Philadelphia 76ers: Doc Rivers wants his guy, DeAndre Jordan, back

(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images)
(Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images) /

You’ve gotta give it to Doc Rivers: He’s consistent.

He likes to run his lineups a certain way, has specific expectations for players across the roster that are very rarely impacted by on-court play, and most importantly of all, he really likes to roll into battle with veteran performers over younger upstarts regardless of their upside.

Sometimes, these decisions work. Rivers was given a hard time for his unwillingness to stagger the minutes of Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey earlier this season, but now, with James Harden running the second team, that decision looks somewhat prophetic, as the homegrown duo has shared the court for 63 minutes over the past two games, which is the second-most utilized pairing on the team. But other times, like Rivers’ overreliance on all-bench, hockey-style line changes, his “old-school” approach to the game of ball can lead to clear mismatches from a game design standpoint.

So naturally, when news broke that the Los Angeles Lakers intended to release DeAndre Jordan, it was only a matter of time before Adrian Wojnarowski had a follow-up tweet about the Philadelphia 76ers showing interest as the tallest member of the Lob City Clippers’ Big 3.

Doc Rivers’ nostalgia might have tipped the Philadelphia 76ers’ hand.

Right from the jump, the obvious needs to be addressed: DeAndre Jordan is kinda washed.

His play in Brooklyn gradually declined with each passing season, and by the time he was traded away to the Detroit Pistons alongside four(!) second-round picks for a pair of players who were ultimately waived for nothing, the general consensus around NBA circles was that the three-time All-Pro center’s best days were done before.

Unfortunately for the 33-year-old former All-Star, that perception was backed up in Los Angeles in 2021-22, as his stats have reached near-universal lows across the board. Playing behind Dwight Howard and sometimes Anthony Davis, Jordan averaged 4.1 points and 5.4 rebounds in a little under 13 minutes of action and has been held to just 2.8 shots per game, which is his lowest mark since his rookie season in 2008-09.

After earning pretty consistent minutes as the elusive sub-20 minutes per game starter over the first month and change of the Lakers’ season, Jordan slowly but surely worked his way out of the Lakers’ rotation and has been inactive for 22 of the team’s last 27 games. With D.J. Augustin inbounds off the buyout market, the idea of moving off of Jordan despite the team’s lack of center depth made some sense for LeBron James and company, even if it likely won’t be enough to get the team into, let alone out of the first round of the playoffs.

Assuming Adrian Wojnarowski’s reporting ultimately proves true, it would appear the Philadelphia 76ers have seen enough of Willie Cauley-Stein, who signed a 10-day contract late last week, and would instead like to add some experience to their locker room over a more athletically dynamic backup big.

Considering Doc Rivers had to say goodbye to both his son-in-law, Seth Curry, and his long-time friend, Andre Drummond, I would imagine he marched right over to Daryl Morey’s office and said “let me have this one.”

Alright, so now that the initial shock has worn off, what does Jordan bring to the table? Well, even at 33, he’s still a pretty good pick-and-roll screener, ranking in the 75th percentile on .8 possessions per game. Jordan is also a more athletically-gifted rebounder than Paul Millsap, who while a more versatile backcourt player, just isn’t a backup center who can crash the boards and fight for a rebound. Assuming he isn’t worn down by playing 20-plus minutes of action a night, Jordan still has the hops and athleticism to be a decent enough lob threat who can throw down a well-placed dunk off of the fastbreak of a cut to the basket.

Hm… Pick-and-Roll screener? Two-way rebounder? Lob threat? I don’t know about you but that sounds like the exact kind of backup center who would play well alongside James Harden for give or take 12 minutes of action per game.

Factor in Jordan’s reputation for being one of the best locker room guys in the NBA, a player once dubbed “the NBA’s $40 million best friend” by Malika Andrews, and the idea of rolling into the spring and eventually summer with the player affectionately known as DeAndre 3000 doesn’t seem quite as bad as it may have initially seemed.

Next. James Harden has some tough love for Tobias Harris. dark

Would the Philadelphia 76ers be better off using either Paul Reed or Charles Bassey as their backup centers moving forward? Yes, both players have far more upside than any of the team’s current or potential future options and could use the on-court experience to further refine their skills. But if Doc Rivers doesn’t want to roll into the postseason with a backup big who can barely drink, the idea of producing DeAndre Jordan isn’t the worst one, as he’ll open up minutes when Joel Embiid is out for the younger guys and provide James Harden with his preferred type of big man when the team is at full strength.