DeAndre Jordan made the All-Star team over the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert. But this was also the first year that there were 8 frontcourt players to only 4 backcourt players, since the format was switched to "frontcourt" and "backcourt" positions. That means DeAndre also beat out the likes of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Mike Conley, and his own teammate Chris Paul (though that was likely due to injury). One thing to keep in mind, of course, is that the Clippers currently sitting 4th in the Western Conference standings with a 30-18 record most likely influenced DeAndre's selection as well.
Let's start by going over exactly what DeAndre did this season to get himself noticed by the coaches.
Stepping Up When Needed
Previously, I wrote about how DeAndre would need to really step it up during the voting period:
He’ll probably need a handful of 20+ point games during the voting period, a few 15+ rebound games, and quite a few 3+ block nights to really stand out.
Those were just arbitrary guesses, but I figured if he was playing that type of basketball over the 21-day (12-game) voting period from 12/25 to 1/16, a couple of things would happen: First, he'd be noticed for simply playing out of his mind. And second, he'd bring his season averages up to career-bests.
So was he able to hit those marks? For the most part, yes. During the voting period, DeAndre had 20+ points 3 times (and was 1 just bucket shy of 20 twice), 15+ rebounds 7 times (and 20+ rebounds 5 times!), and 3+ blocks 4 times.
DJ got hot at just the right time too. If we compare the 31 games before the voting period to the 12 games during the voting period, there were substantial improvements in his scoring and rebounding rates (all values are per-36 minutes). There was also a substantial increase in FG% (offset by a noticeable decrease in FT% unfortunately):
- Before voting: 13.2 points, 14.8 rebounds, 65.7% FG, 54.2% FT
- During voting: 15.4 points, 17.7 rebounds, 75% FG, 46.9% FT
- Full Season: 14.0 points, 15.6 rebounds, 69.4% FG, 50.8% FT
DeAndre is now first in FG% and tied for first in rebounds per game, and he’s currently sporting a career-best scoring rate, and only 0.1 rebounds shy of a career best rebounding rate. So he's peaking at the right time (with regards to All-Star voting, anyway).
Now, not to take anything away from DJ, but he's not the only center playing like an All-Star. So why did our guy get the nod, while the others were left off?
As mentioned, DeAndre beat out both Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns for a spot on the All-Star team. Both Gobert and KAT have been terrorizing the NBA for their respective teams.
The Gobert snub makes more sense, since he's basically exactly like DeAndre, with slightly worse stats (other than FT shooting, of course). Per-36, Gobert is at 13.7 points, 13.4 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, shooting 65.8% FG and 65.6% FT. His team has nearly the same record, so put side-by-side it's tough to pick Gobert over DeAndre.
Karl-Anthony Towns, on the other hand, is the bigger question mark as he’s a completely different player. With a per-36 line of 22.8 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.5 blocks, shooting 50.7% FG, 33.5% 3P, and 80.9% FT, he's already got the stat-line of an All-Star. That being said, his team's record is only 18-29, and unlike DeMarcus Cousins of the perennially struggling Sacramento Kings (19-28), KAT is only in his second year and hasn't yet turned himself into a household name quite yet.
Additionally, with the early injury to Blake Griffin and the late injury to Chris Paul taking them each out of the All-Star race, I have a hunch DeAndre may have gotten an extra point simply for being the only remaining candidate left from the #4 team in the Western Conference. I’m just speculating, of course.
So... Was DeAndre the Right Choice?
All of that being said, do I believe that DeAndre should be an All-Star? Absolutely. He's been damn impressive this year. DeAndre's improvements at the free-throw line are noticeable, he continues to stay on Wilt Chamberlain’s heels for highest FG% in a single season, and his work on the glass has been downright phenomenal.
Would I have been upset if Gobert got the nod over DeAndre? You bet I would. It just wouldn’t have made any sense. What about if Towns made the team instead? I would have been more understanding, if only because KAT is such a different type of center than DeAndre Jordan, they’re hardly comparable.
Ultimately, all three centers probably deserve to be All-Stars, but there are only so many spots; so let’s just be grateful DeAndre was the one selected.
It’s Been a Long Journey
DeAndre’s path to the All-Star Game has been long and filled with twists and turns. DeAndre came into the league as a barely-one-dimensional athlete. He could dunk the ball, sure, but he couldn’t shoot, he couldn’t dribble, he couldn’t pass, and he was a reactionary rather than cerebral defender.
But over the past 3-4 years, Jordan has become something else all together. He still can’t shoot and still isn’t much of a ball-handler, but DeAndre’s become an excellent outlet passer, a sneaky-good interior passer, and generally has great instincts once he can get those huge mitts on the ball. Defensively, DeAndre is known for learning opposing team’s playbooks and calling out their plays to the other Clippers. He anticipates offensive action and frequently covers for teammates who blow their assignments. Now, he’s one of the best in the business.
I’m ecstatic for DeAndre. He's a student of the game, an extremely hard worker, and he is just as deserving of his All-Star selection as anyone on the team. Also, we might finally get to see DeAndre participate in the Slam Dunk Competition, if his comments in the past are any indication (he's said every year he would only participate if he were also on the All-Star team).
Even though things have been tough lately, it's safe to say DeAndre's All-Star debut is something the Clipper Nation can all relax and enjoy.