Jordan Bell was considered a steal of the draft in 2017—acquired only for cash considerations—and impressed with a promising if inconsistent rookie season. Undersized for a big man, his elite athleticism, defensive instincts, and endless energy bode well for the future.
Despite the jaw-dropping dunks, weakside blocks, and impressive perimeter defense, injuries and rookie mistakes hampered his rotation minutes last year. Ankle problems disrupted his game-to-game flow, and his dumb fouls cost him playing time to the Warriors’ more experienced frontcourt veterans.
But Bell ended the season on a high note, contributing well in both the Rockets and Cavaliers series, proving his worth on the biggest of stages. Over the offseason, he showed off an improved jumper and Draymond-like playmaking skills in Summer League and preseason.
However, in the first two games of the 2018-2019 season, Bell has only played seven minutes total. Not only did he lose out on the starting center job, he’s played fewer minutes than any other active player on the team.
This probably frustrated Steve Kerr: Jordan Bell doesn’t put a body on Jerami Grant, who gets the offensive rebound and the Thunder eventually get a layup pic.twitter.com/vm0kZkp2ri— Drew Shiller (@DrewShiller) October 17, 2018
Dieter Kurtenbach of the San Jose Mercury News observed that Warriors coach Steve Kerr might not fully trust Bell at this point.
Kerr is keeping Jordan Bell on the bench as well — he doesn’t trust the second-year big man’s freelancing style at the moment...The Warriors were playing, in essence, 4 on 5 when Jones and Looney were in a half-court set, and against a team like Utah, that simply won’t fly.
Hence Draymond at center.
(Man, what does that say about Jordan Bell…)
One thing that Bell’s recent lack of playing time reflects is the simple fact of the Warriors logjam of big men. Damian Jones has been decent as the starting center, and Bell is not big enough to match up with mammoth starting centers like Steven Adams and Rudy Gobert. Kevon Looney is a Kerr favorite, a solid rotation player who doesn’t make dumb mistakes. Jonas Jerebko got a bunch of minutes against the Jazz, his former team, and won the game on a tip-in. And when DeMarcus Cousins returns, even fewer minutes will be available.
But Jordan Bell is the Warriors’ best young prospect, and matchups shouldn’t dictate his playing time—he’s good enough to play against anybody. He might be too small to play center against the biggest guys, but he’s perfect at power forward for the Warriors. He can play alongside Kevon Looney or Draymond Green, and maybe take some minutes as the lone big in super-small lineups.
The regular season is a time to experiment: we know the Warriors will be fine heading into the postseason, as long as they’re healthy. Playing Jordan Bell now will only help later. He might make mistakes, but his ceiling is higher than that of Looney, Jones, and Jerebko. Bell deserves consistent minutes.