The Los Angeles Clippers are almost unquestionably a better team as they head into the 2013-2014 NBA season. Obviously the biggest part of that is that they still have Chris Paul and Blake Griffin on their roster, but their additions of J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley this summer make them a substantially stronger team than they were last season.
A strong argument can be made that Paul is the most important part of this Clippers team. He’s one of the best point guards in the league, the guy the Clips often look to in the clutch, and the leader that everyone on that roster looks to. However, an equally strong argument can be made that center DeAndre Jordan is just as integral of a piece to the Clippers this season.
Jordan played only 24.5 minutes per game last season at center as former head coach Vinny Del Negro never felt like he could fully rely on the 25-year-old. Whether it was going to small-ball lineups or playing much less talented guys, Jordan rarely saw a full starter’s share of minutes last season.
With the arrival of new head coach Doc Rivers, though, the signs seem to point toward Jordan needing to step up, specifically with the departure of Lamar Odom and considering that his only backups are Ryan Hollins and Byron Mullens. However, that begs the question if he is ready for it or not.
In 82 games last season, Jordan averaged 8.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game on 64.3 percent shooting, though he continued to have issues from the charity stripe, where he shot only 38.6 percent last season. Jordan showed a bit of improvement offensively last season, but also showed that he needs to be better on both ends of the floor if he’s going to be relied on more heavily this season.
Offensively last season, it was clear that Jordan derived most of what he did from his unique and potent combination of size and athleticism. Though he looked better and ranked 90th in the NBA in terms of points per possession on post-ups last season, he still needs to develop more skill and post-moves in that area of his game.
The biggest area of concern and why Jordan is really so important for the Clippers this year, is his performance on the defensive end of the floor. Despite being a solid shot-blocker and being solid in defending the pick-and-roll, he’s not a great overall defender. He allowed 0.86 points per possession last season, ranking just 169th in the league. Just like on offense, Jordan relies too heavily on his athleticism and strength on defense to bail him out of bad gambles or bad positioning.
As Jordan heads into this season with L.A., he has to be more dedicated in terms of working on his defense. Though the Clippers have gotten better, much of their improvement is on the offensive end, leaving their defense a bit suspect. Jordan is going to be asked to be a stalwart in the post next season, something he secretly has never shown that he can do. If he doesn’t put in the work to improve and then show results, it could wind up with the Clippers, despite their additions, having issues this season.
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