Draft Profile: Can Undersized Jordan Bell Be A Force In The NBA?
If the Hawks seek a player with a physical presence in this month's NBA Draft, then one player to whom they may turn is Jordan Bell. The University of Oregon standout helped lead the Ducks to a 33-6 record and a Final Four berth. For more on Bell, Hawks.com spoke with Tony Piraro (@TheQuackFiend), who covers Oregon football and basketball for Addicted to Quack (@AddictedToQuack), the SB Nation site for Oregon sports.
What does Jordan do well?
The real question is what DOESN’T Jordan Bell do well? He is an explosive athlete with a fearless mentality. Bell’s high character lends to unheralded leadership skills for a team-first superstar. Most basketball players with Bell’s talent and ability have much larger egos.
He can rebound and block shots with the best of them. His explosiveness is jaw-dropping. Bell can score around the rim and has a consistent looking stroke from 15 feet. His jumper needs work, but with time it will be trustworthy. He can facilitate the offense, dribble and find the open man with ease.
Defensively, he is on another level. It’s his ability to defend anyone on the floor from the point guard to the center that potentially makes him so valuable in the NBA.
The former Duck has a motor that does not stop, ever. If he’s on the floor, he is bringing energy in every form of the word. Bell is relentless.
His quickness is second to none. Bell ran the fastest shuttle time (2.56) in history at the 2017 NBA Draft Combine. He also recorded a 37-inch vertical jump at the Chicago event.
His innate instincts are illustrated when he plays defense. For his efforts this campaign, Bell was awarded the 2017 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honor. In the tournament, he was named the Most Outstanding Player in the Midwest Region. Bell was also on the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team and was a 2nd Team All-Pac-12 member.
Statistically, Bell averaged 10.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 1.8 APG and 1.3 SPG over the 2016-17 regular season. Yet, the junior was largely overshadowed by teammate Chris Boucher the last two years. However, it’s Bell who left Oregon as the top shot-blocker (233) in program history.
His numbers during the 2017 NCAA Tournament were off the charts. Most people will notice someone posting 13.2 RPG, 12.6 PPG and 3.2 blocks per game during March Madness. Not to mention, he led the tournament in total rebounds with 66. Yet, it was his magical 8-block performance against No. 1 Kansas in the Elite Eight that placed the Long Beach product on the map.
Bell is motivated through the success of those around him. He is a positive influence with players young and old. Defining him by just his incredible stats would be an injustice to the sterling character he exhibits on a daily basis. I have never met anyone like Jordan Bell.
How does his game translate to the NBA?
He is the “modern” basketball player in a nutshell. As you probably noticed, the league is shifting to undersized players with athleticism. Bell fits the NBA’s new free flow blueprint better than most current players.
Believe it or not, the Long Beach native actually enjoys playing defense. Aside from skills you can’t teach like leaping ability and timing for rebounds and blocked shots, he is extremely unselfish and loves to communicate. His play recognition on defense is remarkable. He places teammates in perfect position to make defensive stops.
Offensively, Bell developed a jump-hook late in the season that was unstoppable. If he can perfect it from 10 feet, Bell could see his offensive numbers jump. His positioning for offensive rebounds is uncanny. He finishes with force around the rim.
He’s always under control. Not many players with his size draw their first foul midway through the second half, but that’s the type of discipline he exhibited nightly.
What can he do to improve?
The jump shot needs work. He has a consistent stroke from 15 feet, but the results need to be more efficient. At the end of the season, he was not missing from anywhere. If he can routinely bury a jump shot from the wing, he will always find minutes in professional basketball.
The greatest negative facing him entering the NBA Draft is his size. Most scouts left Oregon saying he was too small to be a big deal at the next level. They overlooked his intangibles and explosiveness.
He is listed at 6-foot-8.75, but Bell plays more like a 7-foot-2 center. At Chicago's NBA Combine, his wingspan was measured at 6-foot-11. At the end of the day, his height will be used against him. He just needs to keep defying the odds.
What style of play suits his game best?
Bell’s flexibility and versatility may be one of his best traits. Deciphering between the two would only hurt Bell. Oregon actually plays a slower defensive game and more uptempo offensive scheme. He can play in any system. In the current NBA, what is more valuable?
When a team slows down the game, Bell gets more involved offensively. He will work the screen and roll. Not to mention, he can score around the rim with a jump hook or offensive rebounds. He does not need to be involved from a scoring standpoint to be satisfied. On the defensive end, teams are forced to shoot from the perimeter with Bell in the paint. Whether he blocks a shot, alters it or changes the mindset of a shooter, the results are always the same; a failed attempt.
Speeding up the tempo only hurts the opposition with Bell charging down the middle of the floor. Some teams believed they could fly by Bell on the fast break. They didn't realize he was trailing them for a perfectly timed block until it was too late. Bell has great speed, timing and quickness, which only helps when running and gunning. And don't forget how deadly Bell can be in an uptempo offensive attack like Oregon’s. He can start the fast break or finish it with a thunderous alley-oop.
Additionally, Bell can run a high-low offense with another versatile big man that can pass. Bell is incredibly unselfish and can distribute like an elite big man of the Joakim Noah or Mason Plumlee stature. Once he forces the defense to respect him inside the perimeter, it will open up passing lanes.
To which current or past NBA player would you compare him?
Jordan Bell reminds me of the former Seattle SuperSonic Shawn Kemp. Kemp was one of the most explosive athletes in NBA history. Whether he was swatting a shot into the Key Arena stands or finishing a dime from Gary Payton, Kemp was a monster on both ends of the floor.
He was listed at 6-foot-10, but some say that number was grossly exaggerated. Don’t forget, Kemp’s offensive game evolved over time, but it was a work in progress. He did not enter the league as a finished product. Sounds familiar.
Overall, the Sonic star averaged 16.2 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.5 BPG and 1.2 SPG over eight seasons in Seattle. Like Kemp, Bell is a multidimensional category producer. He does everything on a basketball floor, from stats to immeasurable intangibles.
Kemp was an icon, All-Star, Olympian and the face of a professional franchise. Will Jordan Bell have the same impact? You never know. If I’ve learned anything in my time with Jordan Bell at Oregon, it’s to never doubt him or his team. I wouldn’t want to be the NBA team that overlooks him.