With the ink dry on Blake Griffin’s 5-year max deal, it is clear that the Clippers will run through him on and off the hardwood. Discourse suggests that Griffin is not only the face of the franchise, but also the Clippers’ most important player. But is this really the case?
We all know what Griffin brings to the table. He is still an explosive rim-rocker, has developed a strong jump shot out to the long mid-range and is capable of filling a ‘point-forward’ role. He figures to take on an unprecedented offensive load without the presence of future Hall of Famer Chris Paul at the helm.
For his career, Blake has been a 20, 9 and 5 player. Without Chris Paul on the floor? Scott Rafferty at Sporting News noted that his assist numbers rose without a drastic increase in turnovers and with a positive +/-. All this to say that Blake is more than capable and qualified to run the Clips’ offense.
But, as we’ve all heard too much recently, Blake is injury prone. Very injury prone. Hopefully we are headed for a healthy season, but the reality is we haven’t seen 82 games since his rookie year. And that wasn’t even his rookie year.
Who, you may ask, is more or less never injured? Why DeAndre Jordan of course. The most important ability is availability after all. While he is a limited big man in an age of Centers that can step out to the perimeter, he is potentially the Clippers most important player.
What do the stats say? DeAndre’s on/off splits were positive last year in 18 of 25 statistical categories per Basketball Reference. It is likely that the Clippers assist percentage will drop without Chris Paul, but the rebounding and defensive numbers should stand pat.
On offense, DeAndre has led the league in field goal percentage a staggering 5 years in a row. This is in no small part to the room service style dishes from Paul. DeAndre is not likely to hit his shots at such a high clip this year, and he may have to draw on his work with Kevin Garnett to create his own shot.
DeAndre’s real value is his role as the heart of a Clipper defence that will likely be in for a tumble down the standings this season. Losing Chris Paul and his perennially league-leading steal numbers will be offset by the new defensive guard pairing of Austin Rivers and Patrick Beverley. Of particular concern is the loss of Luc Mbah a Moute and the addition of the generally defensively challenged Danilo Gallinari.
All this to say that DeAndre is needed now more than ever. Swallowing double digit rebounds, erasing shots at the rim and cleaning up the defensive weaknesses are factors in winning Clipper basketball.
Blake Griffin will be key to the Clippers success this year. But the efficiency and durability of DeAndre Jordan might be just as important.