Doc Rivers is on the verge of reuniting with DeAndre Jordan, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The big man is expected to clear waivers at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday, at which time he will reportedly sign with the Philadelphia 76ers. Rivers previously coached Jordan with the Los Angeles Clippers from 2013 to 2018.
In those years, Jordan made the All-NBA First Team once (2016), the All-NBA Third Team twice (2015, 2017) and the All-Defensive First Team twice (2015, 2016). Jordan was named an All-Star in 2017 and led the league in rebounding in 2014 and 2015. Since then, though, his athleticism and minutes have declined significantly. Last season, the Brooklyn Nets removed Jordan from the rotation late in the regular season and didn't play him a single minute in the playoffs. It cost the Nets four second-round picks to trade his expiring contract to the Los Angeles Lakers, who took him out of the rotation around Christmas and have played him only spot minutes since.
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Jordan, 33, is a popular teammate known for calling out opponents' plays as a backline defender. He knows exactly where Rivers will want him to be on defense, but, at this stage of his career, it's not as easy for him to get there. After trading Andre Drummond to Brooklyn in the James Harden deal, though, the Sixers did not have another burly big man to back up Joel Embiid. In the 47 non-garbage-time minutes the newly acquired Paul Millsap has logged for Philadelphia, the team has been outscored by 28.3 points per 100 possessions, according to Cleaning The Glass.
Millsap is 6-foot-7 and, even in his prime, was not much of a leaper. Jordan doesn't have the side-to-side mobility to switch onto guards regularly -- a drawback for any center paired with Harden -- but, at 6-foot-11, he can still catch lobs and clean the glass. He just takes significantly longer to get off the ground than he used to.
While Jordan is a much bigger name, it's worth wondering why Willie Cauley-Stein didn't even get a chance to run with Harden on the second unit. The Sixers signed Cauley-Stein, a switchy, rim-running big, to a 10-day contract last Thursday, but will waive him early to create a roster spot for Jordan, per ESPN. Before their game against the New York Knicks on Wednesday, Rivers told reporters that Cauley-Stein could get the backup minutes, then elected to keep him on the bench until garbage time. (Philadelphia's second unit went on a fourth-quarter run with Millsap on the court.)
If Jordan is going to take Millsap's place in lineups that feature Harden, Danny Green, Georges Niang and either Shake Milton or Tyrese Maxey, then it's difficult to imagine him finding a better offensive environment. He'll be surrounded by shooters and he'll set screens for them, with one of the best passers on the planet setting him up for alley-oops.
Jordan wouldn't be on the buyout market, though, if he didn't come with significant limitations. The Sixers will pretty much have to drop against pick-and-rolls when he's on the court, and, after watching Matisse Thybulle next to Dwight Howard last season, I really don't need to see what a Thybulle-Jordan pairing looks like offensively. Harden did not come to Philly for more spacing issues.
At the podium after the win against the Knicks, Embiid briefly reflected on everything that has changed since the Sixers drafted him in 2014. "I've been through a lot," he said. "Whether you talk about freakin' GMs using burner accounts, talking trash on their players, you know, I've always thought that I will always have like one coach for the rest of my career in Coach [Brett] Brown. And obviously you change and, you know, I've seen so many players." One thing that has stayed constant, though, is the feeling that the team hasn't quite figured out its backup center situation.
Before Embiid even played a game, there was the Nerlens Noel-Jahlil Okafor logjam, with Richaun Holmes in the background. Ersan Ilyasova entered the picture during Embiid's rookie season. Then came Amir Johnson, then Boban Marjanovic, Jonah Bolden and Mike Muscala.
Greg Monroe started in the playoffs. Justin Patton came to Philadelphia, briefly. Norvel Pelle was legitimately fun for a while. Al Horford solved the problem, but created other ones, mostly because of his contract.
There was Kyle O'Quinn and then there were Vincent Poirier, Tony Bradley and Howard. Now there is Jordan, and there is also Millsap. Unless ... I mean ... Rivers will not trust Paul Reed or Charles Bassey to play in the playoffs ... will he?