Defensive Rebounding

With the turn of the calendar year, most teams have an idea what their prospects for the rest of the season will shape out to be. As notable contenders, both the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, believe they’re an Andre Iguodala trade away from setting themselves apart in the Western Conference, while the Cleveland Cavaliers, who sit near the bottom of the East, could be actively selling their veterans ahead of the trade deadline in the hope of finding more minutes to develop their young players.

The Toronto Raptors find themselves in a tough situation just a month away from the trade deadline. They appear committed to winning this season despite all the injuries they’ve racked up, but this has allowed head coach, Nick Nurse, the opportunity to test the depth of his squad.

Every player that has suited up and played for the Raptors has provided value at some point this season, and knowing that the likes of Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol and Norman Powell are set to return, it’s hard to know what this complete Toronto squad can look like. Which makes the idea of trading away any of these integral pieces very hard to foresee; moreover the rumour circulating that the team is interested in acquiring Andre Drummond seems unlikely.

The Detroit Pistons are three and a half games out of a playoff spot in the East, but in 11th place, Dwane Casey’s squad is going in the wrong direction – losing eight of their last 10 games. As an organization, the Pistons appear ready to become sellers, and with Blake Griffin sidelined due to injury, Drummond becomes the best trade chip for Detroit to offer in an effort to begin a rebuild.

After eight seasons with the Pistons, Drummond has made it clear that he’d prefer to finish his career in Detroit, but with a cap hit of just over $27 million for this season, and a nearly $29 million player option for next season, the team can’t afford to keep his contract on the books without any tangible results on the court.

As one of the teams alleged to be in on the big man, the only trade that would make sense for both Toronto and Detroit would be a straight swap of Drummond for Gasol.

The Spaniard, who joined the Raptors at the trade deadline last season is being paid nearly $26 million for this season and will be an unrestricted free agent next year. But for the Raptors, that’s where the positives of this potential swap end – obtaining a younger replacement in the frontcourt who could potentially remain with the team beyond this season.

What Drummond provides the Pistons or any team he may be moved to would be elite rebounding – he hasn’t averaged less than 13 rebounds a contest since his rookie season, and this includes being a force on the offensive glass. He’s also an above average shot blocker, sitting within the top 10 in the NBA.

Drummond dwarfs Gasol in both those categories, not just this season, but through both of their careers to date. But despite being eight years his senior, Gasol’s defence and playmaking are indispensible for a Raptors team focused on contending.

When the 11-year veteran joined the team last year for its championship run, it didn’t take long for him to become the defensive general on the floor, and remember that was a collective with two-time defensive player of the year, Kawhi Leonard. But Gasol has won that award as well, and his defensive savvy on the court was integral to the Raptors claiming the Larry O’Brien trophy last season, as evidenced by his ability to nullify all-stars Nikola Vucevic and Joel Embiid in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

And for a player averaging just over three assists per game this season, it’s hard to associate the moniker ‘playmaker’ to that individual, but the Raptors’ offence is simply better with him on the floor. According to Basketball Reference the Raptors’ offensive rating goes from 108.9 when Gasol is off the court, to 112.0 when he’s on the court.

Toronto currently sits 27th in defensive rebounding percentage and 20th in offensive rebounding percentage, so the addition of the league-leader in rebounds per game would certainly address a glaring issue. However, would Drummond be able to defend the paint consistently, and switch against more athletic bigs? And come playoff time, can he be as productive in the pick-and-roll as Gasol has been throughout his career?

The February 6th trade deadline looms, and perhaps a change of scenery and a winning culture would be beneficial for Drummond. But for Toronto, sticking with Gasol forms the best version of the Raptors this season, something Drummond wouldn’t be able to provide.

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