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Preview: Golden State’s lack of interest in Drummond is another example of taking the long view (tanking)

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Warriors open 2020 at Chase Center with a winnable game against the struggling Pistons

Detroit Pistons v Golden State Warriors

Andre Drummond is the NBA’s leading rebounder, but don’t expect the Warriors to have much interest. This is the essence of tanking.

We can quibble over the specific definition of the word, but tanking or not, Golden State is taking the long view and their non-pursuit of Drummond is a perfect example of why it makes sense.

In another time, many fans would be thinking up convoluted trade scenarios to bring Drummond to the Warriors. But not now. And that’s ok. This isn’t a franchise that’s trying to just make the playoffs this season. It was a forced hand, but the Warriors are smart to play it all the way out.


GAME DETAILS

WHO: Golden State Warriors (9-27) vs. Detroit Pistons (12-23)

WHERE: Chase Center, San Francisco, CA

WHEN: Saturday January 4th, 2020; 5:30 pm PST

WATCH: NBC Sports Bay Area

Blog Buddy: Detroit Bad Boys


A trade to nowhere

It’s not so much that Drummond wouldn’t help - for he definitely would. Not only does he lead the league in every major rebounding category (he’s first in total rebounds, offensive, and defensive rebound rates), but he’s also the only player to rank in the top 11 for both steals and blocks per game.

With the Celtics, Raptors, Hawks, and other teams expressing interest, it would seem like the Warriors would also be at least a little intrigued - if they wanted to win now. But let the Pistons serve as something of a cautionary tale. Getting caught in the grinding mediocrity of teams too good to get a top draft pick, and yet not good enough to make noise in the playoffs is probably the worst fate an NBA team can carve out for itself.

Drummond is supposedly leaning towards opting out of the final year of his current deal, placing him in unrestricted free agency for the upcoming offseason. Rather than lose an asset for nothing, the Pistons seem willing to part with their franchise cornerstone that never managed to serve as any sort of meaningfully useful cornerstone.

As per ESPN:

The Hawks have discussed sending a package that includes a 2020 first-round pick via the Brooklyn Nets and the salary-cap relief of expiring contracts for Detroit, league sources said. A potential deal would include other assets.

There’s an increasing belief inside and outside the Pistons organization that a Drummond deal is growing in likelihood prior to the Feb. 6 NBA trade deadline, league sources said.

It would seem that the Warriors could easily beat that offer if they wanted to, but this isn’t a “win now” season; and the team is reluctant to burn any significant assets (like their expected lottery draft pick) in a move that returns anything less than a superstar. Drummond is good, and the fit is excellent, but the Warriors are aiming just a bit higher.

Why don’t the Warriors want Drummond? Let’s take a look at Golden State’s bigs

For most of this season, coach Steve Kerr’s preference has been to start Willie Cauley-Stein, a rim-running leaper with an uneven and unpredictable impact. But beyond that, the Warriors are quietly stumbling into a reasonable big man rotation off the bench.

Kevon Looney is assumed to be the resident king of the depth chart. Though lingering nerve issues in his hips have hampered his performance, the widespread belief is that when the Warriors get serious about winning games again, Looney will play a large role.

But this season has uncovered a few new rough gems that could conceivably be polished into rotation-caliber players. Marquese Chriss has been the second-leading eater of minutes at the Center position (behind Cauley-Stein). Per 36 minutes, he’s averaging around 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists as well as nearly 2 blocked shots. Earlier in the season, his name was frequently floated as an expendable player, but with the flashes he’s showing so far, seems more likely to be a player that the team would like to hang around for another season or more.

Eric Paschall, the standout rookie this season is another promising player, but the Warriors are reportedly grooming him to play the wing. Still, he plays like a natural combo forward and his ability to serve as a functional big within the switching defensive schemes the Warriors tend to favor is yet another factor in the team’s reluctance to rock the boat in order to grab a low ceiling asset like Drummond.

Finally, there’s Omari Spellman. An excellent rebounder with a decent offensive game, Spellman has the bulk to bang with the bigs of the NBA, with enough lateral quickness to at least stay respectable when switched out on the wings.

Prediction

Neither of these teams are playing exceptionally well, but with Drummond’s name churning through the rumor mill, and the Warriors playing better at home this is one of those rare “winnable on paper” games.