NBA Free Agents 2020: Predictions for Cavs' Andre Drummond and Top Centers

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 6, 2020

Cleveland Cavaliers' Andre Drummond drives against the Atlanta Hawks in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

Even in a down-sizing NBA, centers still matter.

Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic are the reasons their respective clubs are in championship contention. Karl-Anthony Towns establishes the offensive identity of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Deandre Ayton has helped the Phoenix Suns finally escape the center.

The importance of the position isn't what it once was, but it hasn't evaporated. That's as good as the news can get for the centers heading into an uncertain free-agent market.

We'll spotlight three of the best bigs below and predict where they will land.


Andre Drummond, Cleveland Cavaliers (Player Option)

In a different era, Drummond might have his choice of landing spots and a blank check with his name on it. The two-time All-Star is steamrolling toward his fourth rebounding title in five years, and this should be his second straight season with a career-high scoring average.

But he lacks the offensive skill clubs seek in a modern big man. He has 15 three-pointers (on 103 attempts) in eight seasons, and his 46.1 career free-throw percentage virtually eliminates any hope that he'll ever expand his range.

He has value but not enough to match the $28.8 million player option he holds for next season. That's a ton of money for an interior big in a vacuum, and there's just no way he could approach that salary in a market where few teams are even able to spend big.

The Detroit Pistons dumped his salary at the deadline, sending Drummond to Cleveland for only a pair of expiring contracts and a future second-round pick. Unless he's open to a major pay cut, he isn't going anywhere.

Prediction: Drummond stays with the Cavaliers.


Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers (Unrestricted)

How much is the NBA's best backup big man worth? Harrell is about to find out.

He was a Sixth Man of the Year finalist last season, and he's right back in the award race this time around. In fact, he's been even more productive, packing 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds into only 27.8 minutes per night. For context, he's just the fifth player ever to average 18 points and seven boards in less than 28 minutes.

But what does that mean, exactly? If Harrell found a featured role, would his numbers blow up like his per-36-minute averages of 24.1 points and 9.2 rebounds suggest? Or does an instant-offense, off-the-bench gig maximize his impact?

Chances are, someone will (relatively) pay up to find out. And that someone probably won't be the Clippers, since they have nearly $70 million tied up in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George alone, plus they presumably want to re-sign Marcus Morris Sr. after sacrificing a first-round pick to add him at the trade deadline.

That opens the door for an outside suitor to poach him, like the Charlotte Hornets. They're quietly collecting intriguing young players, but they desperately need an upgrade at center. Harrell, a North Carolina native, could scratch that itch and balance what's been a backcourt-driven offense.

Prediction: Harrell signs with the Hornets.


Christian Wood, Detroit Pistons (Unrestricted)

Wood didn't have his spot secured until Detroit's final round of roster cuts. His $1.6 million salary wasn't fully guaranteed until January. It's no minor miracle he's even getting a mention in an article like this.

But perhaps no one boosted their bank account more this season than Wood, who went from being an interesting waiver claim to a minor role player to a potential franchise centerpiece in a matter of months. That last part might sound hyperbolic, but only if you didn't see him play.

"There is nothing fluky about his numbers," The Ringer's Jonathan Tjarks wrote. "Wood is a legitimate unicorn with a freakish combination of size (6-foot-10 and 214 pounds with a 7-foot-3 wingspan), skill, and athleticism."

Wood finally started receiving major minutes in February, and his stat sheet exploded. Over his final 15 outings, he had at least 20 points in 10 of them and 25-plus in six. Overall, he averaged 22.3 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 56.2 percent from the field and 41 percent from three in that stretch.

He's only 24 years old, too, so there's a decent chance this actually isn't the best we see of him.

That sound you're hearing is a cash register's ring. It's been echoing throughout the Motor City for the past few months. The Pistons will surely want to keep him, but he's reportedly on the New York Knicks' radar, and they aren't shy about throwing major money around.

Prediction: Wood signs with the Knicks.