With the official start of trade season happening over the weekend, the flurry of player movement rumors is ramping up. Teams have until February 6 to make deals now that all free agents signed this last summer are on the market. It’s an exciting time for speculation. Naturally, fans of the Dallas Mavericks are already whipping up a fury about the potential possibilities.
It’s early, but it’s time to put at least one rumor to bed.
Andre Drummond’s name keeps popping up throughout Mavs Twitter. The uptick in interest for the Detroit Pistons’ center began Sunday night thanks to ESPN’s “Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe: Trade Show Special.” In it, they briefly discuss Dallas’ desires moving forward and building around Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis. At one point, Wojnarowski mentions that the team is interested in getting a big man.
“Whether it’s at the trade deadline, or whether it’s this summer, I think they would like a big physical presence to put alongside Porzingis, Doncic,” he says. “You know, an Andre Drummond—how about a Montrelz Harrell with the Clippers? [The Clippers] can’t afford to keep him. He becomes a free agent.”
So, this is where the rumor first surfaced. Note that Woj never said that Dallas is pursuing Drummond, just that they are looking to get someone potentially like him, in his estimation. You can listen to the whole show here.
This season, Drummond is playing well and doing what he does best: Rebounding. He leads the league in every rebounding category. He’s also having the best scoring season of his career, averaging 17.7 points per game. Combine that with his generally good defensive numbers around the rim and you can see why teams may start inquiring about the availability of the two-time All-Star, especially given Detroit’s struggles.
The Mavericks have shown at least some tertiary interest in Drummond in the past. He fits the prototypical big man that the team likes to chase. Think about Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan, Dwight Howard, Clint Capela, and Hassan Whiteside. But is trading for Drummond something that Dallas should feasibly consider given their style of play? It’s safe to say that DeAndre Jordan, while an excellent rebounder, was a disastrous fit with the Mavs last season. Drummond could be more of the same.
Dallas likes to spread the floor out as much as possible. Often, the offense begins with five guys around the perimeter. The center’s job is setting screens and rolling to the rim. Drummond’s physical size makes him a valuable for screens, but his service as a roll man, sucking in the defense, leaves much to be desired. He only ranks in the forty-eighth percentile, scoring 1.11 points per possession. For comparison, Dwight Powell, whose numbers are down this year, is in the eighty-first percentile with 1.28 points per possession. Maxi Kleber is eighty-fifth percentile, dropping 1.37 PPP.
Defensively, when he’s not guarding the rim or post ups, Drummond becomes a liability, especially along the perimeter. In isolation, Drummond ranks in the twenty-eighth percentile, giving up 1.06 points per possession. Those numbers get worse when it comes to defending a man rolling to the rim. He’s in the fourth percentile, allowing 1.46 points per possession. Again, for comparison, Powell is in the ninety-sixth (0.44 PPP) and fortieth percentile (1.05 PPP) in isolation and roll man defense, respectively. Kleber, meanwhile, is in the sixty-eighth percentile in isolation defense. He’s only allowing 0.76 points per possession.
Even if the Mavericks decided to throw caution to the wind—blowing up the best offense the NBA has ever seen—and make a play for Drummond, they really don’t have a lot of pieces to work with. Dallas unloaded a few of its future first-round draft picks in the trades that netted them Doncic and Porzingis. The next first-rounder they have available to deal is in 2025. Dallas does have two 2020 second rounders it can offer, from the Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz, to sweeten any deal. But with the Warriors tanking, it might be more lucrative for the Mavs to hold onto the pick and watch its value grow.
Player-wise, trading Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee works in a deal for Drummond. If Detroit decides to tear it all down, Lee’s expiring deal may look appealing. However, Hardaway still has a year left on his contract after this season when he’ll be making almost $19 million. That number will only increase if he’s shipped to the Pistons thanks to his 15 percent trade kicker. That’s not an ideal contract to swallow for a team beginning to rebuild. Beyond that, Hardaway is one of the Mavericks’ best players right now. Trading a valuable perimeter scoring presence for a lumbering center seems counterintuitive. To cap it all off, Drummond can become a free agent this summer, where he’ll command top-dollar. Does Dallas run the risk of breaking the bank for him or risk letting him walk for nothing? Neither scenario is ideal.
It’s an exciting time to be a Mavericks fan again and it’s fun to imagine all the possible moves they can make to get better. That doesn’t mean that many of them hold water. Most of them don’t. Woj was merely spit-balling when he mentioned Drummond and Dallas in the same breath. He wasn’t dropping bombs. The fact of the matter is that the Mavericks don’t need to swing for the fences before the trade deadline. They’re extraordinarily good right now and the players at Rick Carlisle’s disposal are performing admirably. Besides, they don’t need to make a trade for a physical center to play next to Porzingis. They already have one.
“If the Mavericks want a big, hulking presence, they have the guy who starred as a villain in John Wick 3, Boban Marjanovic, barely even playing,” Zach Lowe says. “They can use him.”