DeAndre Jordan key stats
The pivot point: this is a make or break year for DeAndre Jordan. The Los Angeles Clippers organization has heavily invested in the young center and much of the team's success will fall on DeAndre's shoulders (save the snickers). Chris Paul is going to continue being the Point God, but both Blake Griffin and DeAndre must take it to the next level if the Clippers hope to be contenders. Blake needs to become more dependable on offense while DeAndre must "buy in" and transform into the defensive stalwart the Clippers have been hoping would appear.
The Clippers are doing everything in their power to showcase DeAndre as an important factor on this team. It's up to him whether he lives up to it. If DeAndre can't produce, the Clippers will have some serious issues with its thin front court. This is his sixth season as a pro, if a breakout doesn't happen this year, it isn't likely to happen going forward and the team may consider going down a different path.
Deja Vu: Expectations for DeAndre during the last two years have started off high for the last two seasons, only to taper off as the season went on. Below is what I wrote in his player preview last year:
DeAndre has shown glimpses in the past. Early last season, he had a string of games where it looked like he was ready to break out. Brimming with confidence, calling himself the defensive anchor and dunked on every man in sight... During that stretch of ten games, he was averaging 10.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.1 blocks in 31 minutes per game. Then something happened, as the season went on chips in the armor started showing. DeAndre missed a couple of crucial rotations, made some bad plays on defense, everyone got down on him and he likely got down on himself. February 6th rolled around and Kenyon Martin joined the team. His margin for error was decreasing and Kenyon started to eat up his minutes.
Replace Kenyon Martin with Lamar Odom, shuffle some dates around and it would apply to this preview.
It's different this time...or is it? There's a new coach in town. It isn't clear whether Doc Rivers is expressing confidence because he is actually confident or whether it is to give his center a shot of self esteem. One thing is clear, confidence is playing a big role in DeAndre's focus and ultimately his performance. Vinny Del Negro never expressed confidence in DeAndre and often times left him on the bench in the fourth quarter of games, citing poor free throw shooting as a reason. There's no doubt that DJ's free throw shooting was a liability, the statistic isn't a typo: DeAndre only shot 38.6% from the free throw line last year. Doc has a different stance, he doesn't care about the free throw shooting, DeAndre is going to be playing in the fourth quarter (there really isn't anyone else who can step in).
Maybe there's something to Doc's confidence, DeAndre seems to already be a competent defender at this point in his career. Continuing on from the player comps that were made last year his development, he's right in line with Joakim Noah's development.
Maybe Clipper fans are gluttons for punishment, like someone in a bad relationship, "it's going to be different this time, it won't happen again, he/she has changed."
With a different coach, a new system and some confidence things could be different this year...
Note, last year I did an in-depth player comparison with years pro and age, much of it still applies: 2012-2013 DeAndre Player Preview