So, it’s come to this. Various outlets are reporting that the Dallas Mavericks are interested in acquiring DeAndre Jordan…again. If these reports are true, then it’s clear that Dallas decided to turn the other cheek after the emoji-laden debacle that ensued three years ago, the last time they pursued the Los Angeles Clippers big man.
Jordan, who turns 30 in July, does potentially fill the starting center void for the Mavs so their interest in him is understandable. However, given the makeup of the rest of the roster, is he worth the investment?
As it stands, the Mavericks can free up nearly $26 million in cap space this summer. They recently rescinded the qualifying offer they extended to Doug McDermott to clear his $10 million cap hold off the books. Dallas also holds a team option for the final year of Dirk Nowitzki’s contract, worth $5 million, that it can exercise. (Don’t worry, Dirk isn’t going anywhere.) With enough money to fill Scrooge McDuck’s vault, the Mavs set themselves up to chase nearly every available marquee free agent, including Jordan.
Jordan isn’t technically a free agent, however. At least not yet. He has a player option for the final season of his contract with the Clippers, worth $24.1 million, that he must choose to either opt into or out of by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday, June 29. If he opts out, he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If he opts in, a trade is his only way out of L.A. From the looks of things, according to The New York Times’ Marc Stein, Dallas is leaning towards trading for Jordan. Any trade scenario with the Mavs will likely involve Wesley Matthews due to the $18.6 million he stands to make next season.
A dominant starting center has been the Mavericks’ White Whale for the better part of two decades now. On paper, Jordan fills that role. Last season, Jordan — in a down year — averaged 12 points, 15.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. He also shot 64.5 percent and posted a career high free throw average of 58 percent. Even though the only thing remarkable about those numbers is his rebounding, an area where the Mavericks need to improve dramatically, they’re nothing to view with contempt.
Further, Jordan fits head coach Rick Carlisle’s desire for a rim-rolling big. Jordan was the roll man in the Clippers’ pick-and-roll 18.2 percent of the time last season. He scored 1.25 points per possession on such plays, ranking him in the 83rd percentile in the league. For comparison, Dwight Powell — who is statistically the best roll man in the NBA — scored 1.41 points per possession and ranked in the 95th percentile.
Again, the stats are there. But can they be trusted? There’s no reason to think that Jordan is due for a dramatic statistical drop off next season. An NBA center isn’t like an NFL running back, whose production seems to decline once they hit 30. However, beyond next season, questions will begin to mount. That’s why the length of any deal involving him is important. Throwing large sums of money at an aging center on a team that is rebuilding around Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic — who are 20 and 19, respectively — doesn’t make sense.
Then there’s the desire to win now. Since the NBA Draft Lottery, the Mavs front office has made it clear that they want to compete again next season. The thinking behind acquiring Jordan must then be that they feel he will get them into playoff contention. That, of course, isn’t a guarantee. In fact, it’s far from it. The Western Conference is loaded and free agency could make it more so. Getting Jordan doesn’t realistically tip the scales in Dallas’ favor.
As the NBA evolves, the Mavericks appear to be set in their ways. While it makes sense that the team wants to sign a capable center this off-season, going all-in on Jordan for more than a trial period is short-sighted. Even though Dallas likely won’t have a first-round pick next summer, they shouldn’t punt the future and tie up a lot of money to an aging center. Jordan spurned the Mavs three years ago. Now, it might be in the Mavs’ best interest if he does so again if they are serious about rebuilding around a young core.