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The View From Pluto: To Salvage the Season, the Cavs Nab an All-Star Nobody Wanted

The 6-foot-11-inch Andre Drummond was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers from the Detroit Pistons. He leads the NBA in rebounding.
The 6-foot-11-inch Andre Drummond was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers from the Detroit Pistons. He leads the NBA in rebounding.

The Cleveland Cavaliers made a surprise trade just hours before last week’s deadline. The team that’s in last place in the Eastern Conference (13-40) added two-time All-Star Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons without giving up any starters. Drummond is 6 feel 11 inches tall and 280 pounds. He averages 17.8 points and leads the NBA in rebounding at 15.8 per game.

WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto says the trade underscores how in the NBA, the bigger you are the lower you're valued. 

The top rebounder no one wanted

Before the NBA trade deadline, the Cavaliers were trying to trade 6-foot-9-inch Tristan Thompson for a first-round draft pick. The Detroit Pistons, meanwhile, were trying to get the same for Drummond.

"Both of these teams are shopping the same types of guys, and nobody wanted to talk to them," Pluto said.

And he said the fact that no team wanted Drummond had nothing to do with ability.

"A long time ago, you would see these big guys playing, and they couldn't move," Pluto said. "Drummond is the leading rebounder in the NBA, and he's been an All-Star a couple times. Detroit thought they could win big with this guy. They paid a lot of money for him, and then they had a bunch of guys hurt. Their payroll got high, so they decided to tank."

So, Pluto said the Pistons traded Drummond to the Cavs in exchange for John Henson, Brandon Knight and a 2023 second-round pick.

"(Drummond) has a player option next year for $28 million, but it's not like a contract that goes out four years. So he could maybe be a free agent in the summer, or most people think he will pick up that option because they don't like big guys anymore in the NBA," Pluto said.

A 3-point shooter's game

Pluto says the game has evolved. Teams used to want a big player under the basket to make quick layups and hook shots or throw it back out for someone for a jump shot. Now it's all about 3-pointers.

"But Drummond didn't shoot 3-pointers. They would look at him and go, 'He's a dinosaur,'" he said. 

It's a contrast from the days when a 7-foot-1-inch Wilt Chamberlain or a 6-foot-10-inch Bill Russell thrilled fans by making their big plays under the basket.

"(Drummond), who would have been loved 15 years ago, suddenly now no one is going to take him. And the Cavs held on to Tristan Thompson as well because no one wanted him, either," Pluto said. 

He said he's glad the Cavs decided to take an unconventional route.

"I'm intrigued by this because I get so sick of one or two teams that have success doing something a little different and then suddenly it becomes conventional thinking. And what was conventional thinking becomes prehistoric," he said. "This is going to be fascinating to watch the last couple months of the season to see if they figure this out. And if doesn't work out, fine. I'm not worried about it because the players they gave up were very marginal to get him."

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Amanda Rabinowitz
Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. Her days begin before the sun comes up as the local anchor for NPR’s Morning Edition, which airs on WKSU each weekday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio’s sports scene.