The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed to sign two-time All-Star center Andre Drummond for the rest of the season. The 27 year old joins a big man rotation of Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, Markieff Morris and Devontae Cacok on the defending champions.
The Lakers moved on from Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee in the offseason, opting for a more versatile player in the form of Marc Gasol. But Gasol has struggled defensively this season and lacks the rim protection that was provided by McGee and Howard.
On the statsheet the Lakers are still the number 1 ranked defence in the league with a defensive rating of 106.2, but they’re clearly not what they were last season. Much of it is down to injuries to Anthony Davis and LeBron James, but it is also because of a fundamentally different defensive scheme.
Coach Frank Vogel has gone for a more man-to-man defensive approach this season, which leaves very little margin for error in terms of rotations and defensive assignments. Due to the lack of rim protection the Lakers cannot afford to drop a little deeper in the half court, add on top of that the stop start nature of the season, and the lack of continuity in the lineups, a scheme very reliant on communication has faltered often for the Lakers. Drummond is closer to McGee and Howard than either Gasol or Harrell is, and eliminates some of the concern regarding the Lakers’ lack of verticality.
That said, Drummond is one of the worst shot takers in the NBA. He often takes out-of-control floaters and hooks out of the post and goes isolation even from the perimeter. He loves using spins and drop steps on the block to get to a reverse and his favorite move this year has been a step through from the perimeter to an extended finish. The problem is they seem to rarely go in. But in a fully fit Lakers side, Drummond will be more of the screener, leaving Davis and LeBron to operate in the paint.
Another aspect of Drummond’s game that has improved, is his ability as a passer which could be a powerful source of playmaking if used in moderation, much like the Lakers currently employ Gasol. Drummond also gives coach Vogel the opportunity to stagger some of the LeBron and Schröder minutes, providing Dennis a good pick-n-role partner in Drummond and a more cerebral partner to Lebron in Gasol.
A team with Anthony Davis and LeBron James, is still the best in the League. Any additions via trade wouldn’t have raised their ceiling much higher than it already is. But the acquisition of Drummond is a smart move at a small price with a potentially big payoff.
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