Clippers should think hard about re-signing DeAndre Jordan


For the Los Angeles Clippers, this summer should be about filling out their bench as best as they can to prime themselves for another run at a championship. In Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the team has two superstars capable of pushing them to great heights, which they have done countless times. Last year it was the bench that let the team down, and the addition of Lance Stephenson appears to have been a move made to help in that area.

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Financially, the team cannot do a great deal at this moment to improve, and that will become even more true if they sign unrestricted free agent DeAndre Jordan to a new, long term deal. While this would make sense for a lot of reasons, as Jordan is the third member of their big three, is offering him a big payday to keep him around really the key to unlocking sustained postseason success?

The short answer is yes, however the Clippers need to proceed with caution here. There exists in this league a culture of players being paid long term deals after having a great season under the final year of their old contract, only to see their production trail off when they sign on the dotted line. This was particularly evident during the 90’s when teams could sign players to six and seven year deals.

May 2, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) and guard Chris Paul (3) hug after defeating the San Antonio Spurs in game seven of the first round of the NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center. Clippers won 111-109. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

None of this is to say that Jordan would do this if, and when, he’s given a max deal. He’s coming off his best season as a pro and is crucial to the success of this team on both ends of the floor. He runs the court dutifully, and Paul is always looking to include him in any way he can. That goes beyond just the pretty looking alley-oops. He’s a monster on the boards, and makes opponents think twice before entering his airspace in the paint.

So with all of this positivity surrounding Jordan and his influence on the team, surely it makes sense then to have him stick around long term? After all, the Clippers represent arguably his best chance of winning now (Jordan plans to meet with the Mavericks, Bucks, Lakers and Knicks, all teams not on the Clippers’ level in their current iterations). They can also offer him more money and long term security than anybody else (a five year max deal giving him $20 million more than anybody else).

But doubling down on the Clippers’ current core is a risky move, especially when you consider they’re yet to make a Conferences Finals with their current nucleus of Paul, Griffin and Jordan. As great as this team can look during the regular season, in a seven games series, their inability to drastically switch up the game plan (unlike a team such as the Golden State Warriors) has hurt them.

Letting Jordan potentially walk is certainly risky, but what if this team has reached it’s ceiling together? While many title teams have added that one key piece to get them over the top (Andre Iguodala, Ray Allen), just as many have lost an important member of the team.

This created a better balance within the roster on the way to winning it all (Walt Bellamy was moved by the New York Knicks in 1969, the season before they won a championship. Similarly, Adrian Dantley was traded midway through the 1989 season, freeing up minutes for a young Dennis Rodman. The Pistons won a championship that same season).

So it has worked before that in order to win big, you need to take something away before adding that vital piece. More than that, though, there is always that aforementioned risk that Jordan will sign a long term deal, realize he’s financially set, and see his productivity dip. Is that worth the risk, or are there other centers out there who could try and fill a Jordan sized gap in this team as best they could while the Clippers strengthened others areas?

Tyson Chandler is also an unrestricted free agent this summer, while Indiana Pacers big man Roy Hibbert appears to have been made available for trade. Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez has opted out of his current contract, potentially leading to him joining another team. Are any of these guys as good or as dominant as Jordan when he’s firing on all cylinders, though?

Truthfully, no. Jordan really is a top five center in this league. But when was the last time a truly dominant big man was needed to win a title? Both the Warriors, Miami Heat and it could be argued even the San Antonio Spurs, have won titles in this decade without having a dominant presence inside (this isn’t strictly true of the Warriors, Andrew Bogut was huge for them all season but just wasn’t needed in the finals. That’s further proof of contenders being able to change to combat their opponents, though, something the Clippers struggle with).

The best example here is the Heat, but they had LeBron James at his peak, which is always going to help a team’s cause. The point is, though, that it’s now possible, and also in fashion, to win by playing small ball. Right now the center doesn’t have the importance they once did even a decade ago.

Does this mean the Clippers should pass on keeping Jordan? Probably not, but there’s much to be wary of if they do decide to give him max money to stay. Complacency on his part is one, while an inability to fill out their roster to be able to change the way they play is another.

We have to remember, the Clippers’ window isn’t quite closing yet, but it won’t remain open forever. This decision will likely shape their immediate future. Letting Jordan walk might look foolish now, but less so in as little as 12 month’s time.

Next: Branden Dawson is exactly what the Clippers need