An NBA storyline to watch closely is the development of second-year center DeAndre Jordan. The uber-athletic big-man came on strong last season -- even recording a 11-12 performance in one outing -- showing why many had projected him as a lottery pick in the 2008 NBA Draft.
The 6'11" Jordan is a superb athlete with the potential to become a dominating shot blocker. He is still very green, but shows an uncanny ability to time shots.
Blessed with outstanding leaping ability and long arms, he will become a defensive force in time. Like most young shot blockers though, he has a tendency to try and swat the ball as hard as possible, which often creates an extra possession for the opposition.
I’m not saying he has to become Bill Russell and start tipping balls to teammates, but in time, he needs to learn to control certain blocks, and give his guards an opportunity to snatch them. This not only eliminates extra possessions for opponents, but also creates fast break scenarios for Clippers guards, in particular Baron Davis.
Jordan still has no real concept of how to operate down low. Many of his points come from put-backs and feeds. However, there is no question he has the skills to grow into an effective back-to-the-basket force.
His size alone is helpful, but Jordan demonstrates a relatively soft touch for such a young kid, and being left-handed, he already has a distinct advantage because of the mismatches he creates.
One of the knocks on the youngster has been his free throw shooting.
Last season, he shot a putrid 39 percent from the stripe, and given his physical nature down low, getting to the line is only a formality. But reports are that he’s steadily improved, and the preseason is a good indicator.
Just 21 years old, he finds himself in a unique situation playing for L.A. Veterans Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman are the clear-cut starters at this point, given that Blake Griffin is out for 6 weeks. Jordan doesn’t have to come off the bench and necessarily look for offense, but rather can learn the game inside out and contribute on the glass and on the defensive end.
A hefty kid, Jordan actually has very quick feet and exceptional hands. Throw it anywhere around him and he’ll get it. If he is close to a rebound, he’ll corral it away.
With Griffin out with the broken kneecap, Jordan will receive additional minutes for the Clips. His energy and athleticism will help space the floor for Davis and Eric Gordon, and his shot blocking threat—along with Camby—will heavily clog driving lanes for opposing guards.
The Clippers did the right thing this past summer by trading the selfish Zach Randolph to Memphis. Despite his 20-10 performances, Randolph will never be the culprit of a winning team.
Kaman still has three seasons left under contract, while Camby is set to become a free agent after this season and will most likely sign somewhere else.
The opportunity for Jordan to become a star is there.
Potential-wise, he’s scary.
Now, he must develop his offensive game, particularly on the block, and of course, improve from the line. He must learn how to pass out of double-teams as well, and stay out of foul trouble. All of this is part of the maturation process for any young player, especially a big-man.