DeAndre Jordan opened the 2019-20 season as the starting center for the Brooklyn Nets, but as the season progressed, his role consistently shrank. The emergence of young big man Nicolas Claxton in combination with the midseason additions of Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge effectively knocked him out of the rotation. He didn’t play a single postseason minute, and when Paul Millsap was added to the equation this offseason, it became clear that he wouldn’t have a consistent role in Brooklyn this season.
The Nets, deep into the luxury tax, traded him in order to save money, but there are no hard feelings according to Jordan. He wanted to leave as well for a team that was able to give him a bigger role.
“It was just both parties wanted to figure out something that was best for both of us,” Jordan said at his introductory press conference Thursday. “And I feel like they gave me that respect as a veteran player to be able to understand that I wanted to be able to compete. … It just worked better for both of us.”
It wasn’t clear that Jordan would be able to get that role in Los Angeles before Friday, but when the Lakers traded Marc Gasol, their center rotation grew much clearer. Now Jordan and Dwight Howard are the only true centers left on the team. Both should be able to earn rotation minutes even if Anthony Davis is the starting and closing center. Howard and JaVale McGee combined to average 35.5 minutes per game in the 2019-20 championship season even with Davis playing some center, so juggling a two-man center rotation with his superstar big man is nothing new to Frank Vogel.
Still, Jordan’s fit in Los Angeles is hardly seamless. He struggled as a drop-coverage big man on a defense that preferred to switch in Brooklyn last season. The Nets didn’t ask Jordan specifically to do so, but their personnel was better suited to doing so, and their struggles in containing dribble penetration made his life harder at the basket. The Lakers, having lost key perimeter defenders Alex Caruso and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, could struggle in that area as well, and even if Jordan is a better lob-finisher than Gasol, his inability to space the floor is going to create other problems now that Russell Westbrook is this team’s starting point guard.
If the Lakers wanted to recapture the size and physicality of their championship team, they certainly seem to have succeeded. That appears to have been one of the motivators behind the Jordan signing, but if he’s going to get the role he wants in Los Angeles, the Lakers are going to need to figure out how to work around his weaknesses.