30-for-30: What lies ahead for DeAndre Jordan?


30-for-30 is a series of Clippers-related questions answered over the course of a month (or something like that). Today, the question revolves around DeAndre Jordan‘s upcoming free agency and how it may or may not affect his future with the Clippers.

DeAndre Jordan is a free agent this summer.

His free agency–while not relevant at the moment because 1) it’s highly unlikely he signs an extension prior to hitting the open market and 2) the Clippers are preparing for their first true season as a championship contender–is going to be important as he’s one of the teams’ “Big 3”.

Jordan isn’t worth a max contract unless he makes considerable improvements through the 2014-15 season. Restricted free agency may be the sole reasoning Roy Hibbert signed his max offer sheet from the Portland Trail Blazers in 2012–the Pacers later matched. Larry Sanders‘ impressive performance in 2012-13–despite being a one-year sample size of defensive dominance–didn’t land him a max deal.

But ask yourself this: why wouldn’t Jordan demand a max contract?

In the last season, Jordan 1) has been compared to Celtics legend Bill Russell by Rivers, 2) has been pushed as an All-Star candidate by Rivers and 3) has been pushed as Defensive Player of the Year by … you guess it, Doc Rivers. You find me a player who truly fits each of the three characteristics mentioned and tell me that guy isn’t worthy of a max deal.

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  • Then comes the third follow-up question: will he demand a max deal? This is hard to answer as he’s embraced what the Clippers have surrounded him with, mainly the support attached to the arrival of Doc Rivers–these situations often create discounts like the Spurs. Since the Vinny Del Negro era, Jordan has been issue free. He’s playing big minutes. He’s relied upon in key situations, unlike the Del Negro era. He’s happy and it’s showed plenty.

    The last center to receive a max contract? Dwight Howard when he signed a four-year, $88 million deal with the Houston Rockets in the summer of 2013–the deal began at $20.513 million. I’m sure you don’t think Jordan is worth that. Once you factor in the expected salary cap, that numbers makes a hefty jump.

    According to several sources, the salary could make a $16 million leap, summing up at around ~$80 million. With Jordan entering his 8th season come 2014, he’ll be eligible for the 30 percent max which, if the jumps are close to what has been projected, could equal nearly $24 million, more than anyone else on the roster, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin included.

    “I genuinely see traits of Bill Russell” – Doc Rivers on DeAndre Jordan

    That’s a lot of money for a one-dimensional big man.

    But here is the reality of the situation: unless DeAndre Jordan has a monster year where he leaps into the defensive ranks of Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol, Dwight Howard, or any other big man who is revered for his defense, DAJ won’t need to be Los Angeles’ end-all option in free agency. Alongside Jordan, the likes of Marc Gasol, Robin Lopez, Omer Asik, and other notable names will also be unrestricted free agents in 2015. Outside of Gasol, Jordan may fetch the most on the open market, meaning if Rivers and company wants to opt for Lopez or Asik, they’d save themselves a large sum of money and better improve the supporting cast around Paul and Griffin or at least balance things out.

    A lot could change from now until the end of the season. Best-case scenario for the Clippers? Jordan doesn’t reach those levels and doesn’t demand for as much. Best case for Jordan? He becomes a max contract player. It’s a lot to think about and a thought that should be put off until the summer hits.

    Because it’ll be the first real test Doc Rivers faces as team president and whatever he does can help or hinder the ceiling of the Clippers team, affecting their dreams of finally winning a championship . . . and all eyes will be watching.