Sixers free agency 2021: Grading the Andre Drummond signing

Andre Drummond, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports
Andre Drummond, Sixers Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports /

The Sixers unleashed the meme team on Tuesday, signing Andre Drummond to a one-year minimum contract in a move very few people saw coming. Drummond has famously feuded with Joel Embiid in the past, with the Sixers’ MVP candidate even calling him a “bum” in 2018. Now, the two are teammates, with Drummond primed to absorb most of the non-Embiid minutes at center.

All laughs aside, the signing does make a great deal of sense. Drummond is a tremendous talent, and Daryl Morey has long been a talent-first, questions-later GM. While there are significant concerns about Drummond’s fit, especially in the playoffs, he is a physically gifted player who can hoard rebounds better than anyone in the game.

In the end, Drummond is essentially a talent upgrade over Dwight Howard who poses many of the same logistical problems on the court. If Ben Simmons is on the roster come October, then Drummond’s fit is clunky at best. If Simmons is gone, and replaced by a floor-spacing guard, then Drummond becomes a more palatable primary option behind Embiid.

How does the Sixers’ signing of Andre Drummond to a one-year minimum contract grade out?

Last season, Doc Rivers was very traditionally-minded in setting his rotation. That meant Dwight Howard was the backup center, and no one else got much of a chance. Rivers never experimented with small-ball options, and when Howard was getting smoked in the playoffs, Rivers still felt no need to turn elsewhere.

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That being said, we can safely assume Drummond will enter the season as Embiid’s backup, and probably hold that position all year. It would be wise for Morey (and Rivers) to invest in other options — preferably a floor spacer — but don’t put it past Rivers to get tunnel vision with Drummond and shy away from flexibility.

Drummond as the one and only backup to Embiid is generally fine, assuming Simmons is no longer in the team’s long-term plans. When healthy and engaged, Drummond is a starting-caliber center. He has been notoriously apathetic in the past, and there’s no guarantee he’s locked in on a night-to-night basis, but when he shows up, Drummond can genuinely change the calculus of a game with his defense, finishing, and of course, rebounding.

This is a do-or-die season for Drummond. Not long ago, he was an All-Star and the face of Detroit. Now, he’s backing up the guy who called him a bum. If Drummond can’t elevate his value in the shadow of Embiid, it becomes prudent to begin questioning his future in the NBA. He should at least have the motivation to succeed as the Sixers pursue a championship.

Last season, Drummond averaged 14.9 points and 12.0 rebounds, splitting time between Cleveland and Los Angeles. He shot an awful 49.3 percent from the floor, but did hit a career-high 60.5 percent of his free throws. Given the nature of his offense, that field goal percentage has to improve. Drummond has the size to bury smaller defenders at the rim, and the athleticism to dance around bigger bodies, but smarter shots are a must.

The main concern here is Rivers, and whether or not Drummond is too “good” for the Sixers to develop a serious Plan B. Rivers cannot commit to Drummond without having a more versatile option in his back pocket. That is especially true if Simmons sticks around. That said, the talent alone — for a minimum contract, which is inherently low-risk — makes this a solid move.

Final grade: B+

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