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Clippers Retrospective: DeAndre Jordan

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DeAndre Jordan was a great player for the Clippers, and one of the franchises biggest success stories.

2008 NBA Rookie Portraits Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images

Key Clippers’ Stats:

· Picked 35th overall in the 2008 Draft

· Averaged 9.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 28.1 minutes per game on 67.3% shooting from the field and 44.6% from the free throw line throughout his 10-year tenure

· Was a three-time All-NBA member (2015-2017), two-time All-Defensive team member (2015, 2016), and one-time All Star (2017)

· Led NBA in rebounding in 2014 and 2015, and field goal % from 2013-2017

· All-time Clippers’ leader in games played (750), offensive rebounds (2435), defensive rebounds (5553), total rebounds (7988), blocks (1277), field goal% (67.3), and two-point field goal % (67.4)

· Also top 10 in minutes played (2nd), field goals (6th), free throws made (8th), steals (8th), Win Shares (2nd), and VORP (4th)

· Signed a deal with the Mavericks on July 6, 2018

Expectations:

DJ was regarded as a boom-or-bust player when he was drafted in the 2nd round in 2008. Originally projected to be selected in the lottery, DJ fell due to questions on work ethic, attitude, and maturity, poor workouts, and a lack of tangible basketball skill. However, he was clearly extremely talented, and most draft pundits viewed him as a tremendous steal that late in the draft.

Still, expectations for Jordan were low. There were decent odds he would be out of the NBA in just a few years, washed out by his limitations or his (seeming) personality issues. Even if he did stick around, while there was always that high upside (as a Tyson Chandler type), it was much more likely that he would be a backup center, or a situational end of the bench guy. Nobody had expectations that DeAndre would be a starter for the Clippers, much less a franchise centerpiece.

Reality:

DeAndre blew those expectations away. After his first two years, DJ was clearly “something” in the NBA -- the question was what. Three seasons later, having spent some time as the Clippers’ starting center, and now aged 23, DJ appeared to have topped out as a useful player who was limited by his abysmal free throw shooting and lack of discipline on defense. Doc Rivers’ arrival changed everything.

Doc insisted on including Jordan as a key piece of the franchise, setting him alongside Chris Paul and Blake Griffin as one of the Clippers’ “Big 3”. Unlike Vinny Del Negro, who would frequently remove DJ at the end of games because of his free throw shooting, Doc showed confidence in him, giving him over 10 more minutes per game of playing time. This confidence was rewarded in a breakout season, with Jordan’s rebounding surging nearly exponentially. Over the next few years, DJ would continuously improve on defense, moving from an overrated shot blocker to a true defensive quarterback and rim protector, and earning recognition as one of the top centers in the NBA. Even in his final season with the Clippers, on a post-Lob City team of failed expectations, Jordan made strides as a leader, free throw shooter, and passer.

Far from possessing personality issues, DeAndre proved to be something of a model citizen. He constantly stayed in shape (he’s incredibly missed only 13 games in the past eight seasons), worked hard to improve his game, and was loved by fans, teammates, and players around the NBA. As a cherry on top, DJ made Team USA, earning a gold medal with the squad in the 2016 Olympic Games. He did work in the community, usually had a smile on his face, and seemingly disproved almost every negative that caused him to fall in the draft process.

Legacy:

DeAndre Jordan became the best draft pick and center in Clippers’ history, and perhaps the greatest success story of the entire franchise (admittedly both low bars). Clippers’ fans will likely never see a better rebounder don a Clippers’ uniform. He holds quite a few franchise records, and most of them are unlikely to be surpassed. He also gave us this dunk, an incendiary, never-to-be-forgotten moment in Clippers’ lore:

There were moments to forget, of course, mostly centered around DJ’s poor free throw shooting. His lack of shooting also hindered the Clippers’ spacing with Blake Griffin at times, and there were many people who argued (foolishly) that the Clippers would be better off by trading one of them. DJ was certainly not perfect, and his Clippers’ legacy might be marred a bit by the fact that he signed with other teams in free agency two times before returning to the Clips.

However, one can’t think of DJ’s legacy without remembering that infamous day in July 2015 when he wavered on his free agent decision to join the Mavericks, persuaded to re-join the Clippers by Paul, Griffin, and Doc. The ensuing drama, with hilarious Tweets, doors getting blocked, and Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban driving around Houston trying to find DJ, created one of the most memorable days in the history of NBA free agency. It was also a key moment in turning the NBA into a league with a news cycle that lasts 10 months of the year.

DJ’s primary legacy will still be as a key player on the best, most exciting, and most attention-grabbing teams the Clippers have ever put on the court. Lob City would not have been what it was without DeAndre’s thunderous dunks, his shot-blocking on defense, and the incredible gravity he created while rolling to the rim. One of the most decorated centers of his era, Jordan could well have been the third-best player on a championship team had the Clippers gotten lucky a couple times in the playoffs. Alas, they did not, and all the legacies of the key players in Lob City will be hurt by that lack of luck.

But really, even though DJ has now finally signed with the Mavericks for real, he will be remembered as a Clipper, and the memories will generally be fond. It’s weird to think, after 10 years of seeing DJ in a Clippers’ uniform, that he will be suiting up for another team in the 2018-2019 season. More than anyone else from this Clippers’ era, Jordan grew up as a Clipper and came into his own in front of our eyes. The quiet, skinny, limited rookie who they drafted in 2008 became an iron man, a member of the All-NBA first team, and a bright personality. He exceeded all expectations, transforming into a true franchise icon. When Jordan finally does retire, his jersey will be hung in the rafters of whatever stadium the Clippers will call home, right alongside that of teammates Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. And rightfully so.