Can Cleveland Cavaliers actually afford to commerce Andre Drummond?

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – The final name was announced during the pre-game induction, and the Cleveland Cavaliers gathered in their party. It was at this point that Andre Drummond, who was back after an absence from a game with an Achilles bruise, began to count his teammates.

Eight. Plus him. A total of nine players.

That’s all the injured Cavs had for Friday night’s matchup against the New York Knicks. As a rule, 12 must be classified as active on the evening of the game – even if they are not playing. How thin are the cavs right now? They had three guys – Darius Garland, Dylan Windler, and Collin Sexton – who were already banned and had no chance of qualifying, were classified as active to reach the required number.

Drummond knew what they were up against. He took it upon himself to show the way.

“I only play with nine guys, I have to carry a lot,” he said after the 106-103 win. “I’m trying to put my team in a situation where I can win and have fun while I’m out there. I just find my rhythm little by little. “

Just over 24 hours after the Cavs traded for Taurean Prince and Jarrett Allen, the two-time All-Star revealed why the front should have the office in the face of loud gossip about what Allen’s arrival means for Drummond and how an early exit is imminent pause before sending him away. Even with the up and coming Allen who is a perfect fit for this roster and style, Drummond wouldn’t be easy to replace.

Friday was not only one of the best games of his nine-year career, but also one of the best in the history of the Cavaliers. In the first half, Drummond scored 20 points and picked up 14 boards, an achievement that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, no one in the franchise has matched in the past 20 years. Larry Nance Jr. compared him to a Space Jam monster. Head coach JB Bickerstaff couldn’t stop bragging about.

Drummond scored 33 points and got 23 rebounds. He also handed out three assists, struck two shots, and picked up a couple of steals. How many are able to do this?

“When he plays with that determination and strength, there aren’t a lot of people who can stop him one-on-one,” said Bickerstaff. “You can’t talk enough about what Dre did and the impact he can have on the game at both ends of the floor. Dre knows his worth. You obviously see what he is capable of. “

As Cedi Osman contemplated an important win that led to a three-game loss and allowed the Cavs to move on quickly after their most one-sided loss of the season, he shifted his focus to Drummond. Osman picked up the data sheet in front of him, glanced at it, and chuckled.

“Crazy,” said Osman. “He’s that guy, man. I give you 30 and 20 like nothing. We have to pass the ball on to him because he was unstoppable tonight and if we feed him all the time, he’ll do that all night. We are really happy to have it. “

That brings us to the question that has been asked since the business news came out Wednesday afternoon and disgruntled star James Harden was shipped to Brooklyn: Will the Cavs liquidate the soon-to-be free agent Drummond once his long-term replacement is in town?

Just that is the wrong question.

The question is not whether the Cavs will treat him. It’s whether they can really afford it.

There is a business side to this conversation. Drummond is an unrestricted free agent, which means the Cavs don’t control his future like the restricted free agent Allen. Getting something for Drummond before he leaves this summer is a natural path for a team always on the lookout for assets. It is risky not to redeem a trade chip, especially one that attracts the attention of a medium-needy competitor.

If Allen is a centerpiece and future starter – with the sacrifice of a first choice and recent comments from General Manager Koby Altman – then Drummond has no definitive place. Drummond and Allen combined would not only be a huge financial investment in a depreciated position, but a cumbersome pairing that could lead to numerous mistakes in trying to allocate minutes and make both starter-quality bigs happy.

Altman received a text message from Drummond on Wednesday with the burly center congratulating the GM on a great deal. With a relationship that dates back to when Drummond was 16 and played for Team USA, the two spoke again the next morning.

Altman’s Message: Stay locked in, keep the same excitement, play like an all-star and help everyone acclimate. Altman also informed Drummond that his short-term role would not change. It is its starting point. He deserved it.

Bickerstaff hears the chatter too. He spoke to Drummond about it.

“The look is obvious,” admitted Bickerstaff. “But Dre and I have built a great relationship so far. It is a relationship that is based on trust and honesty. “

Drummond was asked about his reaction to the deal. He used the term “happy” and called Allen and Prince “very, very good players”. And he supported those words.

Instead of sulking with his successor, who was on the sidelines in street clothes, Drummond gave everyone – Cleveland’s Front Office, Bickerstaff, the rest of the NBA – something to think about. Even if the end result was this powerful message, he didn’t step into the night to prove a point.

“I play the same way every night,” said Drummond. “Commerce is what it is. I can’t do anything about that. If I am traded, I do not control it either. I’m only here to play basketball with my jersey on. That’s all I can focus on now. “

Friday is not an outlier. Drummond has recorded doubles-doubles in each of the 12 games he has played this season. With Cleveland, he has only missed this mark three times in 20 years. At the start of the night, the Cavs were 7.6 points per 100 possessions better with Drummond in the field. He has the best net rating of any healthy player on the roster and the third best of the guys still on the roster. He leads the league in rebounds, defensive profit shares and defensive rating, while he ranks 10th on steals and 12th in blocks – metrics in line with a bid for Defensive Player of the Year, his stated goal.

But it’s not just the mountainous numbers. It is the noticeable influence he has on the opponent’s defense. After destroying the helpless New York front in the first half, the Knicks tried to adapt and sent more doubles in hopes of getting the ball out of his hands. The more attention he gets, the easier it will be for his teammates. Suddenly the defense has to play from remaining stock or rotations, which creates opportunities for cuts and kick-out 3s against an overloaded defense. It is also the tour that invites worried Kevin Porter Jr. to stay with him in Miami this summer and offer either encouraging or constructive criticism to all of the Cleveland youth.

Drummond joined the Cavs last February. His addition, combined with the takeover of Bickerstaff as head coach, marked the beginning of the organization’s transformation.

The Cavs went 4-4 with Drummond last season. They are 6-6 in 2020-21. It’s not a coincidence. He is a differentiator. He raised her ceiling. He makes them competitive. He’s a good, reliable veteran presence. And he’s happy here.

“The reason I have so much fun is because I’m in a new neighborhood, in a new town, and I love the guys that are here,” said Drummond. “It’s hard not to play hard here as there are 12 people who want to give everything every night. It’s fun to be out there. “

Before the front office takes the next (logical) step to free up the front court by relocating either Drummond or the cheaper veteran JaVale McGee, who also has an expiring contract and arouses interest, it should be considered how this will affect the competitiveness of the Teams. You have to ask the correct, more complicated question that too many ignore:

What do the Cavs look like without him?

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