The Los Angeles Lakers are in a bit of a rut right now. They've dropped four of their last five and the team has struggled to adjust to the loss of Anthony Davis, made worse by the absence of Dennis Schroder, who is also rehabbing his own injury. It is February, however, and any concerns about this Lakers squad right now probably won't matter when the postseason arrives later this year.
But regular-season wins do matter for seeding purposes, and while that matters less than it ever has with most arenas nowhere near full capacity, it matters more than it did last year during the bubble playoffs. Of course, it also matters for teams as good as the Lakers in terms of matching up with an ideal first-round punching bag to warm up on in preparation for the real challengers in the second and third rounds of the postseason.
The general consensus has been decided: the Lakers need some help, especially in the frontcourt. Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell are great as backups for AD but not so great as starters in their own right. The easy and obvious answer to those problems is Andre Drummond, currently sitting pretty and riding the pine while the Cavaliers attempt to trade him.
Kendrick Perkins went on ESPN today to declare Drummond that answer.
I want to make it clear that I am not picking on Big Perk. I enjoy the energy he brings to the table as an analyst and he is far from the only person saying that the Lakers should go and get Drummond.
But he and all those with him in that camp are wrong. First of all, it is impossible for the Lakers to acquire Drummond without gutting their roster entirely. They either trade Schroder along with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (and wait until March 3 to do so, when KCP is eligible for trades) or send Schroeder along with three or four additional rotational pieces. They aren't going to do down either of those paths, given how important both of those players are to the roster as its currently constructed.
Now, if Drummond agrees to a buyout with the Cavaliers and is interested in signing a very cheap one-year contract in Los Angeles in pursuit of a ring, that's a different matter entirely. But it doesn't change the final outcome: Drummond does not bring what the Lakers need right now to the table.
As Perkins accurately points out above, the Lakers are missing a bouncy rim-running center with at least average rim protection skills. They had two such players last year in Dwight Howard and JaVale McGhee. Drummond has similar physical attributes to the pair (and is a better rebounding center than both combined) but he can't do what they did for the Lakers last year.
We'll start with the defense (all stats via NBA.com unless otherwise noted). Drummond, despite being tall and able to jump very high, is not good at protecting the paint. He is ranked 46th among all centers in defensive win shares, a metric used to determine how many wins a player produces for a team based on his defense. In other words, there are 45 other centers who do more on that end of the court to help their team win than Drummond. Opponents currently shoot 47 percent when defended by Drummond, a number that ranks 34th among all centers who have played in at least 20 games this season. When Drummond defends a shot, opposing players only shoot 0.7 percent worse than they would if it were undefended. Not terrible, but not elite, either.
Then there's the offense. Drummond is not at all a threat on in the pick-and-roll, despite (again) being both big and athletic. That's probably why he's only used as the roll man in only 8.3 percent of Cleveland's pick-and-roll plays. When Cleveland does call those plays, Drummond is absolutely terrible, averaging only .84 points per possession when acting as the roll man. Only 14 players in the NBA who have appeared in at least 20 games average less points per possession, and only four (Tristian Thompson, Jaxson Hayes, Harry Giles, and Aron Baynes) are players who we would consider traditional centers.
The Lakers definitely could use a decent rim-running big to help initiate pick-and-roll sets with LeBron James until Schroeder and eventually Davis comes back. They definitely do not need a center who barely makes a difference defending the paint and is objectively one of the worst centers in the entire league at finishing when rolling to the rim. Los Angeles better keep searching, because Drummond is not the answer.