One of the theories posited in the preseason was that DeAndre Jordan would be vastly improved on defense by learning and relying on the strong-side pressure system Doc Rivers would bring with him from Boston. With nearly half the season in the books, how has it developed?
Jordan is currently anchoring the number seven team in defensive efficiency; a team with several reasonable team defenders, but few players one could point to as a “plus defender.” And the ratings bear this out. Jordan currently sports a 97 individual defensive rating*, per Basketball-Reference.com. He’s the only rotation player currently on the team with a rating below 101.
*note: As stated in the past, individual defensive rating is a flawed stat that does not fully encapsulate the positive and negative effects of a player’s defense. But in relation to others, it does provide some context as to a player’s defensive value. Think of it as a zip code rather than a mailing address.
Once again, the two comparative players referenced are Tyson Chandler as he provides the closest physical comparison to Jordan, and Joakim Noah, whose situation was most similar, transitioning from Vinny Del Negro to Tom Thibodeau’s defensive system.
It seems like there is some evidence, specifically in the case of Jordan, that the minimal rookie minutes played coupled with lack of developmental time his fourth season lead to an elongated progression.
Last year, Arturo Galletti crunched some data to determine if big men did take longer to develop. Examining with the same defensive rating metric, Gelletti determined that 1) centers tend to peak in their third or fifth season, and 2) defensive rating did not change significantly once in the NBA. In the case of DeAndre Jordan, his unique set of circumstances–primarily the lockout year–may be the exception.