It’s NBA trade season. As one of the best teams in the league, the Boston Celtics will likely avoid being a primary name in the rumor mill. That doesn't mean we won’t get the odd trickle of information, though. After all, no team is perfect. There’s always an area that you could improve, regardless of whether it’s at the front or back end of the rotation.
A common theme surrounding the Celtics this season has been finding one more big man. It’s not that Luke Kornet cannot fulfill his role as Boston’s third big. In fact, he’s emerging as one of the better third-string centers in the league. Instead, it’s about having optionality during games.
During the off-season, Joe Mazzulla spoke of his desire to have curveballs. Having players that provide different things is one way of having that curveball. That brings me to Andre Drummond.
On Monday, HoopsHype’s Micahel Scotto reported that Drummond is a name the Celtics have reportedly shown interest in. The veteran big man has impressed during a seven-game stretch as the Chicago Bulls starter throughout late December and early January. He’s also been impressive off the bench for Billy Donovan’s team.
Historically, I’ve been opposed to the idea of bringing him into the rotation. Not because he isn’t a talented center, but because Boston has generally utilized a switch one-through-five defensive system. The system is different now, though. Boston utilizes a drop scheme with one-through-four switching and providing gap/nail help.
Drummond could be a legitimate rim protector as a drop defender. Most importantly, though, he could provide elite-level rebounding help. This season, he resides in the 100th percentile for percentage of available defensive boards secured, grabbing 31.8% of misses when he’s on the court. There also hasn’t been a season in his career when he’s been outside the top 10% of rebounding big men in the NBA.
With a strong frame, good size, and an insatiable hunger for securing boards, Drummond would elevate the Celtics into arguably the best rebounding team in the NBA. He would have Jrue Holiday — arguably the best rebounding guard in the NBA, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, and Kristaps Porzingis all providing valuable assistance on the glass, too.
I’m all in on Drummond for this version of the Celtics. Think he adds a different dimension and some much needed physicality.— Adam Taylor (@AdamTaylorNBA) February 5, 2024
Will have some longer thoughts via an article and video later this week https://t.co/BCrlWWnOcg
Furthermore, Drummond’s physicality would be a welcomed addition to the rotation. I’m not of the belief that the Celtics lack toughness. Instead, I see toughness the same way I see leadership: It can come in multiple forms. However, there’s no denying that when teams increase their physicality against the Celtics, things start to become a little more difficult.
You don’t get much more physical than Drummond. His size and strength would give the Celtics a pivot point when dealing with teams that want to play bully ball. Yes, I’m thinking of the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic as primary examples. Oh, and then we have his screening ability. You can imagine the space that he could generate for some of Boston’s primary ball-handlers as a go-to screener in the half-court?
Of course, Drummond does come with some drawbacks — as do all players when you’re shopping in the bargain bin. His basketball IQ is questionable. He’s prone to being pulled out of position or clogging the lanes with ill-timed rotations. As a pick-and-roll big, he can sometimes roll into areas that are open for secondary cutters or where the ball-handler might navigate to should the defense cut off the original drive.
Yet, the benefits outweigh the risks. Overall, Drummond is a reliable vertical spacer in the dunker spot. He is arguably the best rebounder in the NBA. He can give you offense out of the post. He can operate as a DHO hub from multiple areas of the court. And he’s cheap, earning just $3.36 million this season and hitting the unrestricted free-agent market at the end of the season.
So, yes, he fits inside the Grant Williams TPE. He would likely be available for a couple of second-round draft picks. Perhaps you have to throw in a project player like Dalano Banton to make things work. You can probably convince him to remain with the Celtics longer-term, too, without paying through the nose to do so.
Of course, Drummond’s arrival would cause a shift in Boston’s overall big-man rotation. We know that he’s not unseating Porzingis or Horford. Instead, Luke Kornet would likely slide down to a fourth-big role. Neemias Queta’s chances of earning any tangible minutes between now and the end of the season would likely disappear, too.
However, as a contending team, with their sights set on a championship, Brad Stevens would be unlikely to concern himself with Queta’s playing time. He’s a developmental talent and won’t be available for the playoffs unless the Celtics convert his contract. I would feel much safer knowing that Drummond and Kornet are your fallback options in the postseason, should they need to be elevated into a more prominent role.
Drummond is a cost-controlled option in his 12th year as an NBA center. You don’t carve out that type of longevity without being one of the best at your position and role. He fits the Celtics defensive system. He offers something different on offense. He provides size and physicality. And he does all of that without breaking the bank.
If a deal is available, it makes sense for Boston to pursue it, as it would improve their chances during the regular-season and into the playoffs. Whether a deal happens for Drummond or another big man will remain to be seen. But from where I’m sitting, the veteran rebounder makes a ton of sense.