Philadelphia 76ers: Andre Drummond is an upgrade over Dwight Howard

Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports /

In the NBA, you win with star power.

Sure every now and then, you’ll see a team go on an improbable run with a collection of role players, but over the past decade, there hasn’t been a single NBA champion without an All-Star player leading the way, with two, and sometimes even three more filling out their supporting cast.

Gosh, remember when the Golden State Warriors signed Kevin Durant and basically bullied their way to two straight titles in the mid-2010s? Gosh, what a weird, naive world that was.

But just because titles are usually won or lost based on the strength at the top of the roster doesn’t mean that teams can completely ignore their bench or enter a season sans complementary pieces. If anything, landing the right role players can make the lives of star players a whole lot easier and allow them to be more effectively deployed situationally.

With that in mind, why did the Los Angeles Lakers opt to re-sign Dwight Howard over bringing back Andre Drummond? Why did Rob Pelinka just hand deliver the Philadelphia 76ers one of the best value signings of free agency to instead target an objectively worse player who is eight years older?

Andre Drummond is an upgrade regardless of his fit with the Philadelphia 76ers.

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Hey, have you heard that the Los Angeles Lakers are old?

No? However not?

It seems like a day hasn’t gone by since free agency opened up roughly a week ago where someone hasn’t talked about how old the Lakers are. Barring any unforeseen additions that tip the scale one way or the other, the Lakers will start out the season with the oldest 15 man roster in the league, sporting an average age of 32.8, according to ESPN.

Now granted, that isn’t old old. Plenty of players have continued to succeed into their mid-to-late 30s in the modern-day NBA – just look at Chris Paul – and even the Lakers’ oldest player, Carmelo Anthony, is just a year older than CP3, but with a Big 3 featuring only one player under 30 and an average age of 32 and change, the Lakers aren’t thinking too long-term with their success.

No, that team wants to win and win now, which is why they are more than happy to move off of a uniquely talented player in his prime to instead sign a 35-year-old presumably in the twilight of his NBA career.

In theory, Andre Drummond is the kind of player the Lakers should be prioritizing for their long-term future. He’s a good scorer, a decent enough free throw shooter for his size, and one of the best rebounders in the biz. Locking him up long-term would ensure the Lakers a pair of All-Star frontcourt players to build around once LeBron James hangs up his shoes, instead of being left with the weird, post-championship fallout currently being experienced by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But instead? Instead the Lakers cashed out on their young core – Drummond included – to instead focus on bringing in vets who will accept their role, work hard, and give everything they have to close out their collective careers as champions.

The Sixers, by contrast, aren’t quite in that situation just yet. Their best player is 27, their roster is mostly under 30, and they have enough assets to remain committed to steady growth without blowing everything up on an all-in attempt to goose out a parade down Broad Street at the expense of their future.

If Drummond performs like his old Pistons self this fall, he’d surely be off to some team with cap space on a lucrative deal with an eight-figure AAV.

And if he fails? Well, the Sixers might just have their new long-term backup center, even if he still would prefer to be a starter like his once Lakers teammate Dennis Schroder.

Sidebar: Boy, has anyone had a worse go of things as of late than Dennis Schroder? Going from turning down a deal worth $84 million to being unsigned a week into free agency must be brutal.

Landing players like Drummond, and to a lesser degree, Georges Niang and Danny Green, are the sort of moves a team like the Golden State Warriors used to make in their prime. Each brings a unique skill set that is complementary to the team’s top-end talent, and they do so without stepping on the toes of their teammates.

If Drummond didn’t want to be a backup, he wouldn’t have signed with a team featuring the best center in the NBA. But he did sign with said team because he knows that 1. playing against Joel Embiid day after day will make him a better player and 2. Joel Embiid misses games and thus will present him chances to shine.

Assuming Drummond arrives in the City of Brotherly Love with a growth mindset, there isn’t a reason to be down on his addition.

Next. Golden State doesn’t have a viable Ben Simmons trade package. dark

For the fourth year in a row, the Philadelphia 76ers are entering the regular season with a different backup center behind Joel Embiid. While that lack of continuity may be detrimental from a continuity standpoint, having the optionality to survey the market and identify a plus option is a worthy tradeoff and one that Daryl Morey has used quite well since taking over the reins from Elton Brand last fall. Even if Andre Drummond isn’t for everyone, doesn’t shoot 3s, and had arguably the worst season of his career in 2020-21, he’s still an upgrade over Dwight Howard at this point in his career, and Philly fans should be excited about that.