On Tuesday morning, Andre Drummond confirmed the NBA’s worst-kept secret: He does indeed intend to pick up his $28.75 million player option this offseason, and rightfully so.
Last offseason the Detroit Pistons found themselves thrust into an uncomfortable situation. Andre Drummond, their starting center and second-highest-paid player declared that he was intending to become a free agent in the summer of 2020.
It was an interesting bargaining tactic for a man with a $28.75 million player option and leverage he could only forfeit by revealing his hand so early. On the other hand, it freed the Pistons up to fast-forward their rebuild plans and the moment they fell so far out of contention that even their ever-optimistic owner Tom Gores realized they weren’t making the playoffs, they began to plan to trade him by the trade deadline.
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While there were hems and haws over the weeks leading up to the deadline over the viability of trading Drummond, possibly for a loss, just minutes before the deadline the Pistons pulled the trigger on a deal. They shipped him to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for a seemingly unimpressive package of John Henson, Brandon Knight and a 2023 second-round draft pick (the lesser of the Cavs and the Golden State Warriors’ picks).
Of course, trades are rarely what they appear to be at first glance. Drummond wasn’t even closing games for the bulk of his early tenure in Cleveland and had some truly unbelievable turnover numbers, and Henson and Knight played out of their minds for the Pistons.
A lot has changed since those heady days almost a year ago when Andre Drummond pre-emptively declared his free agency. He had a rough second half of the season after starting hot, and his time with the Cavs was mixed at best.
Perhaps even more compelling, the coronavirus pandemic that seized the world and shut down the NBA makes opting out and playing the free agent game quite unappealing. There’s no way to know what the financial state of the NBA will look like this offseason, and even at the best of times few teams have the cap space to make Drummond whole if he was to opt out, let alone to give him a long-term deal of commensurate money.
For that matter, the team with the most cap space, the Atlanta Hawks, traded for Clint Capela at the deadline and handled their need of a center that way, and the team with the second-most cap space is his former team, the Detroit Pistons.
All signs pointed towards Andre Drummond making the smart business decision and opting into his $28.75 million 2020-21 salary. On Tuesday, in an interview with ESPN’s Dan Le Batard, he declared his intention to return to the Cavs next season.
In his own words: “Yeah, it’s going to be hard to give up, so you can count on me being in Cleveland still. I definitely will be in Cleveland.”
It’s been the worst-kept secret in the NBA for some time now, but it’s the right move for Drummond.