Los Angeles — In the midst of a disappointing season filled with injuries to key players, there are signs that the Detroit Pistons’ rebuild is starting.
And it looks like it’s starting with a big piece.
Multiple league sources confirmed to The Detroit News that the Pistons are in talks with several teams on a potential trade for center Andre Drummond.
The sources requested anonymity because negotiations are ongoing.
The sources indicated that deals seem to be in the exploratory stages, but ahead of the Feb. 6 trade deadline, the Pistons look to be doing their due diligence to try and get something for Drummond, who can opt-out of his contract after this season.
Drummond, 26, has a player option for $28.8 million next season, the final year of his five-year contract worth $126 million. Since the summer, Drummond has indicated that he may choose to opt-out and test free agency for the first time in his eight-year NBA career.
Rather than face that possibility, the Pistons look to be gauging the trade market to acquire some value for the two-time All-Star center. To help their potential rebuild, the Pistons likely would be seeking expiring contracts to open significant salary cap space for next year and young assets, such as draft picks.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was first to report that the Pistons were pursuing trade options. Wojnarowski indicated that the Pistons have been engaged in talks with the Atlanta Hawks, among other teams.
One of many deals that could work — giving the constraints of matching salaries — with the Hawks would be the expiring contract of small forward Chandler Parsons, who makes $25.1 million this season. The Hawks also have Evan Turner ($18.6 million) and Allen Crabbe ($18.5 million) on expiring deals. There could be other players involved in a potential Hawks deal as well.
Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill reported that the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks and defending-champion Toronto Raptors also are among teams interested in trading for Drummond, citing Drummond’s relationships with the Mavs’ Kristaps Porzingis and the Raptors’ Kyle Lowry.
Drummond was not at the Pistons’ practice on Friday because of a stomach illness.
Pistons team owner Tom Gores addressed Drummond’s uncertain future Thursday night, at halftime of the Pistons’ matchup against the Clippers.
“Andre is going to have to make his choice — I mean Andre is a great player,” Gores said. “So, we'll just see. All these things are unknowns and it's kind of difficult to filter through all this little bit of health bad luck."
The Pistons (12-23) have fallen on hard times, having lost nine of their last 11 games, mostly without three starters: Blake Griffin, Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard. They’re in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, 3 games out of the final playoff spot. The second half of their schedule is one of the most difficult in the NBA, making a pivot toward a rebuild a more likely option.
Gores didn’t rule out revamping the roster ahead of the trade deadline; dealing Drummond, the longest-tenured Pistons player, would hasten that process.
“We've had a hard time with health and everything else like that and we thought we could manage (injuries) a little better,” Gores said. “We've got a lot of work to do. We're not winning, and the record is the record, so we just have to keep plugging away.”
Despite the Pistons’ struggles, Drummond is having his best statistical season: 17.6 points, a league-leading 15.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals. Without Griffin, the Pistons haven’t had a consistent starting lineup and have struggled against some of the worst teams in the league, making a playoff push — even with Drummond — unlikely.
Drummond has led the league in rebounding three times and has career averages of 14.3 points and 13.8 rebounds. He was the Pistons’ first-round pick in 2012, eighth overall, after one year at Connecticut.
He has two All-Star selections, in 2016 and ’18, and is ninth in All-Star voting among Eastern Conference frontcourt players this season.