Andre Drummond

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Central Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we take a look at players from the Central Division:

Andre Drummond, Pistons, 26, C (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $127.2MM deal in 2016
With Blake Griffin sidelined, Drummond has delivered a number of energetic and highly productive performances. He was averaging 21.9 points, an NBA-high 18.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.2 blocks and 1.7 steals heading into Friday’s game against Indiana. He’s also displaying greater maturity and reducing the unnecessary fouls, allowing him to stay on the court for longer stretches. In a very weak free agent market, Drummond could be the top prize unless Anthony Davis opts out. Drummond is expected to opt out of the final $28.8MM on his deal.

Denzel Valentine, Bulls, 25, SF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $9.9MM deal in 2016
Valentine established himself as a rotation player during his second year in the league, appearing in 77 games (37 starts) while averaging 10.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists with an above-average 3-point percentage (38.6). A major ankle injury ended Valentine’s third season before it began. He has struggled thus far to reestablish himself and got sent to the G League this weekend to get some game action. The Bulls can make him a restricted free agent next summer by extending a $4.MM qualifying offer. He’s unlikely to get that unless he reemerges as a second unit fixture.

Justin Holiday, Pacers, 30, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $4.77MM deal in 2019
Holiday is one of those glue guys whose contributions go well beyond the stat sheet. He provides guidance to the team’s younger players and has been the team’s top wing defender in the early going. He can guard multiple positions, which has helped him earned steady minutes (22.1 per game). Holiday hasn’t shot it well (32.7) and he’ll likely lose playing time once Victor Oladipo finally returns from his quad injury. But Holiday might get another contract similar to the one Indiana handed him over the summer if he continues to be a steadying presence.

Sterling Brown, Bucks, 24, SG (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $3.8MM deal in 2017
The 2017 second-round pick averaged 17.8 minutes in 58 games during his second season in the league. Brown has been buried on the bench for the most part this season, racking up several DNP-Coach’s Decisions. His only extended action was a 21-minute outing in a 32-point romp over Orlando at the beginning of the month. Brown’s qualifying offer is just $2MM, so it wouldn’t cost the Bucks much to make him a restricted free agent. However, there’s no real clear path to steady playing time this season unless injuries strike.

John Henson, Cavaliers, 28, PF (Down) – Signed to a four-year, $48MM deal in 2016
Henson’s biggest problem is one that always makes buyers beware — he can’t stay on the court. Henson’s 2018-19 season was essentially a washout due to a wrist injury. The Cavs, who acquired him last December after Henson underwent surgery, were hoping he could earn a spot in John Beilein’s rotation this fall. Instead, he suffered groin and ankle injuries during the preseason. When he finally appeared in a regular-season game, he strained his right hamstring, which is expected to cost him 2-4 weeks. Henson will be an unrestricted free agent next summer and will have to settle for a major pay cut to stay in the league.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Andre Drummond Would Enjoy Playing In Detroit For Remainder Of Career

Andre Drummond, who is likely to turn down his $28.8MM player option for next season, is set to be one of the top free agents in a weak 2020 free agent class. He’ll undoubtedly look for a massive contract, if not a max deal, this summer and he hopes it comes from the Pistons.

“At the end of the day, I can’t control what the front office wants to do in terms of the contract stuff. The only thing I can control right now is playing the game the right way and putting my team in a good position to win. Whatever happens after that happens,” Drummond told Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “Obviously, I would enjoy playing for the rest of my career in Detroit. Whatever happens at the end of the year happens and we’ll figure it out when that time comes.”

Drummond is averaging an insane 18.6 rebounds per contest so far this year, though as Beard writes, the perception of him as a stat-filler who can’t win is slowly shifting around the league. The center believes his game now is a culmination of seven years of work and maturity that allows him to be a leader on the team.

“It’s a sense of urgency. I’ve had a lot of years in the league, and I know what it takes to win and to lead a team. Overall, it’s just me maturing as a player,” Drummond said. “Everybody is saying it’s ‘[contract-year] Dre’ and I wouldn’t even call it that.

“It’s a maturity aspect and how I carry myself on and off the court. With that, it shows the work I’ve put in over the past seven years and being here and seeing the ins and outs. Now is the time in my career where I can lead a team and I know how to do it the right way.”

NBA Super-Max Candidates To Watch In 2019/20

The Designated Veteran Extension, as we explain our glossary entry on the subject, is a relatively new addition to the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. It allows players with 7-9 years of experience, who would normally qualify for a maximum starting salary of 30% of the cap, to qualify for a “super-max” contract that starts at 35% of the cap, a level normally reserved players with 10+ years of experience.

A player who has seven or eight years of NBA service with one or two years left on his contract becomes eligible for a Designated Veteran Extension if he meets the required performance criteria and hasn’t been traded since his first four years in the league. A Designated Veteran contract can also be signed by a player who is technically a free agent if he has eight or nine years of service and meets the required criteria.

The performance criteria is as follows (only one of the following must be true):

  • The player was named to an All-NBA team and/or was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in the most recent season, or in two of the last three seasons.
  • The player was named the NBA MVP in any of the three most recent seasons.

With those criteria in mind, it’s worth keeping an eye on the players who could qualify for a super-max veteran contract with their play this season. Let’s dive in and examine a few of those guys…

Players who already qualify for a super-max contract:

Antetokounmpo met the performance criteria for the super-max when he won last season’s MVP award. Gobert did so by winning the Defensive Player of the Year award in 2018 and then being named to the All-NBA team in 2019 — his second consecutive DPOY award in ’19 merely put an emphatic stamp on his eligibility.

However, neither Antetokounmpo nor Gobert can actually sign a Designated Veteran Extension yet, since they must have seven years of NBA experience under their belts.

Each player is in his seventh season now, but years of experience aren’t officially added until the very end of the league year. In other words, the Bucks and Jazz stars will have to wait until next July to officially sign super-max extensions.

We know the Bucks will put that offer on the table for Giannis, but we’re not sure yet whether he’ll sign it. It also remains to be seen if the Jazz will make the same offer to Gobert. Based on the NBA’s latest cap projection for 2021/22 ($125MM), each player would be eligible for $253.75MM over five years.

Players who could qualify for a super-max contract by meeting the criteria in 2019/20:

Technically, any player who earns an All-NBA spot in 2019/20 and meets the contract criteria can qualify for a super-max, but the two players listed above are probably the only legitimately viable candidates. Thunder center Steven Adams, for instance, would become eligible for a super-max extension by earning an All-NBA spot, but that’s probably not happening.

Even Drummond might be a long shot, but if he can maintain the numbers he has posted in his first nine games (21.9 PPG, 18.6 RPG, 2.2 BPG), he’ll be in the conversation. So far, he’s outplaying last year’s All-NBA First Team center Nikola Jokic, who is off to a slow start.

Embiid, last season’s All-NBA Second Team center, looks like a safer All-NBA bet as long he stays healthy. He earned his spot in 2018/19 despite playing just 64 games, so if he can match or exceed that number this season with similar production, look for him to become super-max eligible.

Drummond is in his eighth NBA season, while Embiid is only in his sixth. So if Drummond were to earn All-NBA honors this season, he’d become eligible to immediately sign a super-max contract. Declining his player option and signing a five-year Designated Veteran contract would put Drummond in line for a deal worth $235.48MM based on the league’s latest cap projection for 2020/21 ($116MM). Though of course, there’s no guarantee the Pistons would be willing to go quite that high.

As for Embiid, if he makes an All-NBA team this season, he’ll be in a similar situation to the one Giannis and Gobert are in now — super-max eligible based on his performance criteria, but not yet on his contract criteria. He’d have to wait until the 2021 offseason to sign that extension. I expect the Sixers will be ready to do a super-max deal if he keeps playing at this level and doesn’t suffer any more major injuries.

It’s also worth mentioning Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns in this group. They’ll only have five years of NBA experience apiece after this season, so they wouldn’t be able to sign super-max extensions until the 2022 offseason. Technically though, one of them could meet the required performance criteria as early as this spring by winning the MVP award.

Players who can no longer qualify for a super-max contract:

There are many other players who could be added to this list, but these are the three who would otherwise be strong candidates to qualify the super-max if they hadn’t already become ineligible based on one of the required criteria.

In Beal’s case, he opted to sign a standard veteran extension this fall rather than wait to see if he’d make an All-NBA team this season and become eligible for the super-max. By the time he’ll be able to opt out of his new deal in the summer of 2022, he’ll have 10 years of experience under his belt, meaning he’ll automatically qualify for the 35% max.

Davis and Oladipo, meanwhile, were traded while playing out their rookie scale contract extensions, making them ineligible for a super-max. Davis would have been able to sign such a deal this past offseason if he had remained with the Pelicans.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Eastern Notes: Drummond, Wagner, Fultz

Andre Drummond is averaging 21.3 points and 19.4 rebounds this season and Pistons head coach Dwane Casey believes the center can do more, as I relayed on Twitter.

“Andre is still a growing player. A lot of his game is evolving. He’s going to be able to other things. Every year, he’s going to bring something new to the table,” Casey said. “…he’s not even in the middle of his prime yet.”

Drummond will be one of the top players in a weak 2020 free agent class. He clearly has the talent to be an impact player, as he showcased while grabbing 24 rebounds against the Wizards. However, questions still remain about how much Drummond can contribute to a winning team.

His outstanding statistical game in Washington resulted in a 16-point loss. It’s the same story that has been recycled throughout his career. Entering year eight, he has been to the playoffs just two times (Detroit has been swept on both occasions) and it’s fair to wonder whether a team will view him as a max player or anywhere near it if he can’t elevate the Pistons in the win column.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Moritz Wagner, who came to the Wizards in the Anthony Davis three-team trade this summer, had an impressive defensive game against Drummond on Monday. According to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link), during the 14 possessions Wagner guarded Drummond, Detroit’s big man went 1-for-8 and was blocked three times.
  • Magic coach Steve Clifford called Markelle Fultz‘s feel for the game unique, complimenting the point guard on his abilities, as Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel relays (Twitter link). “In many ways, I just think he’s a good all-around player because he has a feel for the game. He’s a terrific passer and his ability to get into the paint and have a feel for where everybody is very unique,” Clifford said.
  • Bruce Brown‘s ability to handle point guard duties is solving a problem for the Pistons, Rod Beard of The Detroit News writes. The team has been without Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose because of injuries.

Blake Griffin Optimistic He’ll Return Soon

Blake Griffin is expected to be re-evaluated on Wednesday and appears close to returning, Shams Charania of The Athletic reports.

The Pistons’ All-Star forward has been sidelined since late in the preseason with hamstring and knee injuries. He underwent surgery after last season to repair torn meniscus in the left knee.

“I’m close, very close,” Griffin said. “The training staff tells me it’s one day at a time. They tell me what I’m doing the next day, and that’s it, because they know I’d go crazy if I have a timetable. The team has a plan and I trust our training staff. They know what they’re doing so I’m going to listen to them.”

The Pistons are off to a 3-5 start after losing at Washington on Monday night. They’ll host the Knicks on Wednesday.

Griffin’s absence has been magnified by backcourt injuries. Starting point guard Reggie Jackson will miss at least the next four weeks after being diagnosed with a stress reaction in his lower back. Backups Derrick Rose (hamstring) and Tim Frazier (shoulder) have missed the last two games.

Markieff Morris, signed as a free agent this offseason, has been starting in Griffin’s place.

Griffin has already missed more regular-season games than he did all of last season, when he appeared in 75 contests. He received three nights off last season for load management but played all others until the knee injury cropped up in the closing weeks. He also missed two playoff games.

Executives around the NBA will be on alert to see if the Pistons go into sell mode and put Griffin and Andre Drummond on the block, Charania adds. Drummond can become an unrestricted free agent after the season if he opts out. Griffin is in the third year of the five-year, $171.2MM contract he signed with the Clippers before he was traded midway through the first year of the deal. He can opt out after the 2020/21 season.

However, Griffin is optimistic the Pistons will retain him and Drummond and return to the postseason.

“I’m excited because I like this team a lot,” Griffin told The Athletic. “We’re tough and we fight. There’s a grit to this team. … I’m excited about this team and the prospects of coming back and leading this group.”

Pistons Notes: Griffin, Jackson, Drummond, Doumbouya

The absence of Blake Griffin has led to offensive struggles for the Pistons’ starting unit during their first two games, Keith Langlois of the team’s website notes.

With Griffin sidelined for at least five games by hamstring and knee injuries, Markieff Morris has taken his spot in the lineup and Detroit got off to slow starts both times. The situation has become even more complicated due to Reggie Jackson‘s lower back tightness, which forced him to depart the 117-100 home loss to Atlanta early on Thursday.

Casey would prefer to limit the minutes of backup point guard Derrick Rose, who has averaged 23 points in his first two games with Detroit. If Jackson needs to miss games, Rose might have to start instead of the other point option, Tim Frazier, because the offense would have even further limitations without Rose’s playmaking.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Center Andre Drummond can opt of his contract after the season and enter unrestricted free agency. His opening-night performance showed that he’s going all out in his walk year, Rod Beard of the Detroit News tweets. After he racked up 32 points and 23 rebounds in a season-opening victory at Indiana, Drummond responded to a question regarding Twitter #ContractYearDre by saying, “You know it.”
  • The fact that Griffin, who has a long injury history, started the season in street clothes could eventually lead the front office to hit the reset button, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press opines. Dealing Griffin is doubtful given those injury woes and that his max deal takes him through the 2021/22 season. But trade speculation has increased recently due to the possibility of the season going sour quickly, Ellis adds.
  • First-round pick Sekou Doumbouya isn’t expected to have much of an impact in his rookie season, senior adviser Ed Stefanski told Beard during a Q&A session. The 18-year-old was inactive during the first two games due to a concussion. “When we drafted him, we said early publicly that he’s going to take time to come around and we didn’t put any timetable on it,” Stefanski said. “We made a point that this year, early in the season, we didn’t expect him to be in that rotation. If he keeps playing well when February and March roll around, who knows? We’re not going to throw him to the wolves.”

Andre Drummond, Pistons Exploring Extension?

After Pistons owner Tom Gores said earlier this week that retaining Andre Drummond beyond the 2019/20 season is a top priority for the franchise, he confirmed that the two sides are “talking at a business level,” writes Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press.

Gores’ interest in hanging onto Drummond has been conveyed privately as well as publicly, according to Ellis, who hears from a pair of sources that the Pistons have told the veteran center’s representatives that the club wants to retain his services long-term. Having previously reported that Drummond’s camp had requested extension talks with Detroit, Ellis confirms that numbers have now been exchanged, though he adds it’s clear the two-time All-Star is looking for a max contract.

While Drummond didn’t explicitly confirm that he’s seeking a maximum-salary deal, his comments on Tuesday suggested that he believes his value is high and that he’ll be looking to maximize his earnings on his next contract.

“That’s the way anybody would see themselves,” Drummond said, per Ellis. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a basketball player. With the work you put in, you should be rewarded for it — no matter who you are. If it’s me or even a rookie. Everybody feels like they should make a maximum amount of dollars.”

Drummond’s optimal financial path might involve turning down his 2020/21 player option and becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer. He’d be eligible for a five-year contract worth up to nearly $202MM (based on the NBA’s latest cap projections) if he were to re-sign with the Pistons at that point. An extension with the team before then would max out at about $146MM over four years.

The 2020 free agent market projects to be weak, which could open the door for rival suitors to drive up the price on Drummond, but Sean Deveney of Heavy.com thinks a new deal in Detroit is the most likely scenario for the 26-year-old. As one front office executive points out, while there may not be many star free agents available next July, there also won’t be many contenders with cap room available for a max player.

“He just won’t have a lot of options,” that executive told Deveney. “Detroit won’t have a lot of options, either. There won’t be a lot of free-agent money and most of the teams that have it are rebuilding teams who might not want a big like him anyway. He’s kind of old-school and you have to be willing to make your roster around that. Detroit, that’s what they’re willing to do. He probably won’t get a better situation than what he has.”

Pistons Notes: Drummond, Galloway, Johnson, Practice Facility

Pistons owner Tom Gores said on Monday that retaining center Andre Drummond is his “top priority,” Jeff Riger of 97.1 The Ticket tweets. Drummond could become an unrestricted free agent if he opts out of the final year of his contract after the season.

“You guys know, many years in a row, how committed I am to Andre,” Gores said. “So it is [the] top priority.”

Drummond and his reps have reportedly requested extension talks. Prior to opening night, Drummond can opt in for the 2020/21 season at $28.75MM and add up to three additional years to the contract. The first year of the extension can be any amount up to 120% of his 2020/21 salary (a max of $34.5MM). After that, he can opt out and sign an extension until June 30, but the starting salary can’t be below $28.75MM or exceed $34.5MM.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Langston Galloway is one of many options at the wing and coach Dwane Casey says Galloway will have a role, Keith Langlois of the team’s website relays. “He’s like that old blanket,” Casey said. “It’s not fair, but he’s just a steady, steady pro. He’s a lot of our glue. So, no, I haven’t forgotten Langston. He’s going to be a huge part of what we do.” Galloway is in the final year of a three-year, $21MM contract that he signed with the previous front office regime. His $7.33MM salary is the second highest expiring deal on the team behind Reggie Jackson‘s $18.1MM salary.
  • Joe Johnson‘s year off from basketball allowed him to spent time with his dying mother, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports. Johnson’s mother Diane died of cancer in February. “I don’t know if you guys understand what multiple myeloma is and what it does to the body,” Johnson said “It basically breaks muscles and bones down to a point where you just become limp and you can’t do nothing on your own. Then it comes to a point where you can’t even talk.” Johnson has a partial guarantee in his contract and is looking to secure the final spot on the opening-night roster.
  • The franchise officially opened its new $90MM training facility and corporate headquarters on Monday, according to a team press release. The facility is touted as being the largest in the league. It’s located in downtown Detroit, a short distance from Little Caesars Arena. Their previous practice facility was located in Auburn Hills behind their previous arena, The Palace.

Pistons Notes: Drummond, Griffin, Johnson, Olympics

Pistons center Andre Drummond and senior advisor Ed Stefanski brushed aside specific questions about a potential extension during the team’s Media Day on Monday. Drummond said he’s happy in Detroit and wishes to remain there.

“I love being here. I love playing in Detroit,” he said. “I’m looking forward to continuing my time here.”

Stefanski refused to talk about any potential negotiations. Drummond, who could be the top free agent on the market next summer if he opts out of the final year of his contract, has requested extension talks, according to Vince Ellis of the Free Press. Prior to opening night, Drummond can opt in for the 2020/21 season and add up to three additional years.

We have more on the Pistons:

  • Coach Dwane Casey hopes to give Blake Griffin more nights off this season to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Griffin was hobbled by a knee injury late last season and underwent arthroscopic surgery after the season. “We rode him like a cheap horse last year,” Casey said. “If we didn’t, I don’t think we would have made the playoffs because he was that special to us.” Griffin won’t resist any load management strategies. “For me personally, I’m going to let our staff and front office lead the way on that,” he said. “It’s not going to be me going to them asking for games (off), it’s not going to be them fighting with me. I’m going to listen to them.”
  • Veteran swingman Joe Johnson, who signed a partially guaranteed contract, is essentially competing with big man Christian Wood, who was claimed off waivers, for the last roster spot unless a player with a fully guaranteed contract is traded or waived. “There’s no added pressure on me,” Johnson said. “This opportunity came about and I’m thankful for it but it wasn’t my purpose. I still do love the game, I keep myself in great shape, so to be able to get a chance to compete with these guys, it will be fun.” Johnson, who also worked out for the Sixers, cancelled four scheduled workouts to sign with Detroit.
  • Drummond expressed his desire to play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He withdrew from playing with Team USA in the FIBA World Cup this summer in order to focus on the upcoming season. “I would love to play in the Olympics,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want to play in the Olympics? It would be a big-time thing to be a part of. To play for that gold medal is huge, so I would be very honored to play for them.” Griffin was non-committal about his interest in playing for Team USA in the Olympics next season. “It’s just so far away,” he said. “I’ll definitely address that at the proper time.”

Pistons Notes: Drummond, Kennard, J. Johnson, Final Roster Spot

With possible free agency looming next summer, Pistons center Andre Drummond has put a priority on conditioning, relays Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. Coach Dwane Casey said Drummond has spent the offseason working out with assistants Tim Grgurich and Sean Sweeney two or three times a day in Las Vegas and is “in the best shape since I’ve been around him.”

After this season ends, Drummond will have a decision to make on a $28,751,774 player option for 2020/21. He recently came under fire from fans for talking about how excited he is for a shot at free agency and had to clarify his remarks on Instagram. Casey decided in the second half of last season to shelve the experiment of having Drummond shoot more 3-pointers, but he still believes his center can be effective as a decision-maker in the offense.

There’s more today from Detroit:

  • One of Casey’s training camp decisions will be whether to use Bruce Brown or Luke Kennard in the starting lineup, the coach tells Langlois in a separate story. “The issue with Luke in the first unit – it’s not an issue, it’s a good thing – but it’s just you kind of take away one of his strengths as far as his pick-and-roll game, his ball-handling game,” Casey said. “There’s only so many pick-and-roll games with that first unit. You’ve got Blake (Griffin) in the pick and roll, Reggie (Jackson) in the pick and roll, you’ve got Bruce running pick and roll some and now you’ve got Andre bringing the ball down the floor.”
  • Joe Johnson‘s new contract comes with a $220K guarantee and more incentives the longer he stays on the roster, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. Johnson’s guaranteed money will increase to $1.37MM if he earns a roster spot for opening night and $2.56MM if he remains on the team through January 7.
  • The Pistons have several options for the final spot on their roster heading into camp, observes Duncan Smith of Forbes. Detroit has 14 guaranteed contracts, leaving Johnson and Christian Wood as the most likely candidates outside of that group to make the team, according to Smith. He adds that the front office could consider opening another spot by moving on from Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk or Khyri Thomas, who have minimum contracts, or Langston Galloway. who has an expiring deal worth $7.3MM.