DeAndre Jordan's work on the free throw line could also benefit the Clippers on the defensive end late in games.

DeAndre Jordan

Much has already been made about the offseason development of Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. However, one factor in Jordan’s progress that has gone relatively unnoticed is the potential difference he could make late in games as a defensive stopper when he stays on the court.

As last season progressed, Jordan, who started 77 games for the Clippers (66 regular season, 11 postseason), was relegated to 5.5 minutes per game in the fourth quarter, including 24 occasions when he did not appear. According to both Jordan and Head Coach Vinny Del Negro, this was primarily due to Jordan’s shortcomings at the free throw line where he shot 52.5% in the regular season and 33.3% in the playoffs.

“When you’re playing the top teams and you’re in the playoffs, possessions are huge,” Del Negro said after Tuesday morning’s practice. “If teams are going to foul us, we have to make them pay at the free throw line. And if you’re not able to knock free throws down on a consistent basis then it’s going to change things. We need DeAndre out there and Blake [Griffin] and really all of our big guys on the defensive end to control the glass and get possessions back for us.”

Last year, the Clippers finished 13th in the league in opponent’s points per game (95.0) and 14th in defensive field goal percentage (44.7%). Jordan blocked 2.0 shots and committed just 2.9 fouls per game, but his production waned somewhat as the season progressed.

To help bolster the defensive depth, the Clippers acquired Matt Barnes, Grant Hill, and Ryan Hollins to help on that end of the floor.

“We have some more veterans guys, some more experience, some more practice time, so hopefully we can do a better job [defensively],” Del Negro said. “We have to do a better job on our perimeter defense. We’ve got some more length, which we needed. There are some adjustments that will be made but we’ve got to see how it comes together here.”

Jordan said the addition of Assistant Coach Bob Ociepka is also making a difference.

“We’ve got a new defensive coach Bobby O. He’s great and I love him,” Jordan said. “He’s teaching us some new schemes and he’s going to help us out a lot.”

Still, the real game-changer could be Jordan.

“Everybody wants to play late, everybody wants to be clutch,” Jordan said. “I feel like my ability to play defense [can impact the game] because you have to get stops. We have a lot of scorers, but when it comes down to it you have to get stops. Free throw [shooting] was a big deal and I worked on it this summer. This year I’m feeling confident that I can play down the stretch and help us get wins.”