On Friday afternoon, Shams Charania of The Athletic added fuel to the fire with further reporting surrounding the Atlanta Hawks and the potential pursuit of a center on the trade market between now and early February. In short order, a specific name became attached to Atlanta, with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN bringing word that the Hawks and Detroit Pistons are “engaged in talks on a trade” that would include All-Star center Andre Drummond.
Detroit and Atlanta have been engaged in talks on a trade centered on Andre Drummond, league sources tell ESPN. No deal imminent, but Detroit is talking to Hawks and several other teams on Drummond, sources said.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 3, 2020
Given Atlanta’s roster situation and the well-chronicled struggles (outside of Alex Len) at the center position, it comes as no surprise that the front office would be aiming for an upgrade for the future. However, Drummond is an intriguing name for a number of reasons, some of which are contractual.
The 26-year-old is averaging 17.6 points and 15.8 rebounds per game this season, and Drummond has led the NBA in rebounding in three of the past four seasons. In short, he is incredibly productive, but Drummond is not under a long-term contract and, with where the Hawks are in the middle of an extended rebuild, there would be a level of uncertainty associated with a deal for the veteran big man.
Wojnarowski later noted that there is “an increasing belief that Drummond will be moved” before the trade deadline, though that reporting was not specifically tied to Atlanta. In contrast, Rod Beard of the Detroit News brings word that “nothing is imminent” with Drummond talks.
A league source says nothing is imminent in a #Pistons Andre Drummond trade. It looks to be that they're just doing due diligence in checking around the league.— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) January 3, 2020
This also means they are likely believe that he will opt out this summer.
Drummond is operating on a $27.1 million salary for this season (plus an eight percent trade bonus if he were to be moved) and he has a $28.6 million player option for next season. It is widely assumed that Drummond will opt out and test free agency in a year that has very few marquee free agents. Atlanta will be flush with cap space this summer and would be a strong destination for Drummond if he were to opt out, whether he’s on the Hawks or not come the end of the year.
It has to be noted that the Hawks would seemingly have a clearer path to re-signing him if Drummond was already on the roster but, if Drummond were to opt out (as widely expected), Atlanta would face some risk of losing him in free agency. In order to acquire Drummond during the 2019-20 season, the Hawks would have to send at least $22.6 million in salary to Detroit. Making things (potentially) easier, Atlanta has multiple large, expiring salaries in Evan Turner, Allen Crabbe and Chandler Parsons, with Parsons’ deal alone representing enough money to make the deal work. However, the Pistons would certainly be looking for assets in return, with all of Atlanta’s large expiring salaries existing as sharp negatives when compared to the market.
It remains to be seen as to what the Pistons will be looking for in return, though the Hawks have an extra first-round pick in 2020 (via Brooklyn) that could be included in any deal. Atlanta also has several young players on rookie-scale contracts, though it stands to reason that the team would not want to include premium players like Trae Young (duh) and John Collins.
Stay tuned as more information becomes available.