In 2015, DeAndre Jordan was involved in one of the strangest off-court sagas the hoops community has ever had the pleasure of witnessing. After committing to sign a max contract with the Dallas Mavericks, the three-time All-NBA center’s cold feet took over.
He was reportedly being ‘held hostage’ by Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers and owner Steve Ballmer in his own house, this led to Jordan reneging on his deal and returning to the less successful side of Hollywood. Now, three years later in a less dramatic fashion, the 30-year-old finally got his move to the Big D.
With his inclusion, the Mavericks predict to be one of the most intriguing teams in a western conference so competitive that it is reminiscent of an armour-less knife fight. With franchise legend Dirk Nowitzki still kicking, young guard Dennis Smith Jr. showing eye-popping signs of stardom and rookie Luka Doncic arriving as the most accomplished European 19-year-old ever, the stars seem to be aligning in Texas.
DeAndre Jordan wasn’t quite his starring best in his final Clippers stanza, but he was still a compelling piece on a squad whose season swung like a pendulum. The 6-foot-11 center finished the year putting up 12 points, 15.2 rebounds (career-high) and 0.9 blocks while shooting 64.5 percent from the field. Clearly, they’re tantalizing stats for any squad to acquire, but how does the lob-catching, shot-swatting, athletic phenom fit into Rick Carlisle’s lauded system?
The pick-and-roll is a staple of any healthy basketball diet, so let’s start there. According to Synergy Sports Tech, a touch under 33.3 percent of Dallas’ possessions came out of the pick-and-roll, and their 0.97 points per possession (PPP) ranked them as the seventh most effective team in the NBA. Even in a down year, the Mavericks punished opposition in this area, dropping Jordan – not to mention Doncic and his playmaking – into that offense will undoubtedly propel them an even more impressive stratosphere.
As you can see, Jordan is a juggernaut when steamrolling to the cup. He has a quick burst of speed, catches the ball like he is picking an orange from a tree and finishes with earth-shattering flushes that make defenders think twice about stepping up. The nimble giant finished the season in the 83rd percentile as the screener in the pick-and-roll, converting on a blistering 68.5 percent of his shots (1.25 PPP).
The season before, with Chris Paul setting the plate instead of Lou Williams and Austin Rivers, he was an even more frightening prospect. The All-Star was the most dominant pick-and-roll player in the league, ranking in the 99th percentile and leading the league by hitting 86 percent of his rim-rolls (1.52 PPP).
Consensus: DeAndre Jordan isn’t going to punish you anywhere outside of three feet from the rim, but he will crush your soul if he does get into that range.
In his debut Dallas season, the aforementioned Doncic should get DJ closer to the levels the 30-year-old reached in 2016-17. Doncic isn’t one of the best passers to ever grace the hardwood like CP3, but at 6-foot-8 with an innate ability to slide a pass through gaps in the defense, he projects as another stellar partner for Jordan.
Picture that kind of dime-dropping with a big man of DeAndre Jordan’s quality… count me in.
The Slovenian prodigy will rightfully have to share the ball-handling duties with Dennis Smith Jr., but Carlisle will let his new rookie play to his strength regularly, and that strength is whipping passes and ooping alleys after navigating around a screen. Question marks remain over Doncic’s athleticism and ability to score at the highest level, but after averaging 6.6 assists per 40 minutes last season for Real Madrid, his high-quality playmaking is likely to translate.
With Jordan diving to the rim and drawing the attention of every potential help defender in his vicinity, things should open up on the perimeter, too. Dallas made the eighth most triples last season, but they did so at the 17th best percentage, getting more open looks via Jordan’s roll-gravity will be key to improving that number – especially for Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes, who were both underwhelming from deep last season.
Along with his propensity for killing it in the pick-and-roll, Jordan has been known as a world-class rim protector throughout his time in Los Angeles. The Mavericks ranked 17th in defensive rating last season, and opponents shot a comfortable 46.9 percent from the field against them, perimeter turnstiles like Barnes, Smith Jr. and JJ Barea got the easy-buckets ball rolling. Then defensive sieve’s Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Powell, and Maxi Kleber were at the rim to make sure Rick Carlisle’s hair wasn’t growing back anytime soon.
If he is at his disruptive best, this is where DeAndre Jordan will really make a game-changing impact in his home state of Texas. He has registered four different seasons with over two blocks per night, which makes the fact he averaged less than one per game in 2017-18 even odder. It didn’t hinder his overall defensive effectiveness. However, overall, the big man kept forced his opponents to shoot a stunning 39.1 percent (0.85 PPP). Instead of trying to incinerate every shot that comes his way, Jordan stayed on his feet more often and formed a one-man brick wall in the paint – jumping to swat shots only when necessary.
Barring internal improvements, Dallas hasn’t upgraded on the perimeter when it comes to the gritty end of the court. In fact, it projects to be the biggest weakness in Luka Doncic’s skill set, so reinforcing the second line of defense with Jordan will be an extraordinary improvement over the likes of Kleber, Dirk, and Powell.
DeAndre Jordan doesn’t do everything on the court, he only sticks to what he does best, but what he does best – pick-and-roll dominance and defensive staunchness – is the exact dose of help that Rick Carlisle and the Dallas Mavericks ordered. They might not make the playoffs in the brutal western conference, but this offseason has vaulted them into a league pass must.