DeAndre Jordan is Still Here (Sort Of)
Jordan is set to be a free agent after this season and while the skills that made him a household name have diminished, he's still evolving elsewhere.
Screen capture via Fox Sports
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DeAndre Jordan turned 30 in July, and, despite averaging damn near 15 points and 15 rebounds per game this season, a magnifying glass is not required to see how he isn’t the same player he used to be.
Jordan no longer rolls hard through the paint after every screen. He lacks the second-hop ability that once let him play taps on the offensive glass. So far, he’s only made 67 percent of his shots at the rim (two years ago he made 74 percent; three years ago he was at 75). And even though he can’t be blamed for all of Dallas’s defensive woes, Jordan isn’t the trustworthy safety net he once was: he’s noticeably slower helping from the weakside or laterally sliding with ball-handlers who get downhill off a high screen, and the days of him having any chance switched out on smaller players near the three-point line are all but in the rearview mirror.
Opponents are only shooting 44.7 percent at the rim when Jordan defends it, which is awesome and the second lowest figure among all players who contest at least five of those shots per game. But too often he simply doesn’t get there in time. Like, what is even happening right here?
Jordan had a really difficult time handling Rudy Gobert in that same game—be it on the glass or defending Utah’s Spanish pick-and-roll—and watching his physical decline intersect with a need for patience as he familiarizes himself with a new offensive system and different teammates can be hard.
But this doesn’t mean Jordan fails all the time at everything mentioned above. And with his free agency coming up this summer, it’s only right to recognize the difference between “not being your former self” and “not being good.” Jordan is not bad, even if the player he’s morphing into doesn’t share the same strengths as the one who mashed through everything with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. He’s developing areas of his game that may allow him to age with a bit more grace than anyone could’ve expected five years ago. Exhibit 1A: his free-throw shooting. A career 44.6 percent shooter from the line heading into this season, right now Jordan is 26-for-32—one of the most startling stats of this entire season.
Beyond his sudden transformation into Ray Allen, Jordan’s newfound ability to pass has allowed Dallas to initiate offense with him holding the ball at the top of the key, which creates a little more space than would otherwise exist with Jordan—who still can’t shoot jumpers—doing just about anything else. His passes are well timed, on the money, and shot out of a cannon.
Even if it becomes less effective once teams scout it down, Jordan still adds new wrinkles to Dallas’s offense, particularly with direct handoffs that slingshot his teammates towards the rim after he flicks them the ball. (Jordan leads the league in screen assists, and actions like this will be more dangerous when he develops chemistry with Dennis Smith, Jr. and Luka Doncic.)
There’s still a lot of basketball left to be played, but with so much of what makes him valuable in noticeable decline, whichever team offers Jordan his next contract would be wise to keep the years at one or two. The free-throw shooting is lovely, as is his evolution as a utilitarian playmaker (Jordan’s assist rate is more than double what it was two years ago, and every season of his career before that), but despite that and some otherwise promising early-season numbers, a four-year contract feels like a disaster waiting to happen—in Dallas or anywhere else.