2012-13 stats: 24.5 minutes, 8.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 1.4 blocks, .643 FG%, .386 FT%, 17.2 PER
Before we speak on DeAndre Jordan‘s expectations coming into the season, read what a rival team scout had to say about the center:
Rivers has to massage Jordan’s ego. Jordan needs to be patted on the back. He kept getting knocked down mentally so many times last season. He was getting pulled out of games, not being put back into games. It beat him up. Paul was always right, and Jordan and Griffin were always wrong.
Considering the parasitic relationship that existed between Jordan and former Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro last season, the ‘graph makes sense. If that’s how Rivers has to approach Jordan in order for him to transform from “overpaid” to “defensive enforcer” then so be it. It’s what Jordan needs in order to live up to the expectations placed amongst him when the Clippers matched the Golden State Warriors‘ four-year, $43 million offer a few years back.
Now the entire teams future weighs on the backs on Jordan. That’s a lot of pressure on someone who many consider a role player (though Rivers says he’s apart of the Clippers “Big 3″). Looking at the past NBA champions, those teams had player that could defend when relied on and protect the paint i.e.: Chris Bosh, Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol/Andrew Bynum and Kevin Garnett. That’s the kind of player the Clippers need Jordan to be. At least on the defensive end.
The preseason has shown Jordan making small strides as a defender. While everything seen in these exhibition games must be taken with a grain of salt, he’s patrolling the paint, changing shots, intimidating defenders and blocking everything that has come his way. For Jordan that’s a welcomed start. He’s also shown responsibility in making sure his teammates are in the proper position, talking on defense and being a leader.
What hasn’t been tested is Jordan’s post defense. The memory of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol having their way with Jordan isn’t too distant a memory. It’s importance may not show throughout the regular, but come playoff time, Jordan will have to deal with several offense players that can operate out the post in Tim Duncan, Andrew Bogut, Nikola Pekovic, etc. That’s where Jordan’s growth and improvement will be tested and needed most.
Offensively, Jordan will fare a bit better. DeAndre may never turn into a back to the basket big than can get his own shot whenever, but Rivers offensive system will find several ways to get him easy buckets. Last season Jordan led the NBA in field-goal percentage by a wide margin. The closest player to Jordan’s 64 percent was Dwight Howard with 57 percent. This was a result of getting easy buckets playing alongside Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe. An example of how Jordan was used without straying away from the initial offense was this loop play displayed against the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers. It’s a great wrinkle in the offense as it forces the guards on this team to make a decision and gives DAJ a chance to provide on offense.
It’s going to take patience watching Jordan this season. There will be lots of hits and misses, but if Rivers can get Jordan to turn into a legit presence in the paint, the Clippers playoff chances will improve ten-fold.