The Bulls clearly needed better defensive big men. Instead, we brought in Andre Drummond, an offense-first center from a bygone era. Drummond might still be capable of scoring in bunches around the bucket if given the opportunity, but even at his All-Star peak, he was not much of a rim-protector. The journeyman vet has only gotten less effective on that end a decade into his NBA career.
Even if the Bulls had added the Andre Drummond who had clawed his way onto two All-Star team selections while tumbling into the lottery with the Detroit Pistons, they would have only truly addressed one superficial stat: rebounding. Drummond is not much of a defender. He never has been. But he is a fantastic defensive rebounder. He gobbled up an average of 6.2 defensive boards a night in 2021-22 (out of 9.3 rebounds a game total) while with the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets. The man he’ll supplant in Chicago’s rotation, Thompson, averaged just 3.0 defensive rebounds a night in 23 games for the Bulls.
Drummond had a nice statistical season, splitting his time as Joel Embiid’s backup in Philadelphia 76ers and later, by necessity, the Brooklyn Nets’ starting center, beating out fellow graybeards Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge, plus newly minted $20 million man Nic Claxton (another guy the Bulls probably should have considered instead of Drummond). In 73 regular season games, the 28-year-old averaged 7.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.9 blocks a night, during just 19.7 minutes.
Drummond certainly enjoyed some throwback performances while with Brooklyn:
He can still finish around the rim at ease on offense:
Though he did start for the Nets against Boston, the 6’10” University of Connecticut product did not enjoy the throwback postseason renaissance Dragic did with Brooklyn. Drummond only played more than 18 minutes once in four games, and was merely a token starter in the closeout game. Nash reduced his minutes load to 3:36 in Game 4. Even the corpse of Blake Griffin played more minutes than Drummond in Game 4! Claxton, an athletic, rim-rolling big with lots of two-way upside, was clearly the better player than Drummond, and was rewarded with more playing time in all but one contest.
Disregarding his Game 4 cameo, Drummond’s playoff numbers last year are still incredibly underwhelming. He averaged 5.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and a block. One of the biggest issues with Drummond late in games that is that he is completely untrustworthy from the charity stripe as a career 47.3% free-throw shooter.
One way to look at the below clip is Drummond being unselfish, recognizing a wide-open Bruce Brown in the corner, and deferring to him. The other, less kind way is to acknowledge he may have been so reticent to shoot free-throws he dished out rather than absorb contact from an Al Horford/Daniel Theis double-team.
One of the few bright spots for Drummond was his abilities as a finisher around the rim, which at least early in games helped Brooklyn. Drummond enjoyed a natural on-court chemistry with then-teammate Seth Curry, who traveled with him to Brooklyn from the Sixers as part of Philadelphia’s deal for James Harden.
Here’s Drummond shaking ex-Bull Daniel Theis to open himself up for a nice Seth Curry baseline find.
To get a taste of what we’re in for when the games start to really count, take a look at this pastiche highlighting all of Drummond’s Game 3 ups and downs, courtesy of our old pal Stephen Noh.
Bulls fans: Here are all of the good and bad plays from Andre Drummond's last meaningful game of the season (he started one more game after this, but only played 3:36 total before being pulled). pic.twitter.com/v3ERWBB4I6— Steph Noh (@StephNoh) July 5, 2022
You can’t teach size, and Drummond is a legit center at 6’10” and a listed 279 pounds. He bullies his way into low post dominance on occasion in these clips, possessing a physicality the slimmer, shorter Thompson simply lacked. He does pull down some boards and make some creative finishes with five feet of the rim. On the down side, he also coughs up the ball multiple times when faced with Boston’s wall of defenders in the paint, fails to effectively close out on his man, struggles not to foul, and at one point disregards his cover (Daniel Theis), enabling an easy cut to the rack.
He’s never been a good rim-protector, and unfortunately, that’s kind of what the Bulls needed from the backup center spot this season, with Nikola Vucevic entering the last season of his current (and, hopefully, final) deal with the Bulls.
So what, beyond the flashy rebounding, solid finishing around the basket, and inability to finish games does Andre Drummond actually give this Chicago roster? Not much, though Drummond also has the strength and length to successfully box out opponents beneath the bucket when it comes time to angle for rebounds. In the playoffs, he’ll be more useful for Chicago than Tristan Thompson or Jones were, though he does not address Chicago’s biggest frontcourt problems.
I could talk myself into the signing in a vacuum. He may be a reduced version of himself, but in spot minutes, he can occasionally rev back up to something approaching his prior level. Why the Bulls are paying Drummond a cent over the veteran’s minimum is deeply confounding to this writer (much like their decision to pay Thompson using the team’s bi-annual exception last season, which actually could have been useful to have this summer).
The addition of Andre Drummond (and his fellow washed-up ex-All-Star Net, Goran Dragic) as the only notable new Bulls this summer have to make this one of the most disappointing offseasons in recent Bulls history.