When NBA players are asked about the future, they tend to reply in the vaguest terms possible. They rarely give away their plans or suggest they might be on the move for fear of alienating their current fan base or front office. Even impending free agents typically offer only the boiler plate responses, like "I haven't thought about it" or "I'll address it after the season."
That's what made what Andre Drummond said on Wednesday so refreshing. It was honest. The Brooklyn Nets center argued that it wouldn't have made sense for the Nets to trade his young backup, Nicolas Claxton, at the trade deadline because he might not be around next season. "If we're all being honest, I'm only here til the rest of the season. Who knows what's gonna happen in the offseason?" Drummond said.
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This isn't exactly breaking news. Drummond will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He signed with Philadelphia for the minimum last offseason after a very disappointing stint with the Lakers, but he has vastly outplayed that contract and likely expects a bigger one this time around. The Nets, deep into the luxury tax with three max contracts and a number of expensive role players, almost certainly won't be able to give him that deal. The most they could offer him would be roughly $6 million via the taxpayer mid-level exception, and it's no guarantee that they're even willing to go that high. In all likelihood, Drummond is going to be playing for another team next year. We knew that before this quote. Nothing he said changed that.
But it is extremely unusual for an athlete to be this upfront about the business of his sport. Most players in his place would have just spoken about the push for a championship and how much he hoped he'd be back next season. But Drummond is realistic. He expects to get paid this offseason and doesn't think the Nets should give up their contingencies should he leave.
Ironically, Claxton is slated for free agency as well. He's just going to be a far easier player to keep. He's going to be a restricted free agent, so he the Nets can match any offer he receives. They have Early Bird rights on him, so they won't have to sacrifice a cap exception to sign him. He's also a less productive player, and therefore likely to be cheaper.
The Nets might want to keep Drummond. They might be willing to pay something close to market price to do so. But there is a very good chance he isn't in Brooklyn next season. We all know it. It's nice to see an athlete acknowledge those realities for once instead of pretending they don't exist.