Over the last three seasons, which comes out to 199 games, DeAndre Jordan has dunked the ball through the hoop a league-high 601 times. Against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday evening, Jordan did it on a season-high nine occasions. His screens, rim runs, and raw athleticism have helped turn him into one of the league’s most potent aerial artists. The nine dunks that Jordan registered were the most by a single player in a game since Andre Drummond slammed home nine against the Milwaukee Bucks on November 25, 2014. As the Los Angeles Clippers easily routed Philadelphia on Saturday night, Jordan was at the forefront with his powerhouse dunks. Let’s look back at all nine just to see them all over again.
On a SLOB play, the ball is inbounded to Jordan here. He awaits Chris Paul coming off of a Wesley Johnson pin down screen so that he can hand the ball off to Paul. After Paul receives the ball, Jordan dummy screens and cuts to the paint. Paul sees him, fires a lob pass over the top, and Jordan slams it home. This is a pretty simple pitch-and-catch type of play here, especially since the 76ers try to defend this like they’ve never seen anything close to this type of action before. It’s truly comical.
When Jordan hands the ball off and begins his cut, Jerami Grant, who is on Wesley Johnson here, decides to just let Jordan go right through towards the rim without actually even getting a hand on him to deter him. It’s lazy. As Chris Paul strings the play out at the top of the arc, once he sees Jordan not get deterred, he just fires the pass because the big man defender, Nerlens Noel, is too far away to help back onto Jordan. This dunk is all on Grant, but it also shows you the complex ways you have to account for Jordan. If Grant does dig down on Jordan’s roll, then he’s leaving Johnson wide open in the left corner for a three-point attempt. Going into Saturday’s contest, Johnson had knocked down 44.9 percent of his corner threes. You had to leave one open. Philadelphia chose poorly, especially since the guy getting the ball on the action is someone who is the game’s most prolific dunker.
Next up, we have another instance of Philadelphia looking overmatched in the screen-and-roll game. Jordan sets a screen for Paul at the right wing, and then starts to roll to the basket. Once both Philadelphia defenders – Jerami Grant and Nerlens Noel – try to trap Paul at the wing, Paul just fires a pass over the top to where he expects Jordan to be. Lo and behold, Jordan is there to sky for the pass and dunk the ball through contact while drawing the foul. This is another instance where the person who was supposed to dig down on the roll either did it late or not at all. JaKarr Sampson (#9) is way too late to the play, and all he can do at this point is try to foul Jordan so that the dunk isn’t finished. He failed. It’s another example of why even challenging Jordan’s dunk attempt will most likely be futile.
A little over a minute later, we see the Clippers try to work the action again. As the play begins, Jordan sets Paul a screen at the top of the arc and starts to roll, but Philadelphia is right there to counteract the action with Noel retreating towards the rim on the play. Because of this, the Clippers quickly reset to a secondary action. Jordan runs up to the right elbow, sets Paul a back screen, and then he rolls again. As Paul comes off the screen, he gets right into the teeth of two defenders. By doing this, Paul makes it so that the defense has to react to him rather than Jordan. Noel jumps up to block a possible Paul layup, but Paul drops the ball off to Jordan for an easy slam dunk.
While Noel and the 76ers do a solid job on the initial pick-and-roll action, they just completely fell apart after that. They all reacted poorly to Paul’s drive. Grant allows himself to get beat on the screen, and then he got beat on the drive by Paul even though he happened to be right on the point guard’s hip. That inability to contain the ball-handler forces Noel to come over to help, but even Noel screws up by leaving his feet to contest a shot that he should have known Paul was never going to take. This allows Jordan to slip in behind Noel and be ready for a pass from Paul. The other failure on Philadelphia’s part is that Nik Stauskas should have dug down on Paul’s drive from the right elbow. He just stuck to Luc Mbah a Moute in the right corner. If you’re Philadelphia, you have to force Paul to give up the ball to a third option here. If Paul’s the first option and Jordan is the second option, then Mbah a Moute is clearly the third because of his presence in the strongside corner. If Stauskas digs down to wall off Paul’s drive, Paul has to settle for a pass to Mbah a Moute and either a shot from that corner or a reset of the offense with time running down.
About 30 seconds later, we get one of the ways Jordan can impact the game without a play even being called for him. As Paul sizes up Noel from the left wing, Jordan is hunkered down in the paint. Jordan tries to dive in front of Isaiah Canaan for a possible post-up chance, but Canaan actually does a decent job of stopping him. Jordan steps out of the paint as Paul walks towards the left elbow, and Paul takes that shot while Jordan then muscles the smaller Canaan underneath the hoop for an offensive rebound chance. In one motion, Jordan snatches the offensive rebound and dunks it home to further increase the Clippers’ lead. Jordan had a mouse in the house and took advantage of said mouse in a devastating way when given the opportunity.
Jordan is one of the league’s best offensive rebounders, and the data backs that up. According to Nylon Calculus, among players who chase after at least 20 percent of the available offensive rebounds, DeAndre Jordan ranks 2nd in the league in Offensive Rebound Win Percentage behind only Andre Drummond. Last year, Jordan actually led the league in that department. So we’re talking one of, if not the best offensive rebounder[s] in the game today. Anytime he gets matched up with someone smaller like this, Jordan should absolutely take advantage much in the manner that he did on this play. It’s a truly wonderful thing to have at your disposal.
The third quarter was a barrage of dunks from Jordan. In fact, he totaled five in this quarter alone – a quarter in which he played 10:43. This first dunk is a byproduct of his chemistry with J.J. Redick. The Clippers are trying to run Redick along the baseline and off of a Jordan pin down screen, but the 76ers do a solid job of jumping out on it to deny Redick an open three. The issue is that the big man, Noel, has to cheat up on this play, and that leaves Jordan wide open on a cut. Once Noel leaves Jordan, the Clippers’ big man slips to the base of the free throw line circle and awaits the pass from Redick. As the pass hits his hands, Jordan pauses for a brief second to let two defenders fly right by him before then jumping up to dunk the ball. Credit the Philadelphia defense for letting this happen, but also credit both Redick and Jordan for their knowhow as the play unfolded.
Philadelphia does an admirable job not letting Redick get free, but no one rotated down onto Jordan once Noel left to jump out on Redick. This is the responsibility of either Jahlil Okafor or Jerami Grant, or even both. Grant is slicing through the paint trailing Wesley Johnson here, but he could have stopped his pursuit the second Paul dished the ball to the left since it would have taken a wild skip pass over the top by Redick to even find Johnson. Okafor could have just left Mbah a Moute alone once Jordan cut to the paint, since it’s not like Mbah a Moute is a major threat around the rim like Jordan happens to be. Canaan tries to dive back into the play and strip Jordan from behind, but that doesn’t work and you can’t blame him for trying. He was the only one who seemed to do so. Still, credit has to go to Redick and Jordan for finding the open space on the floor and knowing what to do with it. That’s what makes their chemistry so dangerous. You can’t cheat too much on Redick or else he’s going to find Jordan on the roll.
How do you exploit a defense that’s lazily getting back into their set defense? With quick, decisive passing. Chris Paul notices that Philadelphia is sort of scrambling to find guys, and he fires a pass to Wesley Johnson in the left corner as JaKarr Sampson closes out onto him. The second Johnson receives the ball, he sees Jordan make a dash to the rim, and Johnson heaves the ball towards the rim where only Jordan can catch it. Jordan snatches it, slams it, and the Clippers increase their lead once more against a defense that has no idea what’s even happening.
First off, great recognition by Chris Paul here. None of us should be shocked. He saw the troubles Philadelphia was having off the bat, and he decided that Los Angeles was going to take advantage of that. Secondly, fantastic awareness by Johnson to catch and pass in one fluid motion. It gave the defense zero time to actually react to the play. Lastly, look at how Jordan picks apart Okafor’s lack of situational awareness. Okafor has no idea what to do or where to be, and Jordan just sprints right in behind him while all Okafor can do is put his hand up as if that’s going to do something. Defense has been a huge problem for the rookie big man this season, and this play was no different. He shuffles his feet on the perimeter, turns his hips the wrong way, and lets Jordan get a free release to the rim. The Clippers exploited the weaknesses within the defense and the result was sublime.
When a team can’t stop your screen-and-roll action, just keep calling it. In the third quarter, it seemed as if the Clippers were getting a ton of easy looks out of this set. This play was no different. Jordan and Johnson set a double-high screen for Paul, and Paul chooses to take Jordan’s screen after a spin move to sort of lose Sampson. As Paul gets wide, he starts to string Okafor out of the play entirely. Jordan makes his rim run as Sampson tries to cheat back into the play to deter the pass, but he’s too late to stop what is about to happen. Paul fires the pass straight in the air, Jordan dunks it down, and Philadelphia is completely flummoxed.
To be perfectly candid, Philadelphia defends this like a D-League team. There’s no real help from Noel in the strongside corner, zero effort by Okafor to even contain or challenge the ball-handler, and Sampson does something reckless which allows Jordan to get wide open. They seriously defended this like a team who hadn’t played one day of organized basketball together. The real culprits were Okafor and Sampson. All Okafor had to do was step up on Paul just once, and that could have forced Paul into a secondary decision. Instead, Okafor just kept backpedaling as if nothing was going to happen. Sampson also made a mistake by trying to jump back into the play rather than sticking with Jordan on the switch. It was all bad, but the Clippers dialed up their money play and got what they wanted. Jordan’s value in the pick-and-roll game is exceptionally hard to quantify, but you can see it there.
A little later, we get some fast break magic between the point guard and the center. As Okafor has the ball in a post-up situation against Jordan, he brings the ball over his head and down again while a cutter is clearing out that side. Okafor has no clue Paul is behind him, and Paul just rips the ball away from him which leads to a 3-on-1 fast break. Paul never breaks his stride to give any indication to Grant that he’s passing, and this forces Grant to play the possible layup attempt. Paul feels Grant as he’s about to block the shot, so Paul flips the ball over his head right to Jordan for an alley-oop dunk of magical proportions. It was special.
You can thank Okafor for not paying attention here. Had he showed one ounce of awareness and kept the ball secured as the cutter dove along the baseline, this play doesn’t happen. Paul reads it, does what he does best, and then speeds to the other end of the floor to give Jordan an easy dunk opportunity. It’s a wonderful thing when your players start to have this much fun together on a court and can pull off these ridiculous plays. It also helps when you’re facing a team that has no clue what real basketball is like.
Lastly, we see what happens when a team tries to full-court press the Clippers without any idea of what to do. Jamal Crawford has the ball as Nik Stauskas and Richaun Holmes attempt to start to trap him, at least that’s what it appears like they were going to try to do. Crawford spots Jordan running on the left side of the court, and he fires a pass that hits Jordan squarely in the hands. Jordan takes a gather step, and he then proceeds to dunk all over Carl Landry as Landry wisely realizes he’s far too old to end up on a poster and tries to duck out of the play. Smart decision. This is Jordan’s final dunk of the night, and it’s one where you can see yet another way for him to be effective against a team that’s trying to neutralize the Clippers’ ball-handlers in unconventional ways.
Dunks are fun, dunks are great, and dunks are one way for a team to get fans energized throughout a game. Against the Philadelphia 76ers, DeAndre Jordan brought the thunder not once, not twice, but nine times. Even though some were of the easy variety and didn’t involve anything exotic, other than Philadelphia’s defense breaking down, it still shows you some of the ways he can make an impact on the game offensively. His screens are great, his rolls gravitate defenders towards him, and he opens up more things for the team than people realize. It’s truly a treat to watch him dunk. It cannot be expressed enough.