Doc Rivers: ‘DeAndre Jordan is Defensive Player of the Year’

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*Quotes via ESPN Los Angeles

While his antics in the front office have created a dark cloud over the Los Angeles Clippers in terms of what they may be able to do this season (and in future seasons), one area Doc Rivers has yet to lack as head coach and front office personnel is standing behind his players and propping them up where he sees fit.

His latest praise attempt? According to Rivers, center DeAndre Jordan — as Rivers also believed to be true last season — is the Defensive Player of the Year for the 2014-15 NBA season.

“He’s clearly the defensive player of the year,” Rivers said following a 96-86 victory over the Chicago Bulls. “If anybody else gets that award, we need to have an investigation. … What he’s doing defensively, if he was doing that offensively, he would be recognized as the MVP or one of them, but because it’s defense, no one notices.”

“He gets every rebound. And when he doesn’t get it, it takes two guys to keep him off and allows the other guys to get rebounds. He’s clearly very important for us.”

With the NBA lacking a definitive Defensive Player of the Year nominee nearly three-fourths of the way through the season, the chance for Jordan to slip in and nab the award exists, unlike last season when Roy Hibbert and Joakim Noah stood in a realm of their own while leading their teams defensively.

“You look at the stat sheet and you don’t see how many times Aaron Brooks didn’t drive because D.J. was there…” – Chris Paul on DAJ

Jordan’s resume? As of now, the seventh year center is second in the league in blocked shots (139) and first in rebounds, averages a steal per game, and according to NBA.com’s SportsVU tracking system, Jordan forces opponents to shoot 49.8 percent at the rim. And by averaging at least 14 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1 steal per game, Jordan thrusts himself into rare air as, according to Basketball-Reference, only 10 players — Jordan included — have done such, including former Defensive Players of the Year Ben Wallace, Hakeem Olajuwon and Dwight Howard (2x), as well as NBA notables in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (3x), Moses Malone, Bill Walton, and former Clipper and league MVP Bob McAdoo (2x).

The one area where Jordan lacks is with advanced statistics, a movement that has played a huge role in selecting the Defensive Player of the Year the last couple of years. This season, when Jordan is on the floor, the Clippers post a defensive rating of 104.0, which would be 18th best in the NBA. When off the floor, that number dips to 102.3, which would be good for 16th best.

When applying context, those numbers alone don’t perfectly represent what Jordan brings to this team. As teammate Chris Paul pointed out after the Bulls game, some of what Jordan does on the floor isn’t available via statistics.

“You look at the stat sheet and you don’t see how many times Aaron Brooks didn’t drive because D.J. was there or how many shots where guys went up and they passed it,” Paul said. “That doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.”

But what the on/off defensive splits do tell is that with or without Jordan, the Clippers are a league average defense and if history is going to tell the story, league average defenses don’t field Defensive Players of the Year, as seen below.

  • 2013-14: Joakim Noah (CHI) – 2nd best DRTG (97.8)
  • 2012-13: Marc Gasol (MEM) – 2nd best DRTG (97.4)
  • 2011-12: Tyson Chandler (DAL) – 8th best DRTG (99.7)
  • 2010-11: Dwight Howard (ORL) – 3rd best DRTG (99.1)
  • 2009-10: Dwight Howard (ORL) – 2nd best DRTG (100.2)
  • 2008-09: Dwight Howard (ORL) – top DRTG (98.9)
  • 2007-08: Kevin Garnett (BOS) – top DRTG (96.2)
  • 2006-07: Marcus Camby (DEN) – 9th best DRTG (102.7)
  • 2005-06: Ben Wallace (DET) – 5th best DRTG (100.2)

Doing simple mathematics, on average, the Defensive Player of the Year has played on a team with a defensive rating of 5.66. Right now the Clippers stand 16th in the NBA at 103.5, just behind the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics.

Jordan’s competition for Defensive Player of the Year? Two immediate names that come to mind are Golden State Warriors frontcourt players Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green, who’ve helped propel Golden State to the top defensive rating in the NBA (97.7). While Bogut remains the most important player for the Warriors, Green’s health, in comparison to Bogut’s, and versatility keeps him in the conversation. Tyson Chandler has done an excellent job leading a cast of few defensive players amid his second stint with Dallas. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s on/off numbers in Charlotte put him in the conversation though injury ultimately makes him an afterthought. Outside of those four, the list seems bare, at least in terms of sure-fire picks for the award, which plays into the hand of Jordan as the word has keyed in on his work lately, especially during the Blake Griffin-less stretch of games where max contract DeAndre Jordan has emerged.

The best case scenario Jordan? Voters avoid defensive metrics as a key factor when voting. With the defensive ratings close, it’s not impossible for the Clippers to creep into the top-10. For that to happen, it’s going to take more than just DeAndre Jordan imposing his will in the paint, but the likelihood is there. And if the Clippers can get in that grouping, the chances increase for Jordan to win the award which, though it’s not important to him in the grand scheme of things, would be a nice way to acknowledge one of the league’s best improving players.

“I would definitely be excited about that,” Jordan said in regards to possibly winning DPOY. “It’s definitely an individual goal of mine, but the ultimate goal is to win a championship. I’ll just let my play do the talking.”

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