The NBA trade deadline has come and gone and two former Huskies are in new spots. The big bombshell came when Andre Drummond — who spent one year with UConn in 2012 — got shipped to the Cleveland Cavaliers for John Henson, Brandon Knight and a second-round draft pick in 2023 — the lesser pick of Golden State or Cleveland.
The unceremonious salary dump ends Drummond’s eight years with the Pistons, who took the raw former No. 1 prospect with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft. While up in the Motor City, Drummond developed into the NBA’s premier rebounder, having led league in rebounding in three of the four previous seasons. The Pistons made the playoffs twice when he was there but never advanced out of the first round. They never seemed to find the right pieces to fit around the burgeoning rim protector and post anchor Drummond had developed into.
Unfortunately, ‘Dre joins a woefully bad Cavs team. They sit last in the Eastern Conference and have the second-worst record in the NBA. Their best player, Kevin Love, has been driven up a wall by their developing young guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Drummond’s contract ($28.8 million player option next season) doesn’t really jive with the Cavs’ cap situation and no one really knows what they’re doing.
Drummond didn’t seem too hyped to be joining a team with arguably a worse situation than the one he was just in. Despite being on the trading block all winter, it seemed the last-minute deal caught him off guard, as he took to Twitter to vent (always a good idea):
If there’s one thing I learned about the NBA, there’s no friends or loyalty. I’ve given my heart and soul to the Pistons , and to be have this happen with no heads up makes me realize even more that this is just a business! I love you Detroit...— Andre Drummond (@AndreDrummond) February 6, 2020
The two-time All-Star has an opt-out in his contract for next season, so he could looking for his next home. Maybe the Cavs will ship out a pouting Love and rebuild around Drummond. Maybe we hop in a time machine back to 1999, where front courts rule, and Love and Drummond team up to form an inside-out twin tower terror. One thing is for certain; we’ll always have this:
That UConn team should have gone undefeated. But let’s move on.
A week ago, I sat down to write a little tome on Husky legend Shabazz Napier, who had taken the starting PG reins for the Minnesota Timberwolves and was putting up career-best numbers. One week and two teams later, Shabazz is a Wizard.
Napier was traded by the last place Timberwolves to the Denver Nuggets as part of the big four-team, 12-player trade on Tuesday. Before ‘Bazz could ship his skis to the Rocky Mountains, he was promptly flipped to Washington for guard Jordan McCrae.
‘Bazz was averaging 9.4 points per game for Minnesota to go with five assists, three rebounds, and one steal per game; all career highs. What’s more, he’s also playing the most minutes of his career (23 mpg), and has already started more games this year than he has in the last four years.
Earnings starter’s minutes for Minnesota, he opened 2020 with 20 or more points in four consecutive games, the best such streak in his six seasons. He even logged his first-ever triple double finishing with 10 points, three assists, 10 rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes.
As far as playing time is concerned, his newest team is a win for the two-time NCAA champion. He had no clear role in Denver behind Jamaal Murray and Monte Morris at point guard and the team is fighting for seeding in the Western Conference, making it even harder to break through.
Instead, Napier heads to Washington, who just shipped out Isaiah Thomas to the Los Angeles Clippers. With star point guard John Wall still rehabbing a torn Achilles and McRae singing John Denver songs, Shabazz has a chance to maintain the minutes he was getting in Minnesota, albeit on a team just as weak (11th in the Eastern Conference). He’ll be competing with Ish Smith and Gary Payton II for the starters role and a chance to close out his breakout year on a high note.
It’s been a long, winding road for ‘Bazz to claim a consistent starters role in the NBA. From LeBron’s personal draft pick for the Heat in 2014 to Damian Lilliard’s backup in Portland, he always seemed to be the odd man out. This past offseason, the Brooklyn Nets dealt him to the Golden State Warriors as a part of the DeAngelo Russell deal. The Dubs promptly shipped him up north to Minnesota.
Counting Washington, it’s now six teams in six seasons for Napier, a very Kevin Ollie-like start to his NBA career. On a minimum expiring contract, the latter half of this year is an audition that could either entice other teams, or convince the Wizards to utilize ‘Bazz as the first backup to Wall next year, very similar to his role in Portland with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Shabazz has proven time and time again he can play in the NBA, he just needs to find a home. And ask the University of Kentucky if they should ever count him out.