At the start of the NBA playoffs, men’s basketball UConn released this neat little graphic.
It’s a formidable starting five from alumni, with perhaps only Duke, Kansas and Kentucky forming a better unit. Four weeks later, how did it go with this group? Well, let’s ask Mad Men’s Pete Campbell:
Andre Drummond – Los Angeles Lakers
Drummond was seen as an intriguing piece in the Lake Show title defense; a buyout theft that engulfs the boards and discounts at an elite rate. After averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds in just under 25 minutes for the Lakers in 22 games, Drummond looked set to give the Lakers everything he thrives on.
Drummond recorded just 17 minutes against the Warriors in the play-in game, scoring four points and seven rebounds, but the Smallball Warriors were a terrible game for him and Lakers head coach Frank Vogel chose to match Steve Kerr’s pint-size unit.
Against the Phoenix Suns, Drummond got off to a good start, registering 12 points and nine rebounds in a loss in Game 1, and followed with an effort of 15 points and 12 rebounds in a win in Game 2. It was the highlight. Despite double-digit rebounds in the last four games, Drummond’s minutes never eclipsed the 25 minutes after that and the injury-riddled LeBrons fell to the promising Suns.
Now a free agent, there is some uncertainty as to which teams will bet on the big man. As has been shown in all of the playoffs, teams are moving away from the traditional big anchor and going for smaller lineups. If a presence like Drummond is to survive, he will have to adapt to the way the Suns big man, DeAndre Ayton; by improving their defensive mobility.
Kemba Walker – Boston Celtics
Cardiac Kemba was oblivious to close out the regular season, averaging 17 points, six assists and five rebounds in April, all to the tune of a 45 percent clip from the field. He went on to score 29 points and seven rebounds in the Celtics’ win over the Wizards in the Eastern Conference playoff. With four days to rest his troublesome knee, Walker looked set to face former Celtic Kyrie Irving in the first round of the playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets.
However, fouling issues limited Walker to just 27 minutes against the Nets, resulting in an ugly 5-16 performance from the field for 15 points. Like Drummond, it was all downhill from there. After a pedestrianized six-point third game stat line on 21 percent of shots from the field, Kemba’s hesitant knee acted and he missed the remaining two games – the Nets’ two blowouts.
It will be an interesting summer for Walker, to say the least. As he finally gets a full offseason to re-educate the knee, his albatross contract and age puts his future in Boston under the microscope. New team president (and de facto general manager) Brad Stevens will test the tires in every way to improve the Celtics after a disappointing season and that unfortunately means it is possible to leave Walker.
There are two Kemba camps. There are those (like me) who believe that a true offseason rest will do wonders on his knee and the continued rise of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown means Kemba can reduce his workload and function as an efficient distributor, a locker room manager and occasionally goalscorer.
Then the other side sees a goalie under 6 feet on the wrong side of 30 with over $ 70 million on his contract. This group believes that moving it for something – anything – will benefit both parties.
The jury is out on what’s going to happen, but get used to seeing Kemba in a flurry of business rumors this summer.
Rudy Gay – San Antonio Spurs
Gay and the Spurs came up against the unexpected fashion saw Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies were in the prelims. During that loss, Gay came off the bench to score 20 points and seven rebounds in just 28 minutes. His last points of the season came on a bomb from the top of the sideline to reduce Memphis’ lead to three with nine seconds left.
Gay will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, but his solid stint with the Spurs – 11 points and five rebounds per game – should mean he will have plenty of suitors. While the demand for Drummond types appears to be diminishing, NBA teams everywhere can use shot with the waist; something that Gay owns in droves.
Jeremy Lamb, Amida Brimah – Indiana Pacers
The Pacers fell to the Wizards in the play-in match. Knee pain – the same one he tore his ACL in in 2020 – has kept Lamb from appearing in Indiana’s last 16 games. Overall, Lamb has appeared in exactly half of the Pacers’ regular season games, averaging 10 points and nearly four rebounds in just over 21 minutes per game.
Lamb is expected to join his 2011 backcourt teammate Kemba in a busy offseason on rest.
“I can use the summer to strengthen my body and do well so that I can have a healthy year next year,” he told NBA.com.
However, the Pacers have an overabundance of wings, so Lamb could be on the move this offseason as well.
As for Brimah, it was a historic year for him. He finally saw his first NBA action, appearing in five regular season games due to injury. Brimah won five minutes in the play-in, registering five points and three rebounds. You can’t teach size and mobility, so maybe the small sample size is enough for a team to take a flyer on the big man next year.