The first step to solving any problem is identifying that there is, in fact, a problem. The Detroit Pistons recognized their roster was not set up for long-term success and attempted to remedy the situation in February by trading away their franchise mainstay, Andre Drummond, which signaled the beginning of a rebuild. The initial reaction around the league after the Pistons traded Drummond to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Brandon Knight, John Henson, and a second-round draft was one of bewilderment.
There was no confusion as to why the Pistons would trade Drummond; in his first seven seasons with the Pistons, the team never advanced past the first round of the playoffs. The puzzling part of the trade was that on the open market, the two-time All-Star, and three-time rebounding champion, was worth no more than a single second-round pick and two journeymen veterans on contracts that made the finances of the deal work.
Drummond’s lack of trade value furthers the ideology of the limited impact that a traditional paint-bound center can have in the modern NBA. Post-up, rebounding centers, like Drummond, were once thought of as the necessary ingredient in any championship recipe. 2,495 3-pointers later, Chef Curry has cooked up a new recipe for success. The analytics approach to basketball has led to more spacing and, subsequently, more 3-point shots. The Pistons recognized that they would never become an elite offense with Drummond as their fulcrum.
Trading Drummond not only represented a stylistic overhaul for the Pistons but also conveyed their willingness to escape the self-induced purgatory they have been stuck in for the entirety of the Drummond era. By trading Drummond, the Pistons ensured that he could not pick up his player option this summer, worth approximately $28 million. But the trade was not solely predicated on finances, as it was not long ago when the Pistons believed that they could construct a contending roster around Drummond.
To properly understand why the Pistons were willing to part with Drummond for such an insignificant return, it is paramount to examine the 2018 blockbuster trade in which the Pistons acquired Blake Griffin from the Los Angeles Clippers.