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DeAndre Jordan in Perfect Position to Become Elite Center with LA Clippers

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DeAndre Jordan in Perfect Position to Become Elite Center with LA Clippers
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

From Jrue Holiday's early-season brilliance in Philadelphia to Larry Sanders' emergence as an all-around threat in Milwaukee, young players are beginning to meet their potential in 2012-13. Hidden in a city in which star power is omnipresent, however, there is a young center whose limitless upside presents the strongest threat for greatness.

For those unfamiliar with whom I'm referring to, know this. DeAndre Jordan is in perfect position to become an elite center with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Surrounded by the game's greats, Jordan has a plethora of talent to learn from and work off of. With the likes of Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups and Jamal Crawford in the backcourt, the most fundamental benefit comes from his teammates' ability to work the ball to him in a position to score.

With All-Star power forward Blake Griffin as his frontcourt mate, both scoring and defensive stat sheet-stuffing opportunities will arise.

Although Jordan's first four years have come with relatively disappointing results, the former second-round draft choice has finally begun to discover his potential. He has done so by posting averages of 10.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 25.6 minutes per game.

As for how Jordan is in place to make the leap from his present status to an elite center, the following factors explain just that.

 

When you can do this, how could one not be excited about your upside?

Belief of his Elite Facilitators

One could argue that the greatest strength of the Los Angeles Clippers is their plethora of solid-to-elite facilitators. With All-Star Chris Paul, 2004 NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups and 2010 Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford, there is no shortage of ball-handlers and passers.

You can add Eric Bledsoe and Willie Green to that mix.

What this means for Jordan is that there are five players capable of facilitating his scoring on any given evening. Although D.J. has long been the breed of player who earns his own points by working the offensive glass, he has seen more designed plays in 2012-13.

According to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times, this comes as a direct result of CP3's belief in Jordan's abilities and upside.

"[DeAndre Jordan] has a chance to be special," Chris Paul said. "He is unbelievable on both ends of the court. I think this year, obviously he's highlighted a lot more, probably more than he's ever been highlighted in his life. We're running plays for him three or four times in a row."

"DJ is just going to continue to get better with his game," Paul said. "I think for him, he's just got to continue doing what he's doing. Everybody recognizes how talented he is. The hardest thing to do in this league is be consistent, for any of us. But DJ is working hard at that."

Turner proceeds to write that Billups shares the belief in Jordan's progression and future.

"I know that he worked a lot on his offense all summer," said Clippers guard Chauncey Billups. "You've got to throw DJ a bone or two. You've got to make him feel like he's involved. And if you do that, he's going to play extremely hard on the other end. I know that about him."

"When I see him drifting, I snap and get him back."

When the players who are responsible for getting you the ball believe in you, it's safe to say that you're in position to succeed. Fortunately for Jordan, his physical gifts enable him to do so at a much higher level than the average.

Elite would be a fitting word.

 

Help-Side Opportunities

After two years in the NBA, Blake Griffin has developed a reputation as one of the best young players in the world. With two All-Star appearances in as many seasons, Griffin's resume cements that status.

As do his career averages of 21.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.

With that being said, there is one glaring void in his repertoire. That, of course, is Griffin's ineptitude on the defensive end of the floor, as his career average of 0.6 blocks and his tendency to fall out of position display.

Fortunately for the high-flying Griffin, one of the game's top shot-blockers works alongside him: DeAndre Jordan.

Although Jordan's defensive fundamentals have lacked in recent seasons, his career average of 1.5 blocks per game represents how much of a game-changer that he can be. As do his averages of 2.0 blocks in 2011-12 and 2.0 again in 2012-13, which suggests that Jordan is already on his way to elite status.

 

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
With Dwight Howard in town, DeAndre Jordan's value increases.

Centers Aren't Dead

The Clippers are not just long-time underachievers in Los Angeles, but they're also a team that has had a first-hand look at what creates a dynasty. That, of course, is an elite frontcourt presence.

Only the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs have won at least three titles apiece over the past decade. Each have built their success off of the presence of an elite frontcourt.

Don't think that information has gone in one ear of the Clippers' brass and out of the other.

Blake Griffin appears to be the Clippers' frontcourt star. After witnessing the Lakers find years of success by virtue of players such as Shaquille O'Neal, Andrew Bynum and now Dwight Howard, however, there is a benefit to having a dominant center.

Jordan can be that player.

Head coach Vinny Del Negro clearly believes in Jordan, which is the main reason why he has begun to design plays for his specific abilities. Considering that Jordan's skill set is rapidly expanding, expect the play-calling to follow suit.

Thus creating more opportunities for Jordan to reach elite status.

Paired with Jordan's world-class athletic ability, there is no reason to believe that he cannot reach the level of the greats. After all, there is no more powerful weapon in an individual's arsenal than the will to improve, which is something that Jordan has displayed.

Contrary to popular belief, the death of the center position is often overstated. This comes by virtue of the success of the Miami Heat.

Miami is the only team in NBA history to win an NBA championship without a legitimate center. With that being said, do you really think that Miami would decline the services of Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez or a healthy Andrew Bynum?

There's more where that came from, which proves that the center position isn't dead. We've just become caught up in one team starting a faux revolution of going small.

But I digress.

Jordan's value is indescribable to a team which will win and lose games by virtue of its ability to maximize its depth. That all starts up front, where Griffin and Jordan pace this team to whichever result that it may discover.

The opportunity is there for Jordan to reach elite with the L.A. Clippers. Will he take advantage of it?

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