For now, the dust has settled, as the NBA trade deadline has come and gone. While there are still a handful of buyout options available or about to be on the market, the wildness of the deadline has passed.
As we all know by now, the Knicks kicked off this whole parade with their trade of Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks. With Wes Matthews being bought out as of yesterday, Dennis Smith Jr and DeAndre Jordan remain with the team. Many thought the Knicks would be willing to trade Jordan or agree to a buyout with him but the front office showed no steps in that direction and were pleased to hang onto him heading into the last portion of the season. Let’s evaluate what role DeAndre will have with the Knicks moving forward.
One of the best parts of having Jordan on this roster is his ability to lead a defense, as well as teach it. Over the past month or so, we have seen Coach Fizdale make an effort to get better defensive players on the floor that are able to switch onto different players. That’s why we saw Lance Thomas start to get minutes as opposed to the newly released Enes Kanter who couldn’t play defense whatsoever. DeAndre Jordan provides a much needed veteran presence in the middle of that defense and his value in practice and games teaching the young guys how to be a good defensive unit is going to be invaluable.
Another important aspect of keeping Jordan on the roster is his willingness and ability to mentor Knicks prized rookie, Mitchell Robinson. In a lot of ways, Mitchell Robinson’s game patterns a lot of what DeAndre Jordan is known for, being a good lob threat, excellent pick and roll defender, and great shot blocker. Robinson is obviously still in the beginning stages of putting it all together, but has already taken huge strides forward in his game without Jordan mentoring him this season. After just one practice with Jordan, we saw Robinson have one of his best games yet of his young career, posting 13 points (6/7 from the field), 10 boards and 2 blocks in a loss to Detroit (basketball reference.com).
One critique of Robinson earlier in the season was his inability to defensive rebound effectively for someone of his size and athleticism. Over his last 5 games, Robinson is averaging 6.8 rebounds per game, while not playing more than 25 minutes in any of those games (basketball reference.com)
Remember, this is a player who didn’t play competitive basketball for a whole year and has done so well he didn’t need to spend any time in the G league. To be contributing in NBA games at this juncture of his career is incredible. Over this last part of the season, he is going to benefit from being around Jordan and should go into the summer with lots of momentum and excitement heading into next season.
DeAndre Jordan is an expiring contract, which we all know. However, this doesn’t mean there is zero chance of him remaining with the Knicks moving forward. One important and underlying reason to have Jordan around is his relationship with Knicks free agent target, Kevin Durant. Those two are great friends, dating back to college, when Durant was part of a recruiting team trying to get Jordan to attend Texas. Jordan ended up going to Texas A&M, but the two remained good friends nevertheless. Now the script could be flipped somewhat, with Jordan recruiting Durant to join him in NYC. In the case of Durant coming to NYC, we could see Jordan sign a short deal for less money, to stay with the team and have a chance to play with one of his best friends.
As a proud veteran in this league, it had to feel weird for Jordan to be traded for the first time in his career. Despite this, we have seen nothing but a true professional during the games and on the Knicks bench. He has a great relationship with Coach Fizdale and having a veteran like himself in a locker room with so many young players going through a difficult season is extremely valuable. With all the uncertainties of the NBA trade deadline and watching teammates leave, it’s certainly an adjustment for rookie and even 2nd year players. But DeAndre has seen it all in his NBA career and his steadying presence is something I’m sure the franchise appreciates.
With 29 games to go and the Knicks sitting at 10-43, the Knicks focus is solely on continuing to play the young guys and get them NBA experience. Even in seasons where the playoffs are not attainable, these are valuable minutes down the stretch for players to gain confidence and momentum heading into the offseason. The Knicks did well to draft arguably 3 1st-round talents last year and each one of them has shown tremendous growth over the course of this season. Mitchell Robinson’s growth is something to keep an eye on for the remainder of the season, as he continues to learn daily from DeAndre Jordan.
As for Jordan’s skill as a recruiter, that will be determined this summer. Regardless, the Knicks couldn’t have brought a better guy in for the remainder of the season and hopefully we can have him in a Knicks uniform for a bit longer.