Free agent centre DeAndre Jordan reportedly agreed to a contract with the Dallas Mavericks on the first day of free agency.
With only a few exceptions – and this isn’t one of them – players cannot sign a contract until the end of the moratorium on 6th July, so nothing is yet official. What is official though is that the 6’11 former All-Star opted out of his final year with the Los Angeles Clippers on 30th June, effectively walking away from $24.1 million for next season, opening the door for a Dallas connection.
The reported contract Jordan has agreed to with Dallas is a one-year variety very similar in value to the amount he walked away from in Los Angeles.
Turning 30 in July, it would have made sense if Jordan and his agent would have attempted to secure him a long-term contract, as his value is not inclined to increase moving forward. This summer could possibly represent the final chance in his career to earn an annual salary of over $20 million, but it seems Jordan would be betting on himself from a financial standpoint with this deal, as it would put him right back into free agency next summer, aged 31.
Dallas have been keen on Jordan before, in fact coming to terms on a contract in 2015 before Jordan infamously went back on his word and re-signed with the Los Angeles Clippers in one of the weirdest free agency stories, possibly of all-time.
It seems Mavericks owner Mark Cuban bears no ill will, however, seeing as Dallas even tried trading for Jordan in the days leading up to free agency, using Wesley Matthews as a trade chip in the negotiations. This ultimately failed, but Jordan opted out of his contract becoming an unrestricted free agent, giving Dallas a clear path to sign him outright.
Should Jordan become a Maverick, what’s the appeal of adding him to the current roster?
For one, Jordan is undoubtedly attainable, unlike Clint Capela in Houston who is a restricted free agent. Reports indicate that Jordan badly wants to go to Dallas, and that’s no small thing. A player who is actively keen on going somewhere is always very attractive to management, as the assumption is he will be motivated on a nightly basis.
Additionally, Jordan is an iron man who rarely misses games, which also factors in. DeMarcus Cousins, another potential Dallas candidate before he reportedly agreed to a contract with the Golden State Warriors, is coming off a horrific Achilles tear, which ultimately questions his impact on a long-term perspective. There’s less of a concern with that in Jordan, who has played in 750 out of 804 possible career games.
Jordan’s fit in Dallas should be seamless with rookie wing Luka Doncic and second-year point guard Dennis Smith Jr, as Jordan is a constant lob threat, having completed 83 alley-oops last season with the Clippers, and overall being assisted on 66.5% of his field goals.
On the surface, 66.5% doesn’t seem like a whole lot for a rim-running centre, but 46 of his 373 made field goals were put-backs, which statistically speaking counts as self-created shots. As such, don’t expect Jordan to create his own offense on any type of permanent basis, but view him as a guy who’ll score off the set-up of others, and off missed shots. He’s not a jump-shooter (0-5 on the year), he doesn’t have range (he took just four shots outside of 10 feet all season) and, while improved by ten percentage points, he’s not going to wow anyone from the free throw line, hitting just 58%.
Warts aside, there remains value in being a lob-threat as the defence will have to close off his rim-rolls. With Jordan running straight towards the rim, he takes his defender with him, opening up the court for Doncic and Smith Jr to penetrate off dribble drives. If Jordan’s man rotates to help on the drive, the lob is open and this is where he’ll shine. Just being open in the dunker’s spot is a high percentage shot for Jordan, as he converted 91.4% of his 232 dunk attempts last season.
In short, Jordan appears to provide everything Dallas hoped Nerlens Noel would provide, but didn’t.
The Doncic and Smith Jr angle is also worth noting, as both need players around them to pass the ball to. Jordan represents a highly effective chance of improvement, as the youngsters will now have more opportunities to read and react to different scenarios, likely speeding up their process. With Matthews coming off screens, Jordan diving to the rim and Dirk Nowitzki popping out for threes, Doncic and Smith Jr will have a multitude of options to go to, preparing them for the future when Dallas will surround them with a supporting cast closer to their age group. Jordan, it seems, would be brought in to help accelerate that development.
There’s another cause for optimism in a potential Jordan signing: His supposed decline last season could have been through a lack of engagement. In a two-year period, Jordan regressed as a shot-blocker, to the tune of blocking 106 less shots in a season despite playing the same amount of games. His scoring efficiency dropped by almost seven percentage points, his turnovers climbed, and his visual impact on Los Angeles’s defence appeared minuscule compared to past seasons.
That could be a true decline, but it could also be a result of the Clippers breaking up their core. Both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were excellent playmakers, and with both gone, Austin Rivers and Lou Williams were left to get Jordan involved, which really is not an optimal situation as both are scorers primarily. The lack of Paul and Griffin’s presence doesn’t explain Jordan’s defensive woes, but it is possible he simply wasn’t feeling the situation in Los Angeles, and opted out to get away and re-discover who he is as a player.
Whatever the cause might be, there’s an element of gambling involved with Jordan as well. Dallas would have to hope last season was a mental lapse, and not the beginning of a steep decline that’d ultimately prove him to become ineffective, which is probably why he’s projected to sign for just one season. If Jordan proves last season was an outlier, and his effectiveness on the game is much greater than what he showed, it would likely make Dallas more comfortable re-signing him in 2019 to a longer deal.