We should see plenty of off-ball work between Kevin Love and Andre Drummond for the Cleveland Cavaliers next season.
At this point, we have not seen the Kevin Love–Andre Drummond pairing much for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Drummond was a trade deadline acquisition by the Cavs from the Detroit Pistons, and only appeared in eight games with the Wine and Gold following that.
Drummond missed some time with a left calf strain, and it took him some time to get acclimated with the Cavs, clearly, which was understandable. Then the novel coronavirus-induced hiatus came for the NBA, and from the Cavs’ perspective, they were not one of the league’s top 22 teams invited to the resumption in Orlando.
So the focus, though, is looking toward next season for the Wine and Gold as a result. In that realm, while it is not official at this point, Drummond has stated how he fully intends to pick up his $28.8 million player option for 2020-21, so he should be back. Per a recent report from Forbes‘ Evan Dammarell, Drummond and the Cavs are currently exploring the possibilities involving a potential long term extension, too.
But as Dammarell did seemingly hit on, it is not clear whether or not that will ultimately take place, considering the small sample size Drummond’s had with the Cavs. That’s also based on how Cleveland could potentially draft a big in the upcoming draft, which would make a Drummond extension nonsensical, as Dammarell alluded to.
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A prospect that could be in that category could be James Wiseman, who Dammarell highlighted then and who briefly played at Memphis, or a player I’m personally way more of a fan of, in USC’s Onyeka Okongwu.
Anyhow, looking at next season, though, with Drummond almost certainly in the fold it appears, the Cavs should be able to see more of how he’d fit alongside Love, along with others, such as Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr.
Drummond is not a shooter outside of close to the basket, no, but he is a much-improved post-up player that is coming off averaging a career-high 17.7 points per game, and he is a hard roller and is a productive screener on and off-ball.
Along those lines, in particular, I’d expect to see Drummond and Love screen for each other often off-ball for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
We should see plenty of Drummond high ball screens for perimeter pieces, sure. But don’t discount his off-ball screening for Cleveland, too, and Cleveland’s best off-the-catch shooter in Love should benefit from the 6-foot-10, 279-pound Drummond as a screener away from the ball.
That’s in relation to flare screens a bunch which should lead to deliveries from Garland and Porter, feasibly, to go with Sexton some, and/or pin-downs enabling Love to get open more near the corner. Larry Nance Jr. on occasion could aid the Cavs in that way as a passer in some big lineups with Love and Drummond, which we saw J.B. Bickerstaff roll out post-All-Star break following him taking over the head coaching reigns, too.
Cleveland Cavaliers fans are well-aware of how dangerous Love, who is fresh off hitting 37.4 percent of a career-high 7.0 three-point attempts per game in 2019-20, is as a catch-and-shoot player, too. Drummond should help the Cavs take advantage of that often, and perhaps more effectively even than the expiring Tristan Thompson, who Dammarell noted is interested in signing a one-year deal with the Cavs but could feasibly not end up back, has.
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That action off the ball could help open up driving lanes for Sexton, KPJ and Garland, too. So how about how Love could help Drummond off-ball, then?
Plenty of cross screening for Drummond across the lane by Love leading to cross matching of Drummond on to more natural 4’s could bode well for the Cavaliers, and result in high percentage opportunities for Dre.
That should lead to deliveries from Garland, Porter, Nance, a willing passer in Dylan Windler, if he’s mostly healthy next season, and potentially a 2020 NBA Draft prospect in Auburn wing Isaac Okoro.
As games progress and Love and Drummond improve timing in those cross screens, if Love’s new primary matchup were to double down, Drummond could get some passes to Love in the corner for three-point looks off-the-catch, too.
If rotators start to anticipate that, Love could initiate a ball-swing to the likes of Garland, Cedi Osman, Windler and/or others as well.
In addition, as a counter to the Cavs trying to create cross-matching across the lane for Drummond, or try to open up facilitating or baseline face-up opportunities with Love on a center filtering through, the Cavs could fake looking for that. In turn, Garland, KPJ, Windler and/or Okoro could throw passes over-the-top to Drummond with his primary matchup anticipating that off-ball screen coming.
That could realistically result in lobs on occasion if that look is there, or at least allow Drummond to have a clear seal with the feed opening up a clear interior for him with his matchup out of position to defend in the post.
Another wrinkle the Cavaliers could utilize in faking Love-Drummond off-ball screening is having Love appear to look to try to get Drummond a clear seal but instead retreat and look to pop off of movement in the mid-range area. That’s a look Love could drill time and time again, too, if the floor is properly spaced and the timing is there on the pass.
In any case, next season, it’s evident that to help maximize the Love-Drummond pairing in stretches, the Cleveland Cavaliers should feature plenty of those two bigs screening for each other off the ball to open up clean looks.
That’d help the perimeter pieces have more simple feeds/reads and should lead to a fair share of free throws, which even while Drummond struggles in that regard, could lead to opposing foul trouble in some instances and keep opposing interior defenses off-balance. Love could be further aided as a catch-and-shoot/mid-post face-up big also and put more strain on opposing defenses in that regard.
That could very well open up more driving lanes for Sexton and others, to go with ball-swings leading to quality spot-up looks for Windler and company after hard closeouts to K-Love.