Could DeAndre Jordan Be the Best Center in the World?
The Golden Era of big men has passed and the NBA is currently dominated by point guards and swing men.
The leaders of the last 15 NBA champions have all been non-centers, with the possible exception of the Nowitzki-led Dallas Mavericks in 2011 and the Duncan-led Spurs of 2003.
Point being, good centers are hard to come by — which makes the discussion of who the best center in the league is a little bit easier.
Is there anyone in the world better in the middle, on both ends of the court, than DeAndre Jordan?
Who would you rather have? Who would you take in a one-on-one? Who dares claim the throne?
Other Centers in the League
Brook Lopez is a good center by today’s standard, despite his clear defensive limitations.
Al Jefferson, with his retro-70s game and body style, is also a nice player with limited athleticism.
Neither of these guys seem like leaders, though, and neither are close to winning a championship.
Dwight Howard? Child, please. He’s like the worst girlfriend you ever had. A fun-loving hot mess with a great body and charming smile who will never be trusted and shouldn’t be the mother of your children. Or the leader of your NBA franchise.
He had one great run in 2009, but then the decline ensued. Back issues, poor choices in teammates (Kobe and Harden…sheesh), chronic immaturity and — ironically — age have rendered him irrelevant.
Marc Gasol is a leader and a damn good player. He works his butt off, has solid skills and terrific footwork, and 2-time all star numbers. Skilled 7 footers are not a dime a dozen, and ones who are named defensive player of the year are even rarer. He is certainly in the discussion of who’s the best center in the NBA.
At the end of last year, a lot of discussion surrounded Demarcus Cousins. His numbers are phenomenal, his strength and domination in the post are undeniable, but if Howard is the worst girlfriend you ever had, Cousins is the worst jump-off bunny burner.
And the Kings are blinded by his beauty, substituting coaches for bunnies in the metaphor — firing Paul Westphal, Keith Smart, Mike Malone, Ty Corbin, and George Karl during Cousin’s tenure. Good luck Dave Joerger, whoever you are. He attacks commentators who say things he doesn’t like. He gets suspended. He openly pouts on the court. He has the short term memory of a gnat when it comes to his behavior and how to control it.
That aint leadership, kids. There’s no championship in that story, I’m sure.
DeAndre Jordan’s Case
So, let us all now come to praise DeAndre Jordan.
First, the numbers; 12.7 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 2.3 BPG — and he doesn’t foul out.
12.7 points per game from a guy who doesn’t get plays run for him and he’s on a squad crawling with scorers. Blake Griffin goes for 22 a night, CP3 goes for 19, JJ Redick goes for 16. Hell, Jamal Crawford comes off the bench for 17.
DJ scores 13 a night with NO PLAYS run for him. That’s rebound-putbacks and alley oops on the fly. 13 a night as an after thought. 14 boards a night — on a team with Blake Griffin.
Now, the intangibles. The Clippers clearly love him. And why not? When Doc Rivers went to him and ostensibly asked him to give up his offensive game for the good of the team, he never blinked. He just made the most of that, dominating on the boards in an old school, this is my world kind of way.
He’s a great teammate, by all accounts. So much so that the core of the team, players and coaches all got on a plane and begged him not to leave, seducing him back from the blingy offer from Mark Cuban and the Mavericks. That’s what a skilled big man and team chemistry is worth. And the fact that the Mavs wanted him so badly and were going to actually run plays for him, explains empirically what his value is around the league.
But here’s the kicker.
When it came to crunch time for Team USA in the RIO olympics, Mike Kryzw…..Kerwesk….um, Coach K.; legendary, monolithic, oracle-like Coach K started DJ over Cousins. Yes, it made some strategy sense, but it was more about attitude. Maybe Coach K got sick of watching Cousins pout and stare like he doesn’t understand why everything isn’t falling perfectly into place for him like it did in high school.
Mike Krzyzewski realized that DJ is the ego-less, reliable player, terms and qualities usually associated with utility players and gritty little role players coming off the bench. Not All-NBA first teamers, defensive first teamers and 2 time rebounding leaders.
DJ’s the new Zen Master, finding his place and letting the game come to him. He’s having it pay off in huge numbers, a fat contract and league-wide respect.
Short of a deciding pay-per-view one-on-one with Marc Gasol, Deandre Jordan is the best center in the world.
Now, if he can only learn to shoot 60% from the line..