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Dilemma of Jordan Mickey: can rebounding skills alone sustain a career in today's 3-point NBA?

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Jordan Mickey has pogo sticks for legs, but rebounding ability by itself may not be enough to keep him in the NBA.

NBA: Miami Heat at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics drafted Jordan Mickey in 2015 with the 33rd pick they got from the Miami Heat in a trade. In a roundabout way Miami has three players from their 2015 draft picks: Justise Winslow (10th), Mickey (33rd), and Josh Richardson (40th): Rooks 1, 2 and 3.

The Celtics tried to find a fit for Mickey in their power rotation, but couldn't quite manage to do it, in part because Kelly Olynyk was fighting him for the same spot. Now Miami has the task of integrating the two forwards Boston released to sign former Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward. Ironically Boston revamped their roster this summer, and wound up doing well without Hayward on the court due his gruesome injury in the season's first game.

As a teenager Mickey didn't take basketball seriously until his high school days, when he began competing in AAU games. To make up for his late start in basketball, he relied on a natural ability he inherited from his mother (a gifted hurdler in her youth): exceptional leaping ability.

Together with his stepfather, James Wright Sr, they studied how 6'7" Dennis Rodman managed to make an illustrious career out of rebounding. Adam Himmelsbach quotes Wright's observation of Rodman's knack for besting other players in getting extra possessions for the Chicago Bulls,

"Jordan and I would really look at how Rodman knew the trajectory of a shot," Wright said by telephone. "He had an ability to read a shot when it’s taken, determine where a ball is going to hit the rim, and where it might go after it does"

Mickey went one step further to copy how Amar’e Stoudemire and Dwight Howard often relied on their second jumps to surprise players who thought their move was enough to get by him.

“I seem to catch a few people off guard not knowing I’ll be able to get off the floor that quickly a second time,” he said. “Players think they have me off one pump fake, and then I’m able to get back off the floor before they can get their shot off. It’s something that’s tough to adjust to.”

Jordan possesses barely passable NBA-level lateral speed, so he uses his second effort to chase down players who easily get by him, as shown below.

Tyrone Wallace stubbornly tried to use his quickness a second time with another rejection by Mickey.

Dennis Rodman competed in the days before the analytics movement took over the NBA, and the 3-point shot became a staple on offense. Jordan Mickey thrives in defending the restricted area where he limits opponents to a 56% conversion rate, which is even better than Hassan Whiteside allowing teams to score at a below average 57% EFG%.

Troubles arise once Mickey goes outside the confines of the painted area and tries to defend players beyond the 3-point line, where they have more freedom to roam. They scorch him there at an almost Miami Heat worst 50% success rate for them.

Since every made 3 basket gives the other team an extra point, versus the two points at the rim, that can result in a potential loss for the Heat. The New Orleans Pelicans took advantage of a porous 3-point defense in their win against Miami.

Coach Erik Spoelstra has a dilemma on how to employ a player with Mickey's strengths and weaknesses. One who can block shots and rebound at an impressive NBA level in the restricted area, yet lacks the agility and lateral speed to move around screens when defending players outside his comfort zone.