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2014-2015 Exit Interviews: DeAndre Jordan

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In a contract year, DeAndre Jordan proved that he was worth a max contract in the offseason. As we continue on the Exit Interviews series, we take a look at the dominant monster in the middle.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

When the Los Angeles Clippers traded a first round pick before the beginning of the 2013-14 season and acquired Doc Rivers to be their head coach, the main beneficiary turned out to be the athletic marvel at center. While his teammates also produced well under the new head man, DeAndre Jordan’s emergence as a top flight center would likely not have been possible without Rivers being in his ear every step of the way. In this Exit Interview, we look back at Jordan’s season and his extremely interesting upcoming offseason.

VITALS
AGE YEARS IN NBA YEARS WITH CLIPPERS 2014-2015 SALARY CONTRACT STATUS
26
7 7 $11,440,123 Unrestricted free agent.

While he is 26 years old right at this second, Jordan turns 27 towards the end of July. None of this is a problem really. His value at 27 years old will be his value at 26 years old; or even a slight bit higher due to 27 being the beginning of your prime in a lot of sports. Jordan completed his seventh season in the NBA, all of them with your beloved Los Angeles Clippers. His recent contract ran out after this most recent season and therefore he will be an unrestricted free agent when the offseason gets officially underway. His previous contract was the restricted free agent offer sheet he signed with the Golden State Warriors and the one that the Clippers, obviously, matched.

IN A NUTSHELL
PPG RPG APG BPG FG% FT% WS/48 PER TS% eFG%
2014-2015 11.5 15.0 0.7 2.2 .710 .397 .217 21.0 .638 .711
CAREER 8.0 9.0 0.5 1.7 .664 .417 .155 17.2 .622 .664

After posting career highs in 2013-14, DeAndre Jordan built upon those numbers and produced even bigger career highs this past season. The career highs that he posted this season were in points per game, rebounds per game, field goal percentage, threes made, free throw rate, Effective Field Goal Percentage, Win Shares, Win Shares Per 48 Minutes, Offensive Win Shares, and Player Efficiency Rating. Yes, threes made. He did make one and it was against the Dallas Mavericks. Jordan was one of just ten players who averaged a points and rebounds double-double this season while qualifying for the minutes per game leaderboard. He was the league leader in rebounds per game and field goal percentage for the second straight season. His 71.0 percent field goal percentage ranks second all-time for a single season behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 72.7 percent in 1972-73.

One side note about DeAndre Jordan’s free throw rate stuff. He posted the seventh highest regular season free throw rate of all-time among players who played 2000 or more minutes. And, also, his 1.938 free throw rate in the playoffs is the highest in NBA history among players who played 200 or more minutes. To put it simply, he was at the line an absurd amount of times this season thanks to hacking. In the 15 games that Jordan played while Blake Griffin was out with his injury, DeAndre averaged 14.9 points, 18.5 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.3 steals, and 1.1 assists on 67.5 percent shooting. He posted four 20-20 games this year, tied for tops in the league with DeMarcus Cousins. Jordan was second to Anthony Davis in 10-10-2 – points, rebounds, and blocks – games this year, as well.

STRENGTHS
There are three things that DeAndre Jordan does extremely well. First, he rebounds at a great rate. According to Basketball-Reference, his 32.4 percent Defensive Rebound Percentage and 24.5 percent Total Rebound Percentage led the league. His raw 15.0 rebounds per game, as mentioned previously, also was tops. On top of that, Jordan posted the fifth highest Total Rebound Percentage of all-time in a season where said player played 2000 or more minutes. His Defensive Rebound Percentage ranks ninth all-time. While his technique isn’t great, his production undoubtedly is. Snagging rebounds at a ridiculous rate is just one of the reasons he’ll be paid handsomely this offseason.

The second of three things he does well is block shots. He was one of four players to post a Block Percentage of 5.4 or higher this season while logging 2000 or more minutes. The others being Anthony Davis, Rudy Gobert, and Serge Ibaka. It was his second straight year of a 5.4 Block Percentage and it is just a tick above his 5.3 career mark. His 2.2 blocks per game ranked fifth in the league this season and his 183 total blocks ranked third. While he’s not the top defender at his position, he’s one of the better ones and uses his freakishly long arms and athleticism to swat any wayward shots.

Finally, Jordan is a really good backline protector. This goes beyond just blocking shots and deflecting balls out of bounds. It was especially evident in the playoffs as the Clippers were unequivocally better with him on the floor than off of it. In the 482 minutes Jordan played, the Clippers had a Defensive Rating of 103.1. In the 195 minutes he sat, it ballooned up to 110.6. In the series against the Houston Rockets, the Clippers had a 96.1 Defensive Rating when Jordan was on the floor and a staggeringly high 120.9 when he was off of it. Even James Harden was affected by Jordan’s presence. In the 185 minutes Harden played with Jordan on the floor, Harden only shot 35.5 percent from the field and was just 11-for-25 inside the paint. In the 72 minutes Harden played without Jordan in the game, Harden shot 47.6 percent and went 11-for-15 inside the paint. Jordan altered everything and it went far beyond what just raw block totals could ever show.

WEAKNESSES
According to the data, DeAndre Jordan is the second worst free throw shooter in the history of the NBA. The only player worse, with a minimum of 1000 attempts from the line, is Ben Wallace (41.4 percent). Jordan’s career mark is 41.7 percent, as a reference. The upside is that Jordan can actually improve upon his numbers even more because he’s still roughly 1000 attempts behind Wallace. The downside is that he can also get worse. Jordan’s 39.7 percent from the line this season is the third worst mark in NBA history in a season where a player attempted at least 250 free throws. In fact, he wasn’t even the worst guy this season at that. That goes to Andre Drummond, who shot 38.9 percent. Free throws are Jordan’s biggest weakness. It always will be. He has good form, a good release, and good posture. The result just stinks. People get on his case and say he should practice more but he does. Jordan practices them a lot. More than anyone actually can imagine. Some guys just can’t make them.

One of the other big deals with Jordan is that he’s not a real offensive threat. The only time Jordan makes teams pay on that end of the floor is when he’s getting a putback dunk, a drop off pass leading to a dunk, or an alley-oop. According to Baseball-Reference’s shot data, Jordan had 252 dunks this season and was assisted on 203 of them. The next closest guy in dunks was Tyson Chandler with 179. Jordan has led the NBA in that category for two straight seasons now. But he lacks any other move. He isn’t a post scorer – averaging just 0.74 points per possession on post-ups this season – and he doesn’t do anything else worthwhile on offense outside of setting screens. He’s just there. And that’s fine. The team is still productive with him on the floor because of his ability to cleanup the glass and dunk ferociously. You just can’t dump the ball in to Jordan and expect him to make a move to score.

Lastly, turnovers can be seen as something that he needs to improve on. A lot of them are of the lazy variety. Quite often, Jordan will not look where he’s passing whenever he’s taking the ball out of bounds and he’ll just toss the ball in lazily while a defender jumps in front to pick it off. He’s not alone in doing this. Blake Griffin and Matt Barnes have done this sort of stuff, as well. But for a center who rarely handles the ball to have 39 bad pass turnovers this season isn’t something that’s good. Little plays like that can decide very big games. Can’t turn the ball over with lackadaisical effort and expect to survive. Jordan has to do a better job of just being aware and avoid those types of mistakes.

FUTURE WITH CLIPPERS
This is the Titanic sized gorilla in the free agency room. "Where does DeAndre Jordan sign?" is going to be one of the huge questions of this offseason. There’s obviously guys like LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, Kevin Love, and a few other guys as unrestricted free agents, but Jordan’s free agency is the biggest one for the Clippers. Where Jordan goes could shift the balance of power in the Western Conference a little bit. It’d leave the Clippers crippled and without a capable replacement. There was also the recent article about how the Dallas Mavericks would be interested in a sign-and-trade for Jordan by including Tyson Chandler in the deal. Two words immediately come to mind: well, obviously! Jordan is the far better player and is younger. Of course they’d be interested. It’s just too soon to say whether or not that’s something the Clippers would do. I’m guessing they wouldn’t.

It’s going to be very difficult for DeAndre Jordan to turn down the true max contract offer that the Clippers can throw his way in a few weeks. The five year, $110 million contract the Clippers will slide across the table for his agent and him to peruse will be among the largest doled out in the offseason. Whether he signs it is a different story entirely. No one knows. If you were in the betting mood, though, you’d have to bet on Jordan returning to Los Angeles as a member of the Clippers and standing beside Blake Griffin and Chris Paul for the next several seasons. The team is in the midst of their best run in franchise history. It seems impossible to imagine a former second round pick – who has consecutive finishes of third in the Defensive Player of the Year voting and, now, a First Team All-Defense selection as well as a Third Team All-NBA selection – leaving the comfort of this team he’s grown up with for no reason other than a whim after the team that drafted him has nurtured him and grown him into what he is.

Could DeAndre Jordan leave? Sure. But don’t bet on it. If anything, bet heavily against it.