The Disappointing Decline of DeAndre Jordan's Development

There is no pulling punches here. I won't be sugar coating anything during the next couple thousand words. This is the cold, hard, blunt truth. You ready? Okay. Here goes. *deep breath* DeAndre Jordan is not a good basketball player. *exhales* There, I said it. That's the truth. I'm sure some people will think I'm being harsh on the guy or simply not watching games close enough but that is, without a doubt, not even remotely close to being true. I've been perceived to be harsh on certain players in the past but there were reasons. And there are reasons to be harsh here. Let me just preface this by saying I like DeAndre Jordan the person. So, here we go.

First, the basic numbers. This season DeAndre Jordan is averaging 9.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 0.7 steals, and 0.5 assists in 25.2 minutes per game. He's also shooting 57.8% from the field and 41.2% from the free throw line. Over the last three seasons, DeAndre Jordan has started 159 games at center. In his career, he's started 184 games. In those 184 games, he's averaged 7.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 0.5 steals, and 0.4 assists in 27.1 minutes per game while shooting 64.6% from the field and 44.5% from the free throw line. But, let's remove the first three seasons of his career here. This is his fifth season in the NBA. In the last two years, when the Los Angeles Clippers have actually been a pretty good team, DeAndre Jordan has started all 93 games that the team has played. Over these last two years, DeAndre is averaging 7.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 0.5 steals, and 0.3 assists in 26.6 minutes per game to go with 61.2% from the field and 48.2% from the free throw line. So, pretty solid production for the most part.

The problem with DeAndre Jordan is that he hasn't taken that next step that you'd like to see out of a 24-year old center who happens to be in his fifth year in the NBA. His free throw shooting this season (41.2%) ranks 2nd worst among all players who have attempted at least 50 free throws. Only Andre Drummond (40.0%) has done worse. His free throw shooting this season is his worst mark since 2009-2010. It's quite clear that his form isn't all that bad but the ball just isn't going into the hoop. We've seen some marked improvement from Blake Griffin's free throws lately but haven't seen the same from DeAndre Jordan. Whenever he goes to the line it's as if he lacks any confidence whatsoever. He needs to pick that part of his game up or else he's never going to be play meaningful minutes late in games. More on that later.

DeAndre Jordan's Total Rebound Percentage (TRB%) this season is at a career low 16.4%. And it's not as if he's bad on both ends of rebounding. He's actually a pretty good offensive rebounder because of his athleticism and ability to jump over the top of guys who are attempting to box him out. This is evidenced by his career high 13.5% Offensive Rebound Percentage (ORB%) this season. So, naturally, if he's recording a career low in a total category and one of the two components of the category is a career high then that, obviously, means the other factor is a career low. And it's not just by a little either. His 19.0% Defensive Rebound Percentage (DRB%) is a career low by nearly 2%. It's 1.9% to be exact. That is terrible. Utterly terrible.

Part of the problem that DeAndre Jordan has on the defensive end as a rebounder is that he doesn't box out. He just simply doesn't do it. It's quite obvious to me that either this is something that he just never was taught or never took the time to put effort into. Boxing out is part art form and part desire. Kevin Love, one of the best rebounders in the league, takes pride in boxing out. Same with Reggie Evans. They use their mind and lower body to get rebounds. They root guys out and seal them off before grabbing the ball. DeAndre Jordan does none of that. He simply tries to out jump players for the ball. You absolutely, positively cannot live like that. It's just not possible. But, in all honesty, some of the best rebounders in the game today are not athletic and certainly not in the same stratosphere as DeAndre Jordan athletically. The only one who is happens to be the guy across the hall, Dwight Howard.

Look at the top rebounders in the league. Honestly. Go look. The top ten, as of right now, are Anderson Varejao, Zach Randolph, Dwight Howard, Omer Asik, David Lee, J.J. Hickson, Joakim Noah, Tim Duncan, Al Jefferson, and then a tie for tenth place between Tyson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and Nikola Vucevic. All but one of those guys (Dwight Howard) have something in common. They all know how to box out and wall their man off from the glass. Dwight Howard does it to some extent but he also relies on sheer athleticism and jumping ability to get rebounds for the most part. The saddest thing to me is to see Reggie Evans rank tied for 22nd in rebounding this season with 8.2 rebounds per game in only 20.8 minutes per game. That's an astounding mark. You figure DeAndre Jordan could have learned something from Reggie Evans but apparently not. His rebounding has gotten worse. Even if you extrapolated DeAndre Jordan's rebounding this season to a per 36 minute basis, it'd still be a career low. His points, however, would be a career high but that's because he'd be attempting nearly 10 shots per game despite posting the lowest field goal percentage of his career. More on that later, as well.

The rebounding issue with DeAndre Jordan is simply one that makes you scratch your head. How can a guy who is 6'11" with a 7'6" wingspan and the ability to jump out of the gym simply not rebound better? It seems like an impossibility for this to be the case. It's just baffling to me. I don't know if he lacks the desire to get better at rebounding or if he simply just cannot do it. A big man his size with his athleticism definitely should be a better rebounder and it's a disgrace that in five years of playing in the NBA, he's actually regressed as a rebounder from where he was when he started out. It's a shame. A damn shame.

I said I'd get to field goal percentage and here it is. This is the lowest field goal percentage of DeAndre Jordan's career. He's shooting 57.8% from the field. Doesn't sound too bad until you realize that 131 of his 187 shots this season have been deemed "at the rim." In other words, he's taken 70.05% of his total shots this season "at the rim" and has only made 68.7% of them. Doesn't sound too bad, right? Well, last season during the regular season he took 78.8% of his total shots "at the rim" and made 67.3% of them. A higher percentage of total shots but about 1.5% less of a return. You'd definitely take that trade off. You want him taking more shots closer to the rim. He can't hit shots from beyond five feet anyways so why even try them, am I right? The problem is that this season, DeAndre Jordan has already taken 24 shots in the 5-to-9 foot range. Why is that bad? Well, he only took 18 shots there last season in 66 games and he's already taken 24 there this season in 27 games. This is also the worst season DeAndre Jordan has had in his career on shots from five feet and closer (62.6%). He's also missed a league leading 12 dunks this season. He led the NBA last season, as well, with 29. The guy just has trouble putting the ball in the hoop any way you slice it.

The problem with DeAndre Jordan's offensive game is that they constantly try to baby him on that side. They always set him up to post-up on the first possession of the game and try to do it so that he stays engaged as the game goes along. I'm just going to say it as blunt as possible. If you need to spoon feed a guy early in the game just so that he doesn't lose concentration as the game goes along then he's probably not the best bet for you going forward. It shows a lack of character and work ethic on his part. It's not a trait you want your guys to have. Simple as that. No one wants a player who has to have his hand held just so he does his job the way he should do it. There's plenty of true defensive centers out there who don't need the ball to feel important and stay into the game on defense or on the glass. That's just the truth. A 24-year old, five year NBA veteran, shouldn't be having his hand held anymore and shouldn't require significant coddling when it comes to staying engaged on the court at both ends. It's bogus.

During the Clippers current 13-game winning streak, DeAndre Jordan is averaging 24.7 minutes per game. During the previous 14 games of the season, he was averaging 25.6 minutes per game. He's getting one fewer minute during the winning streak. And some people might say that's because the team is just blowing other teams out of the water and we're resting guys. That's true. But not with DeAndre Jordan. DeAndre Jordan doesn't play in the fourth quarter. I said I'd bring this up earlier and here it is. DeAndre Jordan, quite simply, is a liability on the court in the fourth quarter. Boom. There. I said it. His free throw shooting will keep teams in a game if they start hacking him. We all laughed at the Hack-a-Dwight stuff going on against the Lakers. It was funny at the time. But please realize that Dwight Howard actually makes 50.9% of his free throws. DeAndre Jordan is seriously about 10% worse than that. That's atrocious. Actually, that's beyond atrocious. There isn't even a word for it in the English language yet. That's how bad it is.

If the team is in a tight game going down the stretch, you're not going to see DeAndre Jordan out there trying to call out defensive sets and hedging on screens. Why? Because he's not good enough to be out there. This is why Lamar Odom was traded for. I honestly believe that. Lamar Odom has a certain intelligence that DeAndre Jordan, quite simply, does not have. In fact, Jordan's defense seems to have gotten worse. He jumps at everyone. He never stays grounded whatsoever. He's always looking for the highlight block and rarely ever makes a play on defense that you feel good about. Sure, he blows me away with his athleticism and ability for the occasional blocked shot that spurs a fastbreak. He does alter some shots here and there. But he's far from a dominant center and far from what Shaquille O'Neal called him. He is definitely not the best center in the Western Conference. Not even close. Not even top five.

The Clippers are paying DeAndre Jordan a grand total of $43 million over 4 years to be a difference maker on one end of the court and a high-flyer on the other end of the court. Well, outside of dunks he's certainly not offering much. He's not a good passer at all. Whenever he gets double-teamed in the post he looks like a lost puppy looking for its owner. He doesn't box out, as I've noted, and he isn't consistent enough to be out there for long periods of time. When DeAndre gets lazy, it's disgusting to watch. He lollygags up and down the court when this happens and never is in the right position. He becomes pouty, to some extent. I try to root for him but I just can't do it. Mike Smith and Ralph Lawler talked the other night about how he's learned how to communicate more on defense. That's all well and good but he needs to do more. He needs to actually impact that side of the floor and he doesn't do it. Not one bit really.

I understand that the Golden State Warriors made that offer to DeAndre Jordan and the Clippers felt obligated to match it because of what his potential was but, at the time, I knew it was a bad move. My opinion of it hasn't changed. The Clippers now will pay DeAndre Jordan $22.4 million over the next two seasons before his contract is finally up. There comes a point in time when you realize that you need to cut bait and move on. It's getting close to that time with DeAndre Jordan. If he doesn't pick it up by the end of the season and in the playoffs, we really might be seeing the end of the DeAndre Jordan experiment in Los Angeles. He certainly hasn't gotten any better as an overall player. He has, in fact, regressed. All of this, might I add, while he's seeing the highest Usage Rate of his entire career, by far. He just hasn't put it together.

All-in-all, I do kinda feel bad for DeAndre Jordan. I know he's trying. I can see it sometimes. And he does get frustrated when things aren't going his way so I understand it. He just isn't good. There's this common misconception that dunks solve everything. And having him does help at times. Being able to lob it up to an athletic monster like him in order to salvage an offensive possession is definitely a plus. But then there's the negatives. The loss of concentration on defense, not getting down low enough to stop the pick-and-roll, and the well documented misfires at the free throw line. I do appreciate what he can do at times but there's a lot to be desired still. Like I said, it's getting close to the end for him here if he can't show more. He might be Blake Griffin's best friend but that won't save you if you're not playing well.

I'm not asking DeAndre Jordan to be Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler, or Tim Duncan. I'm not asking that. All I'm asking for is that he find a middle ground. I certainly don't think asking him to be Larry Sanders is too much to ask for. A dominant defensive center who can grab you rebounds while not once asking for his on offense. Stays engaged the entire time despite not getting the ball as much. Clean up the defensive glass, stay disciplined on defense, know your role on offense, and do the little things that help the team. Do those and I think he can be a good center. His free throws troubles, as far as I'm concerned, won't ever be resolved. They're here to stay so we'll have to live with them. One can only hope they don't start costing us games. And one can only hope that this decline in play stops sooner rather than later or else it's gonna be a long season watching DeAndre Jordan play.

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