Scaletta’s Summer Top 100 is a ranking of returning NBA players. For a full explanation of our methodology, read our intro.
DeAndre Jordan is limited in what he can do, but what he can do, he does exceptionally well. Combining the two sides of the court, he is almost unquestionably the best player there is at the rim. His career field goal percentage of 67.0 and block percentage of 5.1 make him the only player in NBA history with a career 60/5 slash, per Basketball-Reference.com.
In today’s era, we make much of three-point shooting and court stretching, but the rim is still the most efficient area of the court, and Jordan being the world’s best player there certainly matters. While his flaws are glaring, he’s still a major reason for the Clippers’ emergence as one of the NBA’s elite teams. Can he finally help them go beyond the second round this year?
Last season, Jordan finished ninth in Win Shares. In 2014-15, he finished fifth, and in 2013-14 he was 10th. There are only five players — Stephen Curry, James Harden, Chris Paul, LeBron James and Kevin Durant — with more than his 35.4 total over the last three seasons combined. So, statistically, you can make the argument he should be a top-10 player.
However, his ceiling is capped off at 11 for a good reason. He can’t be counted on down the stretch because of his poor free throw shooting, and he can’t create scoring opportunities for himself. To be a top-10 player, at least one of those skills should be required.
Jordan’s floor is also somewhat limited. He’s about as consistent and reliable a big as there is in the league. Over those same three seasons, he’s accumulated 8,288 regular-season minutes, 501 more than Andre Drummond, who is second in the league. Marcin Gortat is the only other 5 who is even within a thousand minutes of Jordan.
With Jordan, you know what you’re going to get. He’s not going to add a three-point shot to his arsenal suddenly. Just getting his free throw shooting to 50 percent would take a miracle. But you also know you’re going to have phenomenal rim protection, a finisher at the rim and a beastly rebounder. And he’ll do all of that with great durability.
Jordan’s shot chart tells you just about everything you need to know about his offense:
Last season, he was insanely efficient at the rim. And he was 2-of-6 away from it.
The man knows his strengths. He scored 1.4 points per possession as the roll man in the pick-and-roll, which put him in the 97.3 percentile. He scored 104 more points on them than the four players who finished ahead of him combined. And he notched 1.48 PPP on cuts, putting him in the 90.1 percentile, and fourth in points overall. Those two plays were his bread and butter, and they accounted for almost half his total offense.
Opponents know what he’s going to do, but they can’t stop him from doing it. That’s one definition of greatness.
According to Nylon Calculus, Jordan’s rim protection saved .51 points per 36 minutes at the rim. That’s a respectable enough number. But it’s also a bit deceptive because opponents are less likely to challenge him. Seth Partnow’s rim-protection numbers also track the on/off difference in attempts at the rim per 36 minutes, and opponents took 3.4 less shots at the rim per 36 when Jordan was on the floor. No one was ahead of him in terms of both rim protection and rim deterrence.
That’s apparent watching any Clippers game, where you see would-be drivers pulling up and trying a mid-range jumper rather than driving all the way to the rim and challenging Jordan. That justifies Jordan’s 4.07 Defensive Real Plus-Minus as the seventh-best in the league and first among players with 30-plus minutes per game.