When the Mavs opened their preseason schedule last month with a home game against the Beijing Ducks, I was surprised to find myself excited for a lot of different storylines heading into that night.
How would Luka Doncic look in his first game in a Mavs uniform?
How would Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. look together?
Who exactly were the Beijing Ducks?
Those were only a few of the more pressing issues, but the one that had me most excited was to see the reception the American Airlines Center crowd gave to new Mavericks big man DeAndre Jordan. It’s well chronicled what happened back in July 2015 and we don’t need to go there, but based on some of my time on Twitter this summer, it still seemed like a lot of Mavs fans still were not willing to put the past behind them and welcome possibly the greatest big man the franchise had ever acquired.
Those nerves were put to rest when Jordan received a thunderous ovation during the starting lineups and it has only grown with each home game this season. As a matter of fact, the Houston-native now has the lucky spot of being introduced last among the starters.
Jordan has made it incredibly easy to forget any hard feelings that might linger from his 2015 free agency fiasco. From Media Day forward, he has been a smiling presence and the only Mavericks player seemingly available to the media at every opportunity. He’s always willing to crack a joke or do something for a laugh. It’s not something that is common among other Mavs players with the media.
The on-court production has definitely been there for Jordan through his first four games in Dallas. Admittedly a small sample size, “D.J.” has had a double-double in every game so far and has per game averages of 15.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.
Jordan is being heavily used in the team’s offense as a screener, heavy roller and even an occasional playmaker when he uses his size to see over the top of defenses away from the basket. The big man is averaging a career high nine shots per game– his 7.5 shots per game last year were his previous high– and is getting just as many, or more, attempts in the paint as anyone could have imagined. Including some super nasty finishes off of great feeds from teammates.
DeAndre Jordan gets UP for the powerful FLUSH! #MFFL
— NBA (@NBA) October 25, 2018
His impact on the glass has been incredibly note worthy so far this season. According to NBA.com, the Mavericks are 8th in the league in second chance points at over 15 per game thanks in part to Jordan’s 4.3 offensive rebounds per game. On the defensive rebounding side, only Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans are giving up fewer second chance points than Dallas with 8 per game compared to 8.3 for Dallas. If you look at last season, Dallas was 29th in the league in second chance points when their leading offensive rebounder was Salah Mejri with 1.4 per game.
It is very clear that there is only one player who can even slightly hold a candle to what Jordan has brought to the center position for Dallas in recent memory: Tyson Chandler. Whenever you’re mentioned in the same breath as Chandler among Mavs fans, it is a very good thing.
Harrison Barnes’ anticipated return on Friday should help Jordan lead this team in a positive direction on defense. Dallas, and the rest of the NBA for that matter, is struggling to keep opponents from making shots. Mavs opponents are shooting an insane 50% from the field through four games and a lot of that is beyond the three point line. Adding an arguably above average perimeter defender in Barnes will help that somewhat, but Jordan’s leadership and coaching will be vital to getting it back in the right direction as well.
It can’t be emphasized enough how early it is this season. Also, things could get a little bit ugly with Dallas coming up on a stretch of games against the Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers. Through it all, the biggest thing about this Mavericks season is continued growth for their young core. If DeAndre Jordan can continue to do what he has been doing, their learning and improving should be greatly accelerated in time for the Mavericks to pitch their cap space and exciting cornerstones to the zesty 2019 free agent class.
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