When DeAndre Jordan was left out of the NBA all-star game, Los Angeles Clippers Coach Doc Rivers had no problem bringing the issue – a self-perceived “travesty” – to light.
Two weeks later, Rivers may have had a point: Jordan has been a dominant threat, buoying the Clippers in the games since Blake Griffin’s injury – elbow surgery to treat a staph infection that has kept him out since early February. In the nine games the Clippers have played sans Griffin this season, the team is 6-3, with wins against San Antonio, Chicago, Memphis, Dallas, Houston and Sacramento; all but Sacramento are projected to qualify for the postseason.
If his averages stand the rest of the season, Jordan will be the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1971-72 and 1972-73 to lead the NBA in field goal percentage and rebounding in consecutive seasons. Last season he shot 67.6 percent from the floor, the fourth-highest mark in league history. This season he’s shooting 71.7 percent: Only one person (Chamberlain, 1972-73) has ever finished a season shooting above 70 percent from the field.
Since the all-star break, he has been a boon to a team that traditionally isn’t adept at rebounding. After Sunday’s win, Jordan has tallied eight consecutive games of 15 or more rebounds; in the last four games, he has averaged 21.3.
Ostensibly, he’s producing nearly all of his points from putbacks and cuts to the basket. On account of how tragically he shoots from distances greater than five feet, Jordan attacks the rim nearly every possession: He has cut to the basket on 146 possessions this season (fifth), shooting 84.3 percent on those possessions (first among players with more than 80 field goal attempts), with the Clippers reaping 1.44 points per possession on those plays (first among players with more than 80 field goals attempted). More than 92 percent of his field goal attempts take place within three feet from the basket.
All of this would be extraordinary on its face, but when Jordan’s battle-scarred, Iron Man component is infused into the dialogue, the recent ascension is seemingly more remarkable.
The Hack-A-DeAndre strategy makes obvious note of his need to improve his stroke at the free throw line. With him averaging a career-high five free throw attempts per game, connecting on a shake-your-head-violently-and-turn-away 41 percent from the stripe, it’s at least comforting knowing that he’s trying to improve.
Jordan’s averages peg him to be one of just eight players to ever finish a season averaging more than 13 rebounds, 10 points, 65 percent from the field and have a PER rating above 20. He is ferocious, knows his role in Rivers’ system, and has usurped the rebounding throne since Griffin went down. It has kept Los Angeles competitive and successful.
“He’s unbelievable,” Paul said after Sunday’s win in Chicago. “He really is. And I’m glad guys are starting to take notice because he deserves the credit everybody’s giving him right now.”
We can only imagine what this team will look like when Griffin, the team’s leading scorer, returns.