2018-2019 Off the Glass Breakout Players Series: Jordan Bell
With the 2018-2019 NBA season fast approaching, Off the Glass is making predictions on who the breakout players of each team will be. Today we look at Jordan Bell from the Golden State Warriors.
Sending $3.5 million dollars to the Chicago Bulls for the 38th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft allowed the Golden State Warriors to draft center Jordan Bell. Bell was the 2017 PAC-12 Defensive Player of the Year for the Oregon Ducks, averaging two blocks per game in his three collegiate seasons.
His ability to seamlessly switch to guards and respond quickly to attempts at the rim embodies the Warriors’ defensive philosophy. Their offensive system, shooting and star power call for a selfless center to set hard screens, drag defenders with rim runs and throw accurate passes. Bell checks all of these boxes. Despite the offseason acquisition of DeMarcus Cousins receiving mountains of attention, it very well could be Bell with the eye widening play throughout the year.
Bell only received 14 minutes per game in 57 contests during his rookie season. His case for playing time took a hit due to multiple ankle injuries prior to the championship run when Kevon Looney was able to assert himself into the starting role with his solid defense, rebounding, and consistency.
The roster was also laden with veteran bigs Javale McGee, David West, and Zaza Pachulia that could be counted on to fill roles and eat up minutes. That trio has moved on from the Bay and with Cousins out until mid-season recovering from an Achilles tear, Bell has the ability and opportunity to take a big step forward this season.
He is the perfect glue guy for the Warriors being active and knowledgeable in his role playing off its stars. Watch his chemistry here with Curry as he screens him open in the corner while throwing creative accurate passes that afford him space.
Bell’s hard play on the court translates into disruptive defense and fast break chances. He runs the floor so well in transition he’s easily confused with a wing player for a moment until he extends his full 6’9 frame to attack the rim. Bell has enough of a handle to lead the fast break while patiently making reads to keep the defense guessing until exploding to the cup.
What Bell lacks in height as a big he makes up for in anticipation, showing innate instinct defending the interior.
Head Coach Steve Kerr will have to let Bell play through the mental errors and over aggressiveness that found him a seat on the bench last season. Bell will also have to bulk up if he’s going to play full time center because at an undersized 225 lbs., his weight more than his height will work against him over the regular season grind.
Bell shot 70% on attempts within three feet of the rim which account for 70% of the shots he takes leading to his strong true shooting percentage of .641. Bell in his rookie campaign flashed an array of around the basket moves and one dribble blow-bys that allow him to frequently attempt clean looks above the rim. His floater in the lane is capable enough but he is better off going up strong into contact with his 68 free throw percentage. It's a rarity for him to pop out for threes but the form on his shot is good for a big and could be developed down the line.
Using Bell’s advanced numbers seems a bit misguided as sharing the court with two transcendent players and two all stars all in their prime years will inflate plus/minus and on/off numbers. That along with frequently playing garbage time after the Warriors distanced themselves in third quarters with their scoring barrages.
With that said, his per 36 numbers are still exciting as he puts up 12 points, nine boards, 4.5 assists and 2.5 blocks. It's not unfathomable that he could do that with an increased role considering what the team asks of him. Scorers are likelier to regress with jumps in playing time since defenses begin keying in on them, Bell is playing clean up for a stacked Warriors team.
The Warriors have a looming issue with Bell set to hit restricted free agency next season, especially since there’s 29 other teams that would love to add him to their big man rotation. With the Warriors far into the luxury tax and looking ahead to the repeater tax in 2019-20, general manager Bob Myers will have a difficult decision to make if another team throws a large offer at him after missing out on the limited stars available (and a team should, even if its just to weaken the Warriors). You could picture a team that has seen championship success with veteran bigs on minimum deals opt to let him walk.
The restricted offer won’t necessarily come but you have to wonder what other teams will be inclined to do if he’s playing meaningful minutes over Cousins in the playoffs (without discounting the viability of those two playing together). With some of the contracts we’ve seen handed out some GMs (Mitch Kupchak) seem like they solely scout players during the playoffs. Bell flashed moments of excellence last season, this second year he needs to prove he can remain healthy and consistent if he wants to cash in on his early entrance to free agency.