Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: DeAndre Jordan
- The Dallas Mavericks filled a big need at center by signing former Los Angeles Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan to a one-year deal.
- Jordan will fit well into Dallas’ defensive scheme and is an ideal roll partner for young playmakers Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic.
- Dallas could be one of the best values when preseason win totals are posted.
Just three summers after backing out of a verbal agreement with the Mavericks, DeAndre Jordan is finally putting pen to paper in Dallas (for now). The soon-to-be 30-year-old center doesn’t exactly mesh with the Mavericks’ new young talent in Dennis Smith Jr. and 2018 draft pick Luka Doncic, but he’ll certainly help right away.
Jordan Will Fill a Big Need in Dallas
The Mavericks’ biggest hole in recent seasons has easily been at the center spot. Last year they ranked dead last in rebound rate (47.4%) and field-goal percentage allowed at the rim (67.3%). They need a defensive center to protect the rim in the worst way, but the question, of course, is whether Jordan is the answer.
The data is certainly mixed. He wasn’t a particularly great rim-protector last year: Of the 50 players who defended at least 300 shots within 6 feet of the rim, he ranked 38th, barely behind guys like Enes Kanter, Kelly Olynyk, Nikola Vucevic and Kevin Love. That’s not a great sign, and it’s been that way for most of his career. The Clippers allowed a higher field-goal percentage at the rim with him on the floor versus off in seven of his 10 seasons in the league, including each of the past five.
However, there is good news. His saving grace has always been that he’s discouraged shots at the rim because of his large frame and reputation, be it grounded in data or not. Over the past three seasons, opponents have shot 5.9%, 6.8% and 6.3% fewer shots at the rim when he’s been on the floor versus off; those were all in the 97th-plus percentile of all centers.
The Mavericks excelled in that area last season, ranking first in the league in percentage of shots from the rim (30.7%). Jordan is joining a smart organization with a top-notch coach. They’ll certainly (read: hopefully) understand his strengths as a defensive player and continue to operate a scheme that pushes action out of the paint instead of toward Jordan as a hypothetical shot-eraser. They won’t be an elite defense because of his flaws, but they can be good enough to compete.
On offense he’ll help the young guys who will be the main creators out of the pick-and-roll. In nearly every season but last year, the Clippers were much better shooting the ball with Jordan on the floor, as he’s one of the best lob finishers in the game. His rolling ability helps stretch the floor, since wing defenders feel the need to cheat off shooters to tag him. The data suggested that he dipped in that regard in a big way last season, but the Mavs are betting that was a symptom of not playing with Chris Paul rather than Jordan regressing. We’ll have to see what happens on the court, but it’s likely a smart bet.
How Will Jordan Affect the Betting Market?
The knock on the Mavs (or whichever team) signing Jordan has always been the risk of signing an aging center to a pricey, long-term deal. Mark Cuban and Co. were wise to get him on a one-year deal, which essentially nullifies all risk (although it obviously limits long-term upside).
Jordan will help Dallas win games next season, and the Mavericks were already one of the best values on the board in terms of betting on positive regression. The Mavericks finished 24-58 on the year, but their Pythagorean win expectation was a whopping 33 games. They got unlucky, and regardless of any signings, they were likely a sharp bet on the over for their win total (assuming it wasn’t crazy high, of course).
Adding Jordan’s value within the Mavs’ specific defensive scheme, along with his floor spacing, should make this team competitive sooner rather than later. The Mavs ranked third in 3-point rate last season, and an extra summer for Smith and the addition of EuroLeague MVP and wonderboy Doncic will make things all the better. Rookies are almost never good in their first season (Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell aside), but Doncic’s pro experience should give him a shot to be productive right away.
It’s probably a year too soon to talk about the Mavericks getting into playoff contention — especially if LeBron James goes west to L.A. — but their odds will be attractive. The best value is likely going to be the over on their win total, so keep an eye on that and hammer it if it opens low. Dallas opened at 35.5 last season; it could be lower than expected after the 24-win campaign.
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