Prolific Big Man Andre Drummond Gave Cavs Fans a Glimpse of What Could Be
It’s kind of fitting that Andre Drummond is the final player featured in Cavs.com’s ongoing weekly series. He was with the Wine & Gold for just over a month. But that brief glimpse at what he’d mean moving forward is enough to get fans geeked for the future.
Drummond wrapped up the season with his third straight rebounding title and fourth in the past five years. He averaged career-bests in scoring (17.7ppg), steals (1.9spg) and assists (2.7apg). No player in the league had more 15-point, 15-rebound games and the same thing goes for 20-20 outings. Drummond was the only player in the Association to rank in the Top-10 in both blocks and steals.
Only Dwight Howard has posted big man numbers comparable to Drummond’s over the past decade-and-a-half. He just turned 27 this past August and he’s already grabbed 2,098 more rebounds in his career than the Cavaliers all-time leader, LeBron James.
Drummond had already punished the Cavaliers twice before Cleveland swung the blockbuster deal at the Deadline. Over a three-day, two-game period against the Cavs the previous month, the eighth-year man from UConn averaged 25.5 points and 21.5 rebounds per.
The Cavs had dropped 12 of 13 before dealing with Detroit – sending Brandon Knight, John Henson and a 2023 second rounder to the Pistons.
Cleveland took one on the chin against the Clippers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Drummond’s debut, but bounced back to beat Atlanta just before the All-Star Break. He notched a double-double in both contests.
The Cavs came out of the All-Star Break with a new head coach, replacing John Beilein midway through his first season with J.B. Bickerstaff. The change was noticeable immediately, with Drummond again doubling-up in a road win over Washington to begin the Bickerstaff Era.
Cleveland split its next two games and Drummond struggled in both, hampered by a calf injury that would sideline him for five of the next six. And when he returned, he seemed to find his mojo – topping the 20-point plateau in each of his final three appearances, including a monster 27-point, 13-rebound performance in what would be the Cavs final home game of the season – a 132-129 overtime thriller against the Spurs.
The Cavaliers went 4-4 in Drummond’s eight games with the Cavs, but a big part of his tenure was spent trying to fit in and get adjusted – to a new group of big men, a mid-season coaching change and a group of very young guards.
"I've never been in this situation, so I didn't know what to expect when I got here,” said the two-time All-Star at the time. “I didn't know how long it would take me to get adjusted. And obviously, it's been a couple of games now and I'm still trying to get into the flow of things.”
With free agency and the draft still ahead, it’s still somewhat unclear what the Cavaliers frontcourt will look like to start the 2020-21 season. If it resembles the one that ended last season – combined with Cleveland’s young and improving backcourt – the Wine & Gold should be ready to compete for the playoffs again next year.
When last year concluded, four of those frontline players were in the East’s top-20 in double-doubles – with Drummond, Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. combining for 107 on the season. Drummond and Thompson were also the top two offensive rebounders in the NBA last year.
“(Drummond) plays extremely hard and has crazy production, so he's going to be – along with T-Top, Larry and myself – it’s going to be a pretty formidable frontcourt,” said Kevin Love not long after the trade. “We're going to be able to make a lot of good things happen, rebound the ball at a high clip – and then we have a number of skill guys that can play different ways.”
The foursome did prove problematic for opponents. Drummond is a thumper in the middle while Tristan Thompson is a pure workhorse. Love can work the glass and stretch the floor and Nance Jr. might be the team’s most versatile player. Each player can get you boards and buckets.
If the season had to end the way it did for Cavs fans, at least they saw what the Cavaliers could become with Drummond in the mix. They scored a season-high in points (despite losing Tristan to an eye injury early) and completed their season sweep of the Spurs.
"I think that’s the biggest thing, the belief in what you can accomplish,” said Coach Bickerstaff following that win. “We’ve shown that we can put together some really good stretches against some really good teams. We’ve played some tough teams since we’ve been here at home, well-coached teams, talented teams, and we were able to find a way.”
In a time of global uncertainty, what the Cavaliers – and the NBA in general – will look like is still up in the air. Four teams still have to iron it out for the Championship of a season that began 11 months ago.
But if the Cavaliers frontcourt looks like it did in March and their young backcourt continues its ascent, next year could be a world of positive possibilities.