Perhaps one of the most important X-factors in the entire league, DeAndre Jordan has a ton of hype surrounding him this season. The pressure to perform well on both sides of the floor combined with the addition of new head coach, Doc Rivers, has expectations extremely high this season for Jordan.
The problem is not Jordan’s development, or lack thereof, but more so the expectations of Rivers. When Rivers was acquired by the Los Angeles Clippers he mentioned that Jordan could be this season’s Defensive Player of the Year.
One hundred percent, I think that’s what he will be, Rivers said. When other teams show up, they should look at him and say, this is not going to be a fun night.
Rivers added to that statement during training camp in San Diego.
Jordan is just too young and too gifted to let walk out your door, bottom line. He's a game changer defensively. He can single-handedly change a game with his defense. There's five guys, and that number maybe too high, that can do that single-handedly with their size and athleticism and he's one of them. When you have one of those guys, you want to keep them.
There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Jordan worked diligently this summer to expand his offensive game and develop as team and one-on-one defender. However, Doc’s expectations are extremely lofty, especially coming from a guy who had Kevin Garnett as the backbone in his defensive system that won an NBA title.
Focusing on Jordan’s overall skills and talent, he needs to significantly improve on last year’s campaign. Jordan scored 8.8 points per contest and pulled down 7.2 rebounds while playing a measly 24.5 minutes per game.
There was plenty of blame to go around last year regarding Jordan’s performance. His poor free-throw shooting and lack of awareness and tenacity were major concerns. However, some of the blame can be placed on Vinny Del Negro not allowing Jordan to play more minutes. Jordan’s offensive ineptness and woes at the free-throw line caused Del Negro to bench the young center, effectively crushing Jordan’s morale.
To make matters worse, the Clippers were clearly better on both ends of the floor with Jordan on the bench. According to 82games, the Clippers were 6.0 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Jordan on the bench.
Even if Jordan is able to improve on those ratings, which also took into account how well the Clippers’ bench played, there are not too many prognosticators who would put Jordan anywhere near the running for Defensive Player of the Year.
The problem here, again, is not Jordan, but rather the expectations set by those above him. Jordan could easily develop into a 10-point, 10-rebound and 2.5-block-per-game center. In fact, if Jordan were able to transform into that player the Clippers would have a great shot at winning the conference.
Unfortunately, the expectations are so high for Jordan and the rest of the Clippers, that unless he develops immensely, the expectations seem unrealistic.
The good news is that through three preseason games, Jordan has shown that he has transformed from a solid rim protector into one that must be feared by those attacking the rim. Jordan is averaging five blocks per contest so far.
While it may be preseason, it is optimistic to see Jordan performing so well as the team’s defensive anchor, mainly because he is the one player on the roster that can lock down the defensive paint. Outside of Jordan, every other big on the roster is either an offensive player or marginal on both sides of the floor.
Overall, Jordan is expected to have a breakout year. What that means and how that is quantified is still unknown. The hope is that Jordan’s percentage from the charity stripe improves enough for Rivers to leave him on the floor near 30 minutes each night.
Jordan will have every opportunity to prove to his coach and teammates that he is the defensive linchpin the Clippers have been searching for. In fact, if his offensive post moves improve along with his defensive awareness and intensity, Jordan would solidify the Clippers' future for the next five-plus years.
Regardless, Jordan’s improvement as a player this season will be a roller-coaster ride. There will be plenty of highs mixed with an assortment of lows. That is what the league has learned to expect from young, developing centers.
The only problem is that the expectations have been set so high from those in the organization, and published in the media, it seems virtually impossible for DeAndre Jordan to reach those heights this season. Still, it should be fun to watch him try.