuable to prevent this from happening?
I think we’ll find out this afternoon.
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