By: Will Burchfield
Per ESPN's Marc Stein, the Pistons are set to give Andre Drummond a hefty new contract on Friday – although all they're really doing is moving the decimal point in his annual salary.
After making $2.6 million per year through his first four seasons in the NBA, Drummond will make $26 million per season under the terms of his new deal.
But that's no clerical error.
It's also not a financial misjudgment by the Pistons, as some fans may have thought this morning when they woke up and read the news: Drummond is about to become one of the highest-paid players in the NBA.
But as the dominos continue to fall in free agency, Drummond's contract will feel less like an outlier and more like the norm. Friday is shaping up to be one of the most extravagant days in NBA history, with the market rate for free agents climbing like never before. That's all due to the nine-year, $24-billion (!!) TV deal the NBA signed in 2014, one that's seen the salary cap go soaring through the roof.
Last season, the cap was set at $70 million. It is expected to come in at $94 million this season, an unprecedented $24-million increase. Suddenly, everyone has a whole lot of money in their pockets and the flexibility to put it to use.
Which brings us back to Drummond. In a vacuum, Drummond probably isn't worth $26 million per year. It's a lot to pay for a guy who scores well less than 20 points per game (those rebounds, though!) and chucks up free throws like they're active hand grenades. But proportionally, Drummond's deal makes a ton of sense for the Pistons.
Indeed, it's even a bargain.
Next season, Drummond's $26-million salary will consume just over a quarter of the Pistons' cap (27.7 percent.) Last year, by comparison, Dwight Howard gobbled up over a third of the Rockets' cap (31.9 percent), while DeAndre Jordan and Marc Gasol nearly did the same to the Clippers and Grizzlies, respectively (28.1 percent each.)
Here's how their 2015-16 per-game numbers stacked up to Drummond's:
Drummond: 16.2 points, 14.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks
Howard: 13.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks
Jordan: 12.7 points, 13.8 rebounds, 2.3 blocks
Gasol: 16.6, 7.0 points, 1.3 blocks
In that light, the Pistons are completely justified in giving Drummond $26 million per year. And then there's this: the cap isn't done growing. It is expected to rise to somewhere between $107-$110 million ahead of the 2017-18 season, and conceivably again (and again and again) in the seasons that follow. The NBA is making money like never before, and that wealth is being distributed across the league.
The effect, in Drummond's case, is that this eye-popping five-year, $130-million contract is going to look more and more ordinary in the years to come. And assuming Drummond continues to grow as a player – he has increased his scoring and rebounding totals each of his first four seasons – it's an investment that's going to pay dividends for the Pistons toward the end of its term. By year five, when Drummond is taking up (likely) less than 20 percent of the team's cap and producing gaudy double-double numbers, $26 million will seem like a flat-out steal.
So consider this contract in context. Put it this way: if Timofey Mozgov is about to make $16 million per season, Drummond is worth every penny of his $26 million.
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