Monday night had all the makings of a letdown game for the Philadelphia 76ers. With the Ben Simmons drama serving as the greatest soap opera in the NBA, Philly rested star center Joel Embiid to monitor his workload. But the Sixers managed to beat the Portland Trail Blazers 113-103, led by Seth Curry’s 23 points. But another key factor was Embiid’s replacement, Andre Drummond, who had a stat line only matched by legendary Hall of Famers Magic Johnson and Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Philadelphia 76ers took a flier on Andre Drummond
A two-time All-Star with the Detroit Pistons, it sure looked as if Drummond’s time as a serviceable NBA player was coming to a close. At just 28 years old, the 6-foot-10 center suited up for three teams in the last two seasons. Drummond was dealt from the Pistons to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2020 and then signed with the Los Angeles Lakers last season after agreeing to a buy-out.
While he served as a starter on all three teams when healthy, his added value was limited. Last season with LA, for instance, the 10-year veteran averaged 11.9 points and 10.2 rebounds in 24.8 minutes per game. However, his offensive box plus-minus, which estimates offensive points a player contributes over 100 possessions, was -2.7. With 0.0 serving as the average, that means Drummond was actually contributing close to three fewer points per 100 possessions than a league-average player.
The four-time rebounding champ is still a beast on the glass and a shot-blocking threat. But a slower center like Drummond is a clumsy fit with teams transitioning to 30+ threes a night and fast-break offense. Still, the 76ers signed Drummond to a league-minimum deal worth $2.4 million in an effort to replace departed backup Dwight Howard.
Drummond made history against the Trail Blazers
The former UConn Husky saw the court in five of Philadelphia’s first six games, all of which were off of the bench. It wasn’t until Monday when he replaced the resting Embiid in the starting lineup to battle Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers. From there, history was made.
In a season-high 33:34, Drummond scored 14 points and secured 15 rebounds. It was the first time he hit double figures in points this season, though the third time he did so with rebounds. But the lumbering center also recorded seven assists, five steals, and no turnovers for the first time this season.
Drummond became the first Sixer since Charles Barkley in 1990 to record at least 10 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, and five steals in a game. But according to StatMuse, he also became the third player in NBA history to record 10+ points, 15+ rebounds, 5+ assists, 5+ steals, and 0 turnovers, joining Magic and Hakeem.
Olajuwon joined Johnson on March 3, 1990, against the Golden State Warriors. The Hall of Fame center had a near quadruple-double, blocking 11 shots to go with 29 points, 18 rebounds, nine assists, and five steals. Eight years earlier, Magic finished with 25 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, and six steals in 41 minutes against the Houston Rockets.
There is a fun side note comparing Drummond to the two superstars. The 28-year-old, who is a career 47.1% shooter from the charity stripe, didn’t miss a free throw in his four attempts. Magic, meanwhile, missed one out of 12 attempts, while Hakeem hit three out of his four shots.
The 76ers have depth to withstand stars missing games
Philadelphia has been forced to navigate this season without Simmons, a three-time All-Star and one-time All-NBA selection. The team should also expect to play multiple games without Embiid, a star in his own right but one who has missed no fewer than 18 games in each of his first five seasons. But as Drummond just proved, the Sixers are built to weather any storms.
Curry and Tyrese Maxey have started all seven games for Philly, averaging 16.4 points and 14.0 points, respectively. But even backup guards Shake Milton and Furkan Korkmaz have averaged double figures off of the bench. Another forward — Georges Niang — is also scoring over 10 points a game.
Including Drummond, head coach Doc Rivers is giving 10 players 18 or more minutes a night. It shows confidence in the bench and, most importantly for the 5-2 Sixers, an ability to overcome obstacles and contend in the Eastern Conference.
The Philadelphia 76ers have proven they can survive without Simmons. Now, Drummond has given the team some confidence should Embiid ever need a night off or two.