04 Mar How Good is DeAndre Jordan?
Four years ago, the Clippers looked foolish for matching the 4-year $43M contract which the Golden State Warriors offered DeAndre Jordan:
DeAndre Jordan has signed a 4 year, $43 million offer sheet with Golden State, agent Greg Lawrence tells Y!
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) December 11, 2011
The 35th pick of the 2008 NBA draft was only averaging 7.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game the year before the new deal took effect. Paying him an average of $10.75M per annum was short of robbery. But the Clippers were paying not for performance. They were paying for potential.
Just What the Doc Ordered
Jordan was always touted to be a potential. But that potential had a tag attached to it: poor free throw shooter. No, let’s rephrase that: bad free throw shooter. The season before Doc Rivers arrived in Los Angeles, Jordan was the worst free throw shooter among NBA starters at 38.6%. He played in all 82 regular season games, but got to play in the fourth quarter in just 30 of those games. During the Clippers’ first round series loss to the Grizzlies that year, Jordan played in two out of six fourth quarters, all because of free throw shooting.
But with Vinny Del Negro gone, Doc Rivers put his trust on Jordan as much as he put his trust on Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. As reported by latimes.com on 10.17.13:
Rivers made it known he wants to promote a “big three” concept rather than focusing on All-Stars Griffin and Paul. On the second point, he believes Jordan is capable of playing during crunch time, even though Jordan was mostly a spectator during that stage last season.
DeAndre in fourth quarters? Jordan took 125 more free throws last season than in 2013. But he didn’t necessarily become a much better foul shooter under Doc Rivers. He improved, but only from .386 to .428. In the bigger picture however, the Clippers improved not just by just one victory better in the regular season than the previous one, but advanced one round farther in the playoffs than in 2013.
A New Era
After the Donald Sterling scandal, the Clippers found themselves with a new owner in Steve Ballmer. The new owners pledged his all-out support and promised the fans the best Clippers ever- the Hard Core Clippers. So with the new season came a new beginning and one that looked to take over the NBA as they’ve took over Los Angeles from the Lakers. But that has not been the case and it’s not only the Lakers who are struggling in L.A. According to Doc Rivers via dailynews.com on 2.21.15:
We don’t have a chemistry issue. We have a Dream Team issue. I don’t think the chemistry is that bad but it’s harder because guys are still trying to establish themselves.
The team’s cornerstones, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jordan are in their 20’s. They may be superstars but they have yet to reach their full potentials as basketball players, much more as leaders of the team. Personnel-wise, the Clippers are fully equipped to fire from all cylinders. It’s just a matter of getting along when the right time comes. According to Rivers again, from the same dailynews.com article:
You want Blake to keep improving. You want DJ to keep improving. You want even Chris to keep improving. You can win with that but it may cost you home court…. I don’t think home court will matter that much this year in the West. I think whatever team is playing better is going to win that series.
Doc may have a point there, but the race for home court advantage isn’t over yet. At number 5, the 40-21 Clippers are only half a game behind #4 Portland and 1.5 games behind #3 Houston. Heck, if you want to include the Grizzlies at number 2, the Clippers can still mathematically catch-up with them at three games back.
DeAndre Jordan w/ another monster performance: 26 points and 18 rebounds. pic.twitter.com/v6GRQ8rYbZ
— Los Angeles Clippers (@LAClippers) February 20, 2015
But the Clippers’ bid to make a final run after the All-Star Break suffered a big blow when Blake Griffin got hurt:
Details on Blake Griffin's elbow surgery– the staph infection is in the elbow he has drained. Initial projection is 4-6 weeks, per sources
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 8, 2015
With Griffin out, the Clippers were expected to take a hit. Instead, the team has found ways to win behind Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan.
After being snubbed in the 2015 All-Star game, DeAndre Jordan has been like a man on a mission. Overall, the month of February has been the best of his career: 16 points and 17.2 rebounds per game. Over the last 8 games without Griffin (where the Clippers have won 6), Jordan’s numbers have been out of this world: 17.2 points and 20.5 rebounds per game/
The Clippers’ win over the Bulls last Sunday was the eight consecutive game where Jordan’s collared at least 15 boards. During last Friday’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies, Jordan tallied 15 points, 22 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals in 41 minutes to join Dwight Howard and David Robinson as the only players since 1986 to post those numbers in the same amount of playing time.
Currently, Jordan leads the NBA in FG% at .720. If he keeps up those numbers, it will be the second highest FG% in NBA history. Jordan also leads the league in blocks at 14.2 rebounds per game. Again, if he keeps up that average, he will only be the sixth player since 1986 to average at least 14.2 rebounds per game.
— Grantland (@Grantland33) March 2, 2015
Last season, the Clippers suffered a similar major injury when Chris Paul was hurt. In his absence it was Blake Griffin who stepped up and became a full blown star before our very eyes. Griffin carried the Clippers on his shoulders without CP3 and that was good enough to put him in the discussion for league MVP. Griffin did well in the voting, finishing third behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James who went neck to neck for the award last season.
This year, it’s Chris Paul’s name that’s being thrown in the same MVP conversation. Like Jordan, Paul has been sensational as of late, averaging 21.2 points and 12.6 assists in the last 10 games while shooting at a high .522 from the field. But it’s not just CP3. It’s also been DeAndre Jordan. Ok well, we’re not saying DeAndre is MVP. We’re not even buying Doc Rivers’ proclamation that Jordan is Defensive Player of the Year material ( not yet we think). But hey, his numbers have been ridiculous lately. Jordan may not be good enough for MVP or DPOY, but it should get him a max contract in this summer’s free agency.