JORDAN'S 2012-13 IMPROVEMENTS FELL UNDER RADAR

DeAndre Jordan

The story of DeAndre Jordan’s season weaved a narrative that at times felt incomplete.

He was dominant for stretches, relatively uncontrollable in the paint from an athletic standpoint. And so many other occasions he would have games like he did at home against Indiana on Apr. 1 when he registered nary a point in 16 minutes.

Consistency was a word used as often to describe Jordan’s need for improvement as his free throw shooting. For all of the double-digit rebounding games (he had eight in the final month) and blocked shots, including a game-saver against the Grizzlies and Mike Conley in late April, Jordan was unable to shake the perception that his inability to convert from the foul line and lack of nightly consistency were impediments to his progress.

But in actuality there was much progress from Jordan this season, his fifth in the NBA.  Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich noticed it when the Clippers visited the Spurs in March.

“I wonder what he did over the summer,” said Popovich, who had already seen Jordan three times earlier in the season, including twice in November. “When I started watching him through the year, he’s just different. He plays more confidently, understands different parts of the game now that he maybe didn’t appreciate in the past. He just thinks the game more than he ever did before. He’s not just a dunk guy. He understands what’s going on out there.”

That level of understanding was on display in December when Jordan swatted away a potential game-tying runner by Utah’s Al Jefferson. He helped off Jefferson to Paul Millsap, read Millsap’s pass to a cutting Jefferson, recovered and blocked the shot with 28 seconds to go.

Jordan’s recognition was better, as Popovich indicated. So, too, was his ability to assert himself down low. He had an array of moves that were absent in years past, including a step-through, ambidextrous jump hook, and a spin move off the dribble. His touch, patience and footwork on offense were all part of the breakthrough, which helped him lead the NBA in field goal percentage (.643), setting a Clippers franchise record in the process. He made 19-straight field goals at one point in March.

The problem, which was evident in the postseason when the Grizzlies jammed up the interior, was that Jordan was a non-factor away from the rim. He shot a career-low 38.6 percent from the line and out of 214 players with at least 400 field goal attempts, had the third fewest attempts from outside of 4 feet. According to NBA.com, 95.1 percent of Jordan’s shots were in the paint last season (see graphic). 

Obviously, Jordan stretching his shot-making ability would help. But openings for Jordan inside will only increase as running mate Blake Griffin’s perimeter effectiveness continues to improve. It is the consistency for Jordan that is likely as important as anything.

It is easy to forget that Jordan, while the longest tenured Clipper, is only 25. He’s been a full-time starter for two-and-a-half seasons and played just 35 games in his only season at Texas A&M. His multi-year contract extension following the lockout certainly upped the level of expectation for the effervescent 6-foot-11 center, but in reality he is still growing and learning as a player.

Take the early path of 16-year-veteran Jermaine O’Neal. After four years of being relegated to the bench of a deep Portland team, O’Neal finally broke through in year five after a trade to Indiana. Still, despite a more refined offensive skillset, O’Neal struggled to remain consistent. At that point in his career, O’Neal was a year younger than Jordan and scored 30 points or more twice, but he was still plagued by nights like Dec. 9, 2000, when he played 38 minutes and scored nine points following four-straight games with 10 or more.

O’Neal’s role with Indiana continued to expand as he became a primary scoring option. That’s not going to necessarily happen with Jordan, particularly because of the prowess of the players around him. However, understanding what his role is and how he can contribute was something that Jordan seemed to have a better grasp on in 2012-13 than in years past.

Prior to the final regular season game, Vice President of Basketball Operations Gary Sacks talked about the contributions Jordan made throughout the year.

“I think that that’s a testament to being himself, being mentally prepared and understanding what his role is on this team,” Sacks said in the team hotel in Sacramento on Apr. 17. “He’s a very good low post player and I think that sometimes gets lost in his role. But I have to say with some of the teams that we’re playing and some of the match ups he’s a vital and integral part of what we’re doing.”

And after another offseason, Jordan could be even more so.

PLAYERS WITH FEWEST SHOTS FROM OUTSIDE OF 4 FEET (Min. 400 total FG attempts)

PLAYER

FGM

FGA

FG%

FGM 5 ft. or More

FGA 5 ft. or More

FG% 5 ft. or More

Tyson Chandler, Knicks

255

400

.638

13

34

.382

Omer Asik, Rockets

332

614

.541

18

58

.310

DeAndre Jordan, Clippers

314

488

.643

26

69

.377

Kosta Koufos, Nuggets

295

508

.581

38

98

.388

Tiago Splitter, Spurs

315

563

.560

29

103

.282

All data, according to NBA.com/stats.

DEANDRE JORDAN’S BASE STATISTICS (Last three seasons)

SEASON

G

GS

MPG

FG%

FT%

OFF

DEF

RPG

BPG

PPG

2010-11

80

66

25.6

.686

.452

2.6

4.6

7.2

1.8

7.1

2011-12

66

66

27.2

.632

.525

3.1

5.2

8.3

2.0

7.4

2012-13

82

82

24.5

.643

.386

2.6

4.7

7.2

1.4

8.8