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Will the Clippers Extend DeAndre Jordan This Off-Season?

2014-15 is the final season of the young center's contract, but the Clippers could avoid Jordan's free agency next summer by signing him to an extension now.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

In 2011, the NBA lockout had just ended, and DeAndre Jordan was a restricted free agent.  His best season had been the previous campaign, where he averaged 7/7 and started 66 games.  Not exactly a stellar line for a starting center.  And when the Golden State Warriors gave Jordan a 4 year offer sheet for $43 million, the general consensus was that Jordan was not worth it.  It's not much of a debate, a starting center who averages 7/7 and makes 8 figures is a horrible contract.

However, Jordan was only 23 at the time.  He was young, athletic, and promising.  He'd made strides in each of his first three years in the league, and despite the feeling that it was a massive overpay, the Clippers then-GM Neil Olshey made the right move: he matched the offer and committed a large portion of the Clippers' salary toward a project player.  Through the first two seasons of Jordan's deal, it seemed like he was never going to be worth the price tag.  He never averaged 9 points or 9 rebounds a game in either season, and on a nightly basis his defensive inconsistency and free throw woes forced coach Vinny Del Negro to play other bigs down the stretch of games, keeping Jordan on the bench in fourth quarters.

Last year, however, Doc Rivers changed everything.  From the moment Rivers came to Los Angeles, he seemed to make Jordan's confidence his first priority.  Quite frankly, it's worked.

Jordan absolutely blossomed in the 2013-14 season, increasing his average in every statistical category (even upping his FT% to slightly above his career average).  Consider this: he also had his highest PER and win shares per 48 last season by a noticeable margin.  He led the league in rebounds and led all centers in blocks.  And while Jordan's offensive game is far away from developed, and he'll likely never be a real go-to option on offense, he's an NBA player who knows his limits and plays within himself, and that's allowed him to lead the league in FG% the last two years.

It's a no-brainer at this point that the Clippers should try to retain DeAndre Jordan upon the expiration of his contract at the end of the 2015 season.  However, as a player entering the last year of a 4-year deal, Jordan is eligible for an extension this summer.  I see no reason for the Clippers to not try to get a jump on re-signing Jordan now in order to lock him up before he hits unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career a year from now.

The maximum length for an extension at this time for Jordan would be three years, added on to his current deal.  That means that a potential extension would run through the 2017-18 season, expiring at the same time as Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Doc Rivers.  That seems agreeable to all parties.

The maximum starting salary for an extension is 107.5% of the player's salary in the last year of his old contract.  For Jordan, that would entail  a salary of $12,298,132 for the 2016 season (compared to the $11,440,123 he is due in the upcoming 2015 season).  Overall, the value of Jordan's maximum extension this summer would be around 3 years and 39.5 million.  This is similar to Ty Lawson's recent extension, Josh Smith's new contract, Andrew Bogut's extension, Serge Ibaka's contract, and Derrick Favors' extension.  All of those deals were signed under the new CBA. Here's what the deal would look like (the 2015 salary is already set, 2016-2018 are extension years):

Player 2015 Salary 2016 Salary 2017 Salary 2018 Salary Total Salary
DeAndre Jordan $11,440,123 $12,298,132 $13,156,141 14,014,151 $50,908,547

That seems like a good value for the Clippers to me, but it's unclear if Jordan will want more (or at least be willing to test the open market next summer to see if another team will give him more).  After all, if he waited until his contract expired to re-sign, the Clippers could give him the maximum salary of 30% of the cap.  That would seem to be far more than Jordan is worth, but we exist in a world where Roy Hibbert signed a maximum contract despite never having reached 13 points or 9 rebound averages for a season.

Overall, Jordan's impending free agency, and the possibility of a crippling long-term overpay in a time when the Clippers will be desperately trying to avoid the apron to retain the full MLE, are severely frightening.  He's certainly not worth a maximum contract, but if some team with cap space wants to overpay him, the Clippers will be stuck between two poor options.  I haven't heard anything about the Clippers offering Jordan an extension this summer, but should he be willing to take the $39.5 million for three additional years, it would seem to be a wise move for the team to lock him up now.

It's worth nothing that even if Jordan would accept the base salary outlined above, he stands to gain from entering free agency simply because a new contract can run for 5 years, keeping him on the books through 2020 and guaranteeing him an additional $30 million or more.