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Despite concerns over his free-throw shooting and ability to score when not catching alley-oops, Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan is absolutely one of the most coveted unrestricted free agents set to hit the market on July 1. Hyper-athletic 26-year-old big men coming off All-NBA Third Team selections rarely become available, to the point where Jordan is nearly certain to obtain a max-level contract even with some clear holes in his game. Whichever team ends up with him will consider its summer a success no matter what else occurs.
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We now have a first glance at which franchises will vie for Jordan's signature on a brand new contract. As reported by Sam Amick of USA Today, the seven-year Clipper will meet with four teams before making his decision:
The 26-year-old free agent center who spent his first seven seasons with the Clippers is clearly giving serious thought to changing jerseys, as three people with knowledge of his situation said he is expected to meet with at least four teams — the Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks — in the first few days of free agency. The meetings are expected to take place in the Los Angeles office where Jordan's representatives, Dan Fegan and Happy Walters of Relativity Sports, are based. The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the process.
The Milwaukee Bucks have interest in Jordan, but a person with knowledge of their situation deemed the notion of landing Jordan "a long shot" and said it was unlikely they would meet with him. The Mavericks are expected to meet with Jordan on Wednesday, while the Knicks and Clippers are expected to meet with Jordan on Thursday. The timing of the Lakers meeting is unclear.
Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported later Monday that Jordan will meet with his three new suitors on Wednesday and give the Clippers last crack at keeping him on Thursday. He added that Jordan has already received a call from Kobe Bryant and can expect to see a video presentation during his meeting with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and head coach Doc Rivers.
Each team offers Jordan something different. The Clippers are quite clearly in the best position to contend, both due to the fact that Jordan has a clear and comfortable role and because the greatness of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin ensures that there will be plenty of star power on hand to best this season's disappointing conference semifinals finish. On the other hand, there have been rumors of discord between Paul and Jordan, and the current hierarchy dictates that Jordan will always be the third-biggest star in the locker room no matter how much he's paid or what strides he makes as a player. Perhaps he wants a new experience.
The Lakers are perhaps the most intriguing option available if only for the potential impact on their rivalry with the Clippers. Changing Staples Center locker rooms also provides Jordan the opportunity to build his L.A. celebrity while ushering in a new, post-Kobe era for one of the league's marquee franchises. The Knicks also stand out as a signing that may look more exciting in theory than in practice, particularly given that ESPN.com's Chris Broussard has reported that they intend to sell Jordan on serving as the team's second offensive option behind Carmelo Anthony (via EOB). It's not clear how a limited offensive player would fit into that role in a system that supposedly prizes hyper-skilled big men, but no one ever said that free-agent pitches follow observable data.
If Jordan opts for a balance of the familiar and fresh, the Mavericks could be in luck. A Houston native, Jordan can play in the comfort of his home state (while simultaneously offsetting lost salary due to Texas's lack of income tax) without an accompanying major sacrifice in the quality of his team. The Mavs are a team in transition, but they can sell Jordan on making that process more fluid and bringing Dallas back to contention. For all their potential, the Clippers haven't achieved much more than the Mavericks in recent seasons.
The smart money is likely still on Jordan returning to the Clippers, but this range of teams suggests that he and his representatives want a better look at all potential outcomes. These teams feature little in the way of overlap — apart from maybe the Lakers and Knicks, these squads all offer very different experiences. Whenever Jordan makes his choice, we'll get a very good sense of what he most wants to achieve over the next four or five years of his career.
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