With DeMar DeRozan coming off the books this summer, the San Antonio Spurs should change directions and recruit center Andre Drummond.
It’s been an inconsistent start to the year for the San Antonio Spurs. Currently sitting at the ninth seed in the Western Conference, this group has proven itself to have a low floor and high ceiling.
When all cylinders are firing, the Spurs are able to pick apart opponents with a barrage of mid-range jumpers and cuts to the basket while raining meticulously selected triples. However, this squad leaves a lot to be desired defensively. They’re allowing 50.7 points in the paint so far this season, ranking 22nd in the league in opponent-PITP.
To address their concerns and add depth at the center position, San Antonio should pursue two-way phenom Andre Drummond in the 2020 offseason. The 26-year-old can opt-out of his contract with the Pistons this summer, just like swingman DeMar DeRozan can opt-out of his. Taking into account the fact that they’ll command similar salaries; the Spurs may want to consider bringing along the All-Star big man in place of DeRozan.
For as exciting as DeRozan has been for this squad, negotiations on an extension fell through earlier this offseason and the Spurs must be weary in how they proceed. Extending the 30-year-old is risky and there are a handful of capable, young guards ready to step into his spot.
Furthermore, LaMarcus Aldridge is guaranteed to stay in San Antonio for one more year after the team guaranteed his contract this offseason. Bringing Drummond along would allow him to slide back to his natural power forward position, enabling their cornerstone to age gracefully and space the floor out.
Drummond is having a monster start to this season in a featured role with the Pistons. Considering Tim Duncan and Aldridge are both natural power forwards, Drummond would instantly become the Spurs’ best center since David Robinson.
Next: Drummond’s hot start to the year
Drummond’s hot start to the year
Starting off the season without Blake Griffin in the lineup, the Detroit Pistons have turned to Drummond as their go-to scorer and rim protector. As a result, the 26-year-old is having the best season of his career, averaging 21.2 points, 18 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 steals in roughly 36 minutes per game.
Drummond is posting career-high averages in scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks and field goal attempts. He leads the NBA in rebounding as well as contested boards.
Needless to say, Drummond is an all-world rebounder and continues to prove it, but his continual evolution as a rim protector and defensive pest is what’s set him apart from the competition this year. He’s contesting 14.8 shots per game which is sixth in the league while deflecting 3.7 passes per game – the highest mark of any center thus far.
Sustaining this kind of effectiveness may be difficult with Griffin set to return for the Pistons, but Drummond doesn’t need to be force-fed the ball to remain effective. He sets hard screens both on and off the ball, opening up scoring opportunities for his teammates.
With Griffin earning an All-NBA selection with the Pistons last year, Drummond showed how he can help make the game easier for his teammates by taking care of the paint. With Drummond assisting him, Griffin was able to put up more threes and space the floor for the Pistons last year.
Making the game easier for teammates is not only an All-Star quality, but it’s what the Spurs look for in their players. Due to his work ethic and constant effort, he’d fit in seamlessly with the silver and black.
Next: Potential fit in the Spurs' system
Potential fit in the Spurs’ system
For as much as players need to adapt to the Spurs, Gregg Popovich has made it clear that he needs to adapt to his personnel. There was a huge disconnect between the coaching legend and Aldridge early in his tenure with the Spurs, ultimately leading to a trade request. At this point, Pop had the revelation that his system needs to shift as his lineup does.
With Drummond holding down the paint, the Spurs could open up the floor with their young wings and guards rotating through. Pick-and-roll is one of Drummond’s specialties and few young players have a knack for operating it the way that point guard Dejounte Murray does. Defenders would be forced to collapse, opening up the perimeter for guys like Bryn Forbes, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV and G-League standout Keldon Johnson to thrive.
Aldridge would also get a huge boost with Drummond in the lineup. With another reliable All-Star caliber big on the floor, Aldridge could slide to his natural position at the four and operate in the mid-range. The veteran is attempting his most threes since the 2014-15 season and would have a much easier time taking them if he wasn’t forced into the middle as often as he has been.
San Antonio is already a top-five rebounding team this year and adding Drummond to the lineup would solidify them in that department. It’d also take care of their issues defending the painted area by putting a true-blue rim protector in there to alter opponent’s shots. This would allow the guards to focus on locking down the three-point line, which is something the Spurs direly need to focus on in the long run.
Drummond himself is far from an ideal floor spacer, but his presence commands defensive attention and draws others away from the three-point line. He’s also an incredible option to dump the ball off to when guards drive to the basket.
The NBA is not quite as guard-centric as it was once considered to be. As a result, a Spurs lineup with two dominant bigs and a rotation of ball handlers and shooters would be highly successful in the Alamo City.
Next: Fleshing out a lineup around Drummond
Fleshing out a lineup around Drummond
Due to the role that Drummond would fill, general manager Brian Wright would need to do some maneuvering with this roster to fit Drummond and the team’s needs. Re-signing Bryn Forbes after his deal expires this summer is a priority, as his marksmanship and dynamic scoring ability give the Spurs a spark offensively. Forbes is an ideal shooter and the Spurs cannot afford to let go of him.
The sacrificial lambs of a Drummond deal would ultimately be the two players returned in the Kawhi Leonard trade – DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl. Although his presence has been divisive amongst the fanbase, DeRozan has adapted quickly to Spurs culture and is an excellent fit for the organization from a personality standpoint.
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However, his playstyle can be limiting, and advanced stats would suggest that he can be a liability at times due to his ball-dominant nature and erratic defense output. Letting go of the former All-Star in favor of Drummond is not outlandish by any means.
The same can be said for Poeltl, who has shown great development in his time with the Spurs. Still, Popovich is clearly insecure about his ability to stay on the floor as the young center has played limited minutes in the early going. Simply put, Poeltl does many of the same things that Drummond would provide much greater quality.
Should he accept his qualifying offer in this scenario, the Spurs would be glad to return him to the team, but not for an excessive price tag. Sophomore Chimezie Metu is progressing nicely between the main squad and Austin, so he could slide into the lineup as soon as this year and assume the backup center role.
With their remaining cap space, the Spurs could target players to fill backup minutes on the wing. If DeRozan is walking, the team needs to fill his spot with shooting in order to effectively return to beautiful basketball instead of the iso-heavy style they’ve implemented recently.