The Oregon Ducks have had a magical run in the NCAA tournament, and junior forward Jordan Bell has played a key role.
The Ducks are making their first Final Four appearance since 1939. They’ve been able to get the key stops on defense in crunch time, and are hitting the big shots on the other end. Their run has been somewhat improbable, as they lost senior rim protector Chris Boucher to a torn ACL (as reported by Gary Parrish of CBS). As a result, Jordan Bell has picked up the torch in the paint.
As a long 6-10 presence, Boucher was Oregon’s leading shot blocker at 2.5 per game, and was a consistent rebounder to pair with their perimeter playmakers. He was also putting up 11.8 points per game as well. That said, Bell has played a whole lot bigger than his 6-9, 215-pound frame to make up for Boucher’s absence.
In their last two games, he’s made the winning plays down the stretch. Bell put up 16 points and 13 boards to outlast the Michigan Wolverines in the Sweet 16, and he had a huge play in the final two minutes with a layup off a missed free throw. In a 69-68 win, his four offensive rebounds were the difference. He had two blocks, too.
In their last game in the Elite Eight, Bell’s rejections were a nightmare for the Kansas Jayhawks. He annihilated KU in the paint with eight blocks, and completely outplayed the thin Kansas frontline headlined by Landen Lucas, who only had three boards in 33 minutes. For a dude who is 6-10, 240, that’s not very good.
The credit for the Ducks dominating this matchup goes to Bell, who was the difference defensively. He can switch out on just about anybody in screen-and-roll defense, but his team defense in this one was spectacular.
He was a monster with both weak and help side blocks, and he put on a clinic as to how one can be a rim protector without fouling. He had eight rejections with ONE foul. That was remarkable.
Now, let’s not dismiss his offensive production. His activity on the glass and inside presence was the perfect compliment to the big-time shooting of guards Tyler Dorsey, aka “Mr. March,” and Dillon Brooks.
Those guys are the shot makers for this Ducks team, and with Bell doing the dirty work inside on both ends, it allowed them to do what they do best in closing out the game when the Jayhawks were threatening a bit. This clip, courtesy of CBS Sports, epitomizes what Bell does best, and that’s why I believe he can be a key bench contributor at the NBA level.
He’s a guy that gets all the loose balls, excels on the offensive glass, and is great in the post on both ends. This season he led the Pac-12 Conference in offensive rebounds, was second in total rebounds and fourth in defensive rebounds (all according to Sports-Reference). He also led the conference in blocks per game (2.7) and has led it in total blocks two times in three seasons (both this year and in ’14-15).
In addition, he led the Pac-12 in defensive win shares (2.9) and defensive rating (for the second time). It’s not just defense, though. His overall efficiency is notable; his player efficiency rating of 26.3 was fifth in the conference, and his true shooting rate of 65.7 percent was fourth in the Pac-12.
Now comes the real dropping of the mic.
His overall box plus/minus of 13.7 led a star-studded Pac-12 conference, and he was third in overall win shares (6.1). His formidable play in the paint in the tourney is now causing NBA player personnel people to take notice, and TNT analyst David Aldridge touched on that in a recent article published Monday.
It may be a lofty comparison to align him with a similar college glue guy in Draymond Green, but with Bell’s defensive skill set and offensive rebounding acumen, I really believe he is going to carve out a notable career at the next level.
Obviously, his playmaking isn’t at the level of Green, but he can impact a game in a myriad of ways. It’ll be interesting to see how this Ducks story ends, and where Bell goes after the fact. It seems that now is the time for him to come out. He will need time to develop that jumper, but he’ll make his presence felt inside and on the defensive end every night right away.
Start a conversation with me on Twitter