Andre Drummond has started in 594 of the 645 regular season NBA games that he has played in, to this point in his career, and 50 of those non-starts came during his rookie campaign with the Detroit Pistons in 2012-13. Since then, Drummond has started in every single game that he has played in, except one. He's also just three years removed from his second All-Star appearance.
Thus, at face value, it seemed somewhat surprising that Drummond signed on to be the backup to All-Star center Joel Embiid in Philadelphia. After all, Drummond is still just 28 years old -- not in the twilight of his career like Dwight Howard was when he signed on for the same role last season. However, not all backup gigs are created equal, and with the Sixers, Drummond should get ample on-court opportunity, and in turn, he could reinvigorate his career after a couple of underwhelming stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers. After a long, productive tenure in Detroit, Drummond appeared in just 33 games for the Cavs, and 21 for the Lakers.
As dominant as Embiid is, he has a serious history when it comes to injury issues and, as such, the Sixers like to err on the side of caution when it comes to their prized big man. Embiid has never averaged more than 33.7 minutes per game over the span of a season -- he averaged 31.1 last season -- and he has also never appeared in more than 64 games in a season. In other words, even with Embiid, the Sixers have a lot of minutes available at the center spot. The Sixers are well aware of the fact that they need to have another solid center in place behind Embiid, and that's exactly why they were interested in bringing Drummond in.
"I think it's a great place for him," Sixers coach Doc Rivers said of Drummond's fit in Philadelphia. "Obviously, I'm biased, but having him and Joel, just think of that. Joel goes off the floor, Drummond comes on the floor. We're gonna be protective of Joel so in the games Joel misses, we're gonna have Andre Drummond starting in those games. That's gonna make us all feel good all the time."
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Last season, Howard appeared in 69 games for Philly, started in six of them and averaged 17.3 minutes per performance. During his single season with the Sixers, Howard quietly had the most productive rebounding season of his career. Given the fact that he's substantially younger than Howard and more advanced on the offensive end, Drummond could potentially play even more minutes for Philadelphia. In the process, he'll have an opportunity to prove to the rest of the league that he's still a very serviceable center and that he can contribute to a contender. As far as embracing a bench role, well, Drummond has at least said all of the right things so far.
"In life, things change, and it's nothing that is affecting me at all, or making me feel any type of way. That's the role that's been given to me. It's something that I've accepted and I'm willing to do," Drummond said of coming off of the bench in his introductory press conference with the Sixers. "If it's in the best interest of the team to win, it has to get done... I think it's a great fit for me."
Drummond potentially could have inked elsewhere, maybe on a longer deal than the single-season pact he got from the Sixers, but the chance to compete for a title on a legitimate contender was enticing, as was the opportunity to play for Doc Rivers.
"I think for me, making the decision to come to Philly was based off Doc really having the faith in me to really help this team do something special," Drummond said. "Whatever my role is, me coming off the bench in the prime of my career, it doesn't really matter. I can still be effective coming off the bench and backing up Joel... I think it was a no-brainer. I've always wanted to play for Doc. When I got the chance to play for him, I took the chance."
Drummond likely won't match his career averages of 14.5 points and 13.7 rebounds per performance with the Sixers, but he will get a chance to show that he can contribute to a winning team at a high level. For a player that has never made it past the first round of the playoffs, it's an excellent opportunity and one that could be very beneficial to him when he hits the open market again next offseason, if he's able to capitalize on it.