This past season, DeAndre Jordan showed a rather drastic decline on the defensive end of the floor, with his highest Defensive Rating since his rookie year. At the same time, he was becoming less involved on the offensive end due to less ball movement as Clipperland transitioned from “Lob City” to “Iso and Pick and Roll Off the Dribble City.” The fulcrum of this offense was based around guys like Austin Rivers, Lou Williams, Blake Griffin(in the limited action he played), and Tobias Harris. None of the aforementioned players could possibly replace the playmaking acumen of Chris Paul, nor could European sensation, Milos Teodosić.
Within 6 feet, DeAndre’s opponents made 5.2% more of their shots. Even though one could attribute this to the .9 fewer attempts they took against him, the cause of these fewer attempts aren’t solely because teams are respecting DeAndre’s defensive chops, but rather the fact that Jordan isn’t contesting as many of his opponent’s shots.
Expanding the scope of DeAndre’s defensive FG’s to 2 pointers, this becomes evident. DeAndre contested 8.5/11.3 DFGA(75.2%) in 2016-17, compared to 6.2/9.5 DFGA(65.2%) in 2017-18. These stats translate to a visible effect on the court, as players consistently drove by DeAndre, who acted more as a door than a wall. Another thing to note with these hustle stats: DeAndre’s screen assists per game fell from 5.5 in 2016-17 to 4 in 2017-18, reflecting the Clippers’ transition to more 1 on 1 play.
A huge relief for all Mavericks fans: DeAndre didn’t experience any significant decline defending the post. He still will be 100% capable defending physical fives like Joel Embiid, who recently humiliated the Mavs in both of their preseason matchups in China.
On the plus side, Jordan did improve in his percentile rank, remaining relatively the same guarding the pick and roll screener, albeit with a slight difference in FG%. While such situations are certainly not one of Jordan’s strengths, any proof of maintained production is a positive.
Going back to Jordan’s efficiency and turnovers, DeAndre’s lack of a quality playmaker to feed him easy buckets clearly hurt his production. The only reason his true shooting % at the rate of his effective field goal % improved was due to a marked 10% improvement in free throw shooting.
Zooming in a little closer, DeAndre’s FG%’s in the paint fell off by nearly 6%, in addition to attempting more shots from farther away at a lower efficiency. In Dallas, these numbers will have to rebound for DeAndre to return to his(rightful) place as the best rim runner in the NBA. Luckily, Mavs wonder boy, Luka Dončić has the potential to fulfill DeAndre’s needs right away.
DeAndre also lost any effectiveness as a post player on offense, as previously one might be able to ask him to take advantage of a mismatch on occasion, whereas last year it would have been a lost cause. Most likely, this could be attributed to defenses being able to key in more on Jordan without the threat of Chris Paul taking a handoff for an easy mid range, among other possibilities Paul offered.
Fortunately, DeAndre’s cutting ability did not experience any significant changes. This is key to holding onto hopes that DeAndre can rebound some of his offensive game in Dallas, as one core element of his game remained strong despite the ruinous season Jordan had to experience.
The loss of Paul hurt the most in DeAndre’s rim-running game, with a fall in FG% from an insane 86% to just 68.5%, and falling from the top 1% in the league (pretty much the best, especially with him being in a winning context), to being in the top 17%, likely ranking in the high teens as a roll man.
Another significant, but less severe area of decline was DeAndre’s transition efficiency. DeAndre fell from top 2% to top 9.5%, mostly due to a 2.6% decrease in FG, while increasing volume by .3 possessions per game. In Dallas, the Mavs deep well of experienced and talented handlers should bring Jordan back to his glory days on the fastbreak.
Another encouraging sign for Jordan is that despite his increased volume in putbacks caused by worse offensive efficiency from the Clippers, DeAndre’s putback efficiency remained exactly the same. While he isn’t among the league’s best in this area, the lack of decline can only help DeAndre rise once again.
Finally, DeAndre achieved a career high in rebounds per game, which can likely be attributed to Blake Griffin being injured for much of the season and then being traded away at the deadline. Dallas hasn’t had anyone close to that level on the glass since Tyson Chandler in 2014-15, then Roy Tarpley and James Donaldson during the Mavs first glory days in the late 1980’s.
Taking a glance at Jordan’s PIPM stats in 16-17 and 17-18 vs his projection for 18-19, even the numbers side with a rebound for DeAndre to an upper tier starting center, but not close to the same level of impact in 16-17, where Chris Paul elevated Jordan to such an elite mark that the model would consider him an MVP Candidate in terms of PIPM Wins Added. Ideally, for DeAndre to ascend himself back into the DPOY conversation, fetching a PIPM of 3.5 or more (with around 2.5 or more DPIPM) would place him in the same ballpark with defensive stalwarts Rudy Gobert and Clint Capela.
Now, with the stats out of the way, how do they translate to Jordan’s impact in games?
DeAndre’s free throws finally resulted more in his favor last year, converting 58%. This increase can largely be attributed to not having his feet parallel, but rather one in front of the other, so that he can generate extra power with his knees. His form still isn’t the best, with his shooting arm being more out than straight at 90 degrees, not loading up from slightly above the waist, and having the ball way too far out from the rest of his body; he often benefits from getting the short bounce on the rim, and then the ball falling in. Still, at least he can generally shoot the ball straight.
On the block, DeAndre lacks any level of craft. At best, he puts up a post hook, or he passes out. At worst, he tries to bully ball his way through and there becomes a high probability that the ball is stolen and an easy fastbreak opportunity arises.
The most exciting portion of Jordan’s offensive game, DeAndre is excellent at finishing with power and/or momentum, fit for capping off the perfect fastbreak, or for diving to the rim in the pick and roll. However, DeAndre struggles finishing from a standstill when touch is required, but DeAndre fortunately is athletic enough that often nobody will have to worry whether DeAndre is dunking or not. Furthermore, Jordan has an outstanding catch radius with a wingspan of 7-6 and a standing reach of 9-5.5, limiting the amount he has to load for a standing dunk or how high he even has to jump for a lob. However, Jordan certainly still has plenty of hops. Despite all these advantages, DeAndre was failed by many of his teammate’s passes, which were unfortunately tipped or even simply off target before they could reach him. In Dallas, this event won’t be as common of an occurrence.
Keying in on the fundamentals, DeAndre’s screen setting adds a new dynamic to any offense. Last season, Jordan was listed at a weight of 265 pounds, far heavier than any Maverick rotation player. This offseason, he appears to have slimmed down around 10-15 pounds, but 250 is still tons, especially considering how much of that is muscle. Need a pin down to open up a corner 3? A screen that will create an open shooting window for your guard to take an open 3, or drive and pull up for an open mid? Perhaps one that will totally knock the defender on his back? What about a ball screen for shooters coming to curl for a jumper? Jordan is quite effective in all of these areas and more, when he puts his full effort into his screens. Sometimes, he simply doesn’t put all his weight into it, leading to the defender catching up to the drive, or it isn’t wide enough and the screener can slip around and contest the jumper. In a simple pick and roll where Jordan dives to the rim, the opposing center has a tough decision to make between DeAndre diving to the rim and the ball handler driving to the basket. However, there are times when he doesn’t gain enough momentum on the dive, and an opposing defender can simply hold him off from continuing to the basket. Nearly every time, DeAndre’s physical screens will exceed those set previously by the nearly immobile Dirk Nowitzki, the skinny until recently Dwight Powell, the still thin Maxi Kleber, and the raw but energetic Salah Mejri.
With the ball in his hands, DeAndre normally avoids holding the ball for too long, with exception to his post ups. His passes aren’t anything particularly special, but if you need a basic lead pass in a set, DeAndre can definitely make that happen normally. Sometimes, you can find some surprising moments, such as an on the money baseball pass in transition, or him hitting the open 3 in the corner off the offensive rebound, rather than going up unnecessarily for a putback.
On the offensive glass, very few perform better than DeAndre Jordan. He bodies opponents with his strength, and if he can’t out muscle them, he’ll reach over or around them with his wingspan. If that’s not enough, he can even jump over them as well. The value of these boards are at their highest when DeAndre doesn’t attempt the putback (unless it’s with an emphatic tip slam), but rather passes out and recycles the possession. Sometimes, Jordan doesn’t really go for the board, even when they seem easily available, such as when facing ill equipped rebounders. However, these moments are few and far between.
DeAndre often forces more touch putback attempts than he actually needs to. Often, these attempts miss, ruining the potential and value of running another full possession. Otherwise, prepare for impact, because a DeAndre Jordan tip jam is incoming.
The worst things that kill nearly all of DeAndre’s defensive value are when he’s forced to guard a jump shooter, a switch occurs unnecessarily, or when some sort of miscommunication occurs between the ball defender and himself. This leads to easier drives for handlers or screener’s receiving advantageous positions at the basket.
In a team structure, DeAndre often gets taken advantage of due to a lack of spatial awareness and sometimes lack of desire to rotate to the ball for the block. Easy layups that DeAndre would never allow suddenly become a dime a dozen, with DeAndre letting handlers drive right through to the basket, or cutters to catch him completely off guard, or even failing to address mismatches that require his rim protection to save the day. When he’s engaged, these become easy blocks. This disengagement may be caused by the lack of many rewards on the offensive end, among all the other happenings surrounding the team, which even Clipper fans were lead to believe.
When having to closeout or contest jumpers, Jordan’s length comes in handy. However, sometimes Jordan trusts too much in his length, allowing opponents to convert open jumpers with ease multiple times. Additionally, he sometimes can’t react in time either.
DeAndre’s efforts on the boards apply to both the offensive and defensive end, once again showing his elite prowess often, but sometimes lacking that extra effort one would love to see. Also, he will sometimes be unable to hold onto the ball at all, and the opponent will regain a possession that otherwise would surely have been over with.
Formerly DeAndre’s greatest defensive asset, rim protection has become a major question regarding his future value. There are a few plays in here where it seems like he just quits going for the contest, even though it would be an easy block. Other times, players just finish through him because he tries to stand and reach instead of going for the swat. Finally, he often gets baited by ball fakes at the rim, resulting in easy points from free throws or open passes to dunks for the opposing team. Despite these failures, DeAndre still has a commanding presence at the rim when engaged, swatting shots with ease. His physicality forces players to pass out of the contact or face a turnover.
In the post, Jordan harasses opponents with his physicality. He gets in a deep, wide stance, constantly fights for position, and takes advantage of his arms to pressure the ball. Nobody has a chance at backing him down. He mirrors opponents post moves effectively as well, rarely giving up an easy angle for a shot. However, he can be abused by post fakes just like at the rim. No longer will Dallas be abused in the paint. However, it is a worthy concern how effective he will be down low considering his weight loss.
Finally, DeAndre often makes some terrible and unnecessary fouls, putting him in foul trouble more often than otherwise. This signifies his unawareness on the court of the situation sometimes. Also, below is another example of DeAndre being unaware of his surroundings on a defensive board.
DeAndre’s lacking effort and awareness at times drastically reduces his value on the court. Despite this, his career looks on the upswing in Dallas, in a new environment that satisfies much of what he lacked last season. If he can get his desire back on the court, and remain focused, he most certainly has the capability to revolutionize the Mavericks defense while providing a desperately needed physicality on both ends of the floor. With marked improvements in areas of past struggle, there are signs that this rebound is more realistic than not. However, for Jordan to reach his old self, he needs to be even more aggressive and physical to leave a lasting impression in the paint. For the Mavericks, Jordan gives Luka a shot to show what he can provide for an elite dive threat, and provides a safety blanket to cover as many defensive holes as possible. The Mavs season hinders greatly on how well DeAndre Jordan returns to form. The season is soon upon us. Soon we will all see what’s in store.