Potential has never been in doubt for DeAndre Jordan.
Going back to his rookie season at age 20, there were flashes of monstrous production, including a four-game stretch that saw him average 10.5 ppg, 12.3 rpg and 3.0 bpg, highlighted by a 23-12-4 line against the Lakers in Jan. 2009.
But in the years since, inconsistency has made one of the league’s most explosive athletes just a serviceable fantasy center – a liability in free throw shooting who stays on rosters because of shot-blocking and rebounding. But certainly not because of his scoring.
And that’s what makes the last two games for Jordan so notable.
After a typically quiet start to his season (7.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg and 2.5 bpg through his first four), Jordan posted 20 points on Wednesday and 21 on Thursday – his first-ever back-to-back 20-point games, and just the fifth and sixth of his career.
Also significant: In both of those games, Jordan had double-digit field goal attempts. Prior to that, he had only reached double-digit attempts nine times (cue Ed Rooney) in over 270 games.
So what has changed? Once a one-dimensional dunker, Jordan has finally made room for finesse. Just as Happy Gilmore famously learned how to putt, DeAndre has honed his ability to post up. And though his post game certainly isn’t spectacular, already this season we’ve seen him finishing with left- and right-handed hook shots – and looking quite confident while doing so.
Obviously we can’t expect 20 points (or anything close to that) on a nightly basis going forward, but it’s not a reach to say that Jordan – a career-high 7.3 FG attempts and 11.8 ppg so far – appears to be on his way to breakout scoring season.
And keep in mind, this is a player who averaged 8.3 rpg and 2.0 bpg last season, but was held in check by weak scoring (7.4 ppg) and free throw shooting. The free throw shooting doesn’t appear to be changing (he’s now 5-of-13 – 38.5 percent – after making his last five attempts on Thursday), but his scoring potential has clearly improved. And even if he only makes a jump to 10 or 11 ppg this season, those few points would represent a significant boost to Jordan’s value.
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In other basketball matters on my mind this week…
Michael Beasley is frustrating. In a development that may shock no one, Beasley as a Phoenix Sun has been a maddening experiment in inconsistency. Consider the breakdown of his season thus far:
Oct. 31: An eight-point dud in the opener.
Nov. 2: 16 and 7 against Detroit.
Nov. 4: 22 and six with two blocks and three 3s against Orlando.
Nov. 5: A seven-point dud against his former team (the Heat).
Nov. 7: A dynamic 21-15-7 line with a steal and three blocks against Charlotte.
Nov. 8: On off day, steals golf cart and drives through the hallways of Suns’ facility, only to get caught by team’s GM.
Add it all up and you have two bad games, two good games, one decent game and one completely juvenile (albeit funny) prank. The bottom line: Nothing appears to have changed for Beasley, who’s capable of being a truly dynamic fantasy player (and real-life player, for that matter), but isn’t consistent enough to make it happen.
For those who are expecting big things in Phoenix this year, let’s say that his best-case scenario is matching his 2010-11 numbers of 19.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.2 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.7 bpg and 0.8 3s (on 45.0 percent from the field and 75.3 percent from the line). Even with those stats, Beasley was just the No. 87 player in Basketball Monster’s 8-category rankings, and the No. 138 player in 9-category formats that year.
Bottom line: He will help you in points, and I could see him averaging close to 20 per game in Phoenix. But he doesn’t stand out in any other category, and given the aforementioned inconsistency, he’s basically nothing more than a high-scoring headache.
Speaking of frustrating, what’s going on with Ersan Ilyasova? Last week we made the profound revelation that Ilyasova’s name is an acronym for Nasal I.E. Savory, but there has been nothing savory about his start thus far: 5.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 0.3 spg and 0.0 bpg through his first three games. That’s bad. But as consolation, I can offer that Ilyasova has started slow before: Through his first 14 games last season, he averaged 7.1 ppg and 6.4 rpg before eventually finishing the year at 13.0 and 8.8. Given that precedent, I would advise being as patient as possible. Or send over a buy-low offer if you know that the Ilyasova owner in your league is ready to start smashing his dishware.
The good news (and not as good news) about the Atlanta backcourt: The good news is that Jeff Teague (15.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.7 spg) and Lou Williams (16.7 ppg, 4.0 apg, 1.7 spg, 1.3 3s) have both been thriving thus far. The bad news is that Teague’s minutes are actually down from last year (33 --> 29), and Larry Drew has been very much going with the hot hand in the fourth quarter. In Sunday’s win over the Thunder, Teague sat out the last 16-plus minutes while Lou Williams (and Devin Harris) ran things. Then in Wednesday’s win over Indiana, Teague played the entire fourth (scoring nine of his 15 points in the quarter) while Williams sat most of the last six minutes, finishing with a season-low nine points in 21 minutes. Bottom line: Teague and Williams are both useful fantasy options, but owners should expect some occasional frustration as Drew continues to play rotation roulette.
Meanwhile, it looks like we have a center platoon in Portland. If you drafted J.J. Hickson expecting him to duplicate the stats he put up last year in Portland (15.1 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 0.9 bpg in 19 games), you may have a slight problem: No. 11 pick Meyers Leonard is starting to earn a legitimate slice of the minutes.
Granted, Hickson hasn’t been bad (9.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg and 0.8 bpg despite 41.3 percent shooting), but his playing time is down. He averaged 32 minutes per game during his standout run in Portland last year, but is at 27 per game this year, and has only topped 26 minutes once in five games. He’s doing a nice job putting up numbers while essentially playing about half the game, but it’s going to be tough to maintain this pace in the long run, and I wouldn’t argue with trying to shop Hickson to a rebound-starved owner after his next good game (he had a five-point, five-board dud on Thursday night).
As for Leonard, he’s still only a deep-league add at this point (last two games: 7.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.0 bpg in an average of 24 minutes), but it wouldn’t be shocking to see the rookie overtake Hickson as the center to own in Portland at some point this season.
Random Thoughts: Aside from an alarming 5.0 turnovers per game, Jrue Holiday is finally enjoying a fourth-year, post-Andre Iguodala breakout; 18.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 9.5 apg, 1.5 spg and 2.0 3s. His minutes (39 per game) and FG attempts (15.0) are both higher than ever before, and though I’d be surprised to see him stay at 18 and 9, something like 17 and 8 is well within his reach. … Happy times for George Hill owners: So far D.J. Augustin (3.6 ppg in 14 minutes per game) has strictly been a backup, and through five games Hill is posting career-bests in points (13.8), rebounds (4.2), assists (4.8), steals (1.4) blocks (0.6), 3s (1.6) and minutes (36). … Bradley Beal’s mini-breakout line of 16-4-3 (with three 3s, a steal and a block) was very nice to see. Granted, it came while Jordan Crawford was limited by a sprained ankle, but I still think Beal has some very intriguing potential this season, with or without Crawford in the picture.
Things to Do This Weekend!
1) Re-watch Zombieland;
2) Break out the most retro sports jersey hanging in your closet (for me that would be an early 90's Mark Price Cavs jersey or a Donyell Marshall circa T'Wolves);
3) Find best breakfast tacos in your vicinity, consume aggressively.