In trading for James Harden, the Nets sent their best center – Jarrett Allen – to the Cavaliers. That left a major hole on a Brooklyn team competing for a title.
The deal also made Andre Drummond somewhat superfluous in Cleveland.
A couple of league sources mentioned after the Harden trade to Brooklyn that it’s a matter of time before he finds his way into a buyout and joins up to give them help with the interior.
Drummond and Allen are playing at similar levels. But Allen is five years younger. He’s clearly Cleveland’s center of the future.
That puts Drummond into trade speculation.
The Cavs won’t buy him out if they can trade him for value. But Drummond’s $28,751,774 salary makes a trade tricky. Some teams can’t aggregate that much salary without including a player better than Drummond – which defeats the purpose of trading for him.
So, if Drummond sticks on the Cavaliers past the trade deadline, they could buy him out.
A buyout also has complications, though.
Though his playing time has decreased since Allen arrived, Drummond is still starting and playing a prominent role. The Cavs (9-9) are in the think of the playoff race. They might prefer to keep Drummond for the stretch run. Especially with 10 teams reaching the playoffs or play-in tournament, Cleveland will likely remain in the race until late in the season.
Buying out Drummond would be about the Cavaliers saving money. He could relinquish a substantial portion of his Cavs salary in a buyout and get made whole by the Nets, who have a $5,727,024 disabled-player exception (Spencer Dinwiddie).
But Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has shown a willingness to spend. Yes, those big luxury-tax payments came for title contenders. But Gilbert also has a thirst to win without LeBron James. Keeping Drummond wouldn’t even require paying the luxury tax. It’d merely be keeping current payroll intact.
It’s easy to see why Drummond and Brooklyn would welcome this scenario. The Nets have been relying on DeAndre Jordan and Jeff Green (as a small-ball option) at center. Drummond’s rebounding and finishing would be big upgrades in the rotation, though his defense isn’t as sharp as ideal. He’d play a prominent role on a championship contender, have a better chance at a ring and boost his stock ahead of 2021 unrestricted free agency.
Sounds almost too good to be true.