The Los Angeles Clippers underwent another facelift over the summer after an outstanding regular season and dethroning the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the Playoffs.
Their capitulation to the Houston Rockets in the next round convinced the front office they needed to retool but first they had to re-sign DeAndre Jordan who considered bolting for the Dallas Mavericks.
Jordan had the most effective season of his career, averaging 11.5 points, 15 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and a steal, which boiled down to a player efficiency rating of 21. He’s only the fifth player to average such a line throughout the regular season. Moses Malone was the last to pull it off with the Sixers in the early ’80s.
DeAndre caught a lot of flack for how he went about testing the waters of free agency. It was reminiscent of 2011 when he signed a four-year, $43 million offer sheet with the Golden State Warriors, forcing the Clippers to match. This time he used Dallas as leverage by verbally agreeing to sign with the Mavs, and the Clippers responded by engineering his abduction until an agreement of four years, $87.5 million was reached.
The Clippers were stuck between a rock and a hard place and would’ve been dead in the water without Jordan since there was no replacement close to his skill set available on the open market. His streak of 300 consecutive starts makes him the NBA’s reigning Iron Man among currently active players and underscores how integral he’s become to the Clippers over the last few years.
Jordan led his team in rebounds as well as blocks while logging the third-most minutes on average during the regular season and the Playoffs. Maxed out, he’s second only to CP3 when it comes to currency. The shift in the financial pecking order essentially makes DeAndre the man sitting next to the man, though Blake Griffin remains the primary or secondary option.
For Griffin and the Clippers, they need a beast like Jordan, a two-time rebounding champ, in the middle. Offensively he can be a liability if he’s forced to play outside his comfort zone but that rarely occurs since he knows when to stay in his own lane.
He only had 66 post-up possessions last season, compared to 103 in the pick and roll, 93 in transition, 192 off the cut, and 232 on the offensive glass. A small margin of his possessions came out of the post. Out of the 534 shots he made last year, only 18 of them were in the post.
His pressure on the glass is what makes defenses collapse, which creates opportunities on the wing and perimeter for everyone. Jordan is more of an asset on defense with his extraordinary size and agility that discourages opponents from attacking the rim, which allows his teammates to apply more pressure out front and on the wing. His 15.7 rebounds per 36 minutes translates into greater ball control.
This year, the pressure is on Jordan to play like an All-Star franchise center if the Clippers are intent on venturing further than the second round of the Playoffs, especially with the Warriors staring them down from atop the Pacific. Winning the division isn’t out of the question when the personnel they added over the summer is taken into account.
The addition of Paul Pierce, Lance Stephenson and Wesley Johnson brings equilibrium to the front court and gives the Clippers more firepower than they’ve had in years. There’s now more depth at the 1 and 4 with the acquisition of Pablo Prigioni and Josh Smith from Houston but the weak link is at the 2 with JJ Redick and Jamal Crawford. Their player efficiency ratings were slightly above average but their true value is in their ability to stretch the floor.
JJ shot 40 percent from long distance in the Playoffs, but Jamal’s dismal numbers aren’t even worth mentioning. Apparently backup shooting guards don’t come cheap if Redick and Crawford’s paychecks are any indication. Any plans the Clippers have of shoring up that position will have to hold since they blew their load on DeAndre.
Rivers, Stephenson and Johnson could collectively swing it but ultimately the Clippers’ big three need to lead the way if the Clippers are gonna make a run.
|SLAM Top 50 Players 2015|
Rankings are based on expected contribution in 2015-16—to players’ team, the NBA and the game.