It was a harrowing end to an otherwise brilliant collegiate career for Jordan Bell.
Playing in his junior season at the University of Oregon, Bell helped lead the Ducks to the Final Four. Up against North Carolina in the semifinal game of the NCAA tournament, Bell’s incredible postseason performance ended bitterly when he twice failed to box out and grab a defensive rebound off missed free throws in the game’s final seconds. The Ducks were unable to get a final shot up, losing to the eventual champion Tar Heels, 77-76.
It’s an ending that could have infused skepticism into those fans and critics across the country who were watching Bell for the first time. However, everything on his resume aside from those final 5.8 seconds point to Bell having the type of work ethic and skill set necessary to thrive with the defending NBA champions.
After taking some time to decompress from the heartbreaking loss to UNC, Bell declared for the NBA Draft and got to work on tuning his game up for the next level. His hustle was on full display on all areas of the court at the NBA draft combine, where he finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, five blocks and five assists in the 5-on-5 scrimmage. Bell also ran a 2.83 shuttle time, blazing fast for a player of Bell’s size.
Bell’s nonstop motor that became increasingly evident at the combine does not come as a surprise to those back in Eugene, Oregon who saw him compete for the Ducks. He entered national discussions and draft boards everywhere during his junior season, in which he was named the 2017 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, and saw considerable jumps in his field goal percentage, free throw percentage, points, steals, assists and rebounds.
This didn’t slip by the Warriors, who sent $3.5 million to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for the No. 38 pick, which ended up being Bell. Aside from quality minutes on the floor that the Warriors hope Bell will bring over the coming seasons, the organization has to be excited to see if Bell’s already impressive work ethic can even become stronger when working alongside players such as Stephen Curry and Draymond Green on a daily basis.
The $3.5 million price tag is high for a second round pick, and is the maximum amount of money any team can send to another in combination of trades – for a whole season. With that being said, you better believe that Bob Myers and the rest of the Warriors organization is pretty darn confident in Bell’s character on and off the court.
Aside from the work ethic that the Warriors saw in Bell, his style of play seems like it can fit well with this Warriors squad. Green gave Bell a phone call following the draft to congratulate him, and it’s easy to see why the newly crowned NBA Defensive Player of the Year is excited. Bell has been regarded by some as the most NBA-ready defender in the draft pool, and similarly to Green, Bell can protect the rim and switch on the perimeter to match up on guards. Standing at just six-foot-nine, Bell will have to prove if he can defend against bigger centers. Whether or not he can do that on a nightly basis is to be determined, but the Warriors might be able to find times where they can play Bell at the 5 when they want quicker lineups on the court.
Bell still has some work to do in improving his jump shot. He was, however, one of the best collegiate players in the country in running and finishing above the rim. Bell isn’t being thrown onto a poor team. He will be surrounded by a coaching staff and skilled group of players that maximizes the strengths of their role players, and it’d be foolish to assume it would be anything different with Bell.
The Warriors motto is “Strength in Numbers,” but it was Bell who carried a lot of the load down low for the Ducks in the NCAA Tournament after fellow Oregon big man Chris Boucher (also signed by the Warriors to a two-way contract) missed all of March with a torn ACL. Bell took his game to another level without Boucher, leading the Ducks to their first Final Four appearance in over 70 years and was named the Midwest Regional’s Most Outstanding Player. In the Ducks’ Elite 8 matchup against No. 1 Kansas, Bell had the game of his life, registering 11 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists, and 8 blocks in the Ducks 74-60 upset of the Jayhawks.
Of course, with players like Curry, Green, Thompson and Durant alongside him, Bell won’t be expected to carry the same amount of weight for the Warriors as he did with the Ducks. Regardless, the Warriors like taking winners; however big or small a role Bell might play, he has the experience the organization is looking for in constructing a roster that is able to compete for an NBA championship.
The North Carolina loss will almost certainly stick with Bell for a long time to come. But if what we have seen from him since that game tell us anything at all, it’s that Bell’s drive to succeed has always been constant, and will only increase with the Warriors.