Andre Drummond Flourishing, Enjoying Smaller Role on Sixers

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

Andre Drummond talked some trash and started laughing on his way back down the court. He had just bullied his way to the rim past Christian Wood to dunk the ball late in the first quarter of the Philadelphia 76ers' win over the Houston Rockets.

It is clear Drummond is enjoying himself this season, his first with the Sixers. When he signed a contract for the veteran minimum, he mentioned how his familiarity with both head coach Doc Rivers as well as multiple players on the roster helped him make his decision to sign in Philadelphia.

When he was a member of the Detroit Pistons, Drummond had a beef with All-Star Joel Embiid. The two went back and forth on social media and things were ratcheted up whenever the two teams played each other. However, that is a thing of the past.

Drummond knew he was walking into a smaller role when he put his name on the dotted line to sign in Philadelphia. He was going to play behind Embiid, one of the best centers in the NBA. His role would be to come on the floor for anywhere between 15 and 20 minutes per game, play good defense and rebound the ball.

How would he handle the smaller role? There was an adjustment, but all the while Drummond would perform well for the Sixers. Through the first couple months of the season, Drummond is averaging 6.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks in just 19.2 minutes per game. When averaged out per 36 minutes, he would lead the league in rebounding at 17.2 per game. One of the things most impressive about his performance this season is the balance he brings to the floor. He is capable of doing a bit of everything, from making (or attempting to make) flashy passes to playing good defense, all in addition to being a fantastic rebounder.

Drummond had another good game against the Rockets on Monday, scoring 13 points to go with 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in 17 minutes off the bench. Rivers spoke after the game about Drummond's performance in Houston.

"Drummond had a great game," Rivers said. "Drum has been playing so well for us. It’s so good to see. You look at this guy last year, he couldn’t get on the floor, and now you watch him play, he’s happy, he’s playing hard. He’s been really good and great in the locker room too. So just a great addition for us."

The big man has been particularly good off the bench since his return on Dec. 30 from the NBA's health and safety protocols. In the last five games, he is averaging 9.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals in 16.3 minutes per game off the bench. He has clicked things into another gear lately, and he spoke about how he is now more comfortable in his role on the Sixers.

"I think just being more comfortable, being more aggressive," Drummond said after the win over the Rockets. "I think early in the year, I was more just kind of feeling out what needed to be done, what was expected of me for this team, but now it’s more so just playing the game that they know I can play, being aggressive on both ends of the court. When I get the ball, try to dunk it as much as I can and continue to be efficient, passing the ball, and getting guys open."

Gone are the days where the Sixers get torched when Embiid is off the floor. Drummond has proven more than capable of handling the backup center minutes this season. Just one question remains: Will he stay in Philadelphia past this season?