DeAndre Jordan has flaws, but deserves max contract from Clippers


May 17, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) reacts after a play during the second quarter against the Houston Rockets in game seven of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

DeAndre Jordan may not be perfect, and his free throw shooting is far beyond questionable now. But his importance to the Los Angeles Clippers as a rebounding and defensive anchor has made him worthy of a max contract. Because if he leaves, who could fill the void?

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When you look past his terrible 39.7 percent free throw shooting (which must be addressed this offseason) there’s far more positives to DeAndre Jordan’s game than negatives. Whilst he is limited offensively and lacks the ability to play in the post (53.2 percent of his shots were dunks this year) he’s still led the league in field goal percentage for the last three seasons. And when you consider the fact that the Clippers’ offense runs through Blake Griffin and Chris Paul anyway, they don’t require Jordan to be a reliable option in the post.

In terms of his future in Los Angeles, Doc Rivers has made it clear that he wants DeAndre Jordan to stay. The Clippers’ head coach will need to make some adjustments this offseason (starting with his bench), but he’s said that there’s no need to blow up the strong core that they already have (for more detail, read here).

According to Pro Basketball Talk, the Clippers can offer Jordan a contract of around $109 million over five years. On the other hand, if he decides to move to another team, he can only receive approximately $81 million over four years.

Doc is prepared to pay Jordan, and despite the doubts around his offensive limitations and questionable status from the free throw line in close fourth quarters, he needs to be rewarded with a max contract.

Not just because of his individual talents and freakish athleticism, but because of how important he is to the Clippers.

Yes, he isn’t great at everything. But there’s a lot of things he can do better than anyone else.

May 10, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) blocks a shot by Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza (1) in game three of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. The Clippers defeated the Rockets 128-95 to take a 3-1 lead. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

His sheer explosiveness alone has allowed him to dunk all over opponents for years. And even though you can say it doesn’t require much skill, it doesn’t really matter. Jordan still has a career field goal percentage of 66.4 percent and reached a career-high 71 percent from the floor this season. He uses his ferocious dunking ability and knack of grabbing offensive rebounds (4.8 per game) to get the highest percentage shots that exist in basketball, and it allowed him to make 73.9 percent of his field goal attempts from within three feet this year.

That level of efficiency equated to a career-high 11.5 points per game this season, and also earned him the second best offensive rating in the league (126.1). So whilst he lacks the low-post skill of Marc Gasol, he makes up for it with great efficiency.

And then there’s his rebounding.

This regular season alone, DeAndre Jordan had 13 games with 20+ rebounds. That mark ranks 8th all time for the most 20+ rebound games in a season, with only Dennis Rodman, Kevin Willis, Ben Wallace, Kevin Love and Dikembe Mutombo recording more (since such a statistic has been measured). And with countless other dominant nights on the glass as well, Jordan finished the year with a league best 15 rebounds per game.

But there’s more.

Jordan finished this season with 1,228 total rebounds, which makes him the first player since Rodman in 1997-98 to record 1,200+ rebounds in a season. And if that wasn’t enough, his offensive rebounding percentage of 16.2 percent is the 40th best mark for a single season in NBA history.

Simply put, he’s the best rebounder in the league. If he does leave, the Clippers won’t be able to replace him with anyone on his level. And even if they find someone close to his standard, they won’t have Jordan’s immense athleticism and hustle that works so well in L.A.’s pick-and-roll heavy offense.

Last, but by no means least, is his defensive presence.

He recorded 2.3 blocks per game (4th in the NBA) and allowed opponents to shoot just 48.5 percent at the rim this year. Alongside Paul, he’s been the key to the Clippers’ defense — with CP3 controlling the perimeter while Jordan intimidates opponents when they venture into the paint.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Clippers’ primary frontcourt rotation (Griffin, Spencer Hawes and Glen Davis) combined for only 1.5 blocks per game this year.

That’s impressive in itself, but the real number that illustrates Jordan’s defensive impact is when you look at the Clippers’ performance when he isn’t on the floor.

Without Jordan, the Clippers’ rebound percentage is just 44.7 percent and their block percentage is only 6.6 percent. When he’s on the floor, though, those numbers skyrocket to 51.9 and 9.2 percent, respectively. More importantly, his ability to end opponent’s possessions with his rebounding and rim protection creates more possessions for the Clippers. As a result, their offensive rating increases by +16.4 when he’s in the game.

Put all that together, and the Clippers lead by an average margin of +11.8 with Jordan. Without him, their point differential plummets to -3.6.

May 4, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) blocks Houston Rockets forward Josh Smith (5) shot in game one of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Los Angeles Clippers won 117 to 101. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

So, could anyone actually replace him?

Some notable free agent big men this year include Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Tim Duncan and Greg Monroe. There’s certainly a lot of talent on the market, but when you consider Doc Rivers’ loyalty to DeAndre Jordan, and that several of those players are most likely going to stay where they are, the Clippers really need to do whatever they can to keep DJ in Los Angeles.

Without DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers will be left without a defensive anchor who can take control of the paint at both ends of the floor. Griffin has shown how well he can rebound at times when Jordan is on the bench, but he still isn’t on DJ’s level.

He may have had 19 boards in game four against the San Antonio Spurs — including 10 in the fourth quarter alone — but the impact Jordan has had for the last two seasons can’t be replaced through free agency, or by the frontcourt trio of Griffin, Davis and Hawes.

The Clippers are a better team with Jordan. And regardless of any flaws, he excels in too many areas of the game to be overlooked. He’s even proven himself as an All-NBA third team and All-Defensive first team caliber player now.

If the Clippers want to assert themselves defensively with nearly as much authority next year, they can only achieve it by keeping DeAndre Jordan with the max contract he deserves.

Next: Clippers Fell Short, But Still Exceeded Playoff Expectations