Jordan Bell’s playing time had been sporadic through the Warriors’ first 11 games of this year’s NBA Playoffs. During the first round he logged just under 13 minutes across the first three games against the Los Angeles Clippers, and did not receive any playing time in the next two before entering the final game of that series for two minutes.
Then, the Dubs went up against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals, during which Bell had less than one minute of total playing time across the first five games.
In all, Bell had 26 minutes of action over six games played through the Warriors’ first 11 postseason contests, and five DNPs.
But headed into Game 6 of the conference semifinals, the Warriors frontcourt was depleted with injuries to Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins, so the team had to lean on their bench for additional help to finish off the Rockets. In the absence of two stars, Bell received the nod to play 11 minutes and responded with a solid contribution of four points, two rebounds, and two blocks.
Draymond Green has watched Bell put in the extra practice time to be ready whenever he is needed: “It’s the staying ready… even when you’re not playing for 10 games straight, staying in the gym, being there early and getting the work in.”
“As a vet on this team, you see those things and you know, this guy been in the gym, and when his number get called, he’s either going to be ready or not,” Green added. “We have confidence in Jordan because we know how it’s been going in the gym all year long.”
Bell said that being tapped for extra minutes in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals had an impact on him: “When the coach calls your name in Game 6 against Houston at their place, and a game where we can possibly end it there, it gives you a lot of confidence going into the (next) series.”
That confidence was on full display with a well-rounded contribution in the Western Conference Finals where Bell averaged 6.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.8 steals, and 0.5 blocks in over 13 minutes per game.
He played well in the team’s first game against the Portland Trail Blazers (three points, four rebounds, three assists, plus/minus rating of +7), earning him a few more minutes in Game 2. It was in that next game, however, when Bell’s skills came out in full force: 11 points, three rebounds, two steals, and one block.
In Game 3 he filled the stat sheet once again, including six points and a block. His performance came with his highest plus/minus rating of the 2019 Playoffs in a game: +10. Bell was thriving, and the team was benefitting from his energy while he was on the hardwood.
Where could Bell go from there?
Steve Kerr’s answer: the starting lineup.
Prior to Game 4 in Portland, and to make up for being without Andre Iguodala due to a lower leg injury, Bell, along with Alfonzo McKinnie, drew their first-career playoff starts. Once again, Bell showed what he could do for the Dubs on both sides of the ball as he produced seven points, two assists, and another steal in 14 minutes.
Kerr said that the matchup with Portland was part of the reason why Bell has seen increased minutes, but his performance earned him even more time: “It’s a good series for him. It’s a good matchup. The way we’re playing suits him. We need a lot of speed out there… He’s not in a rush and he’s playing good basketball, so he will continue to get minutes.”
The outburst and demonstration of his growth has been a welcome site to Dub Nation, but also one that comes as no shock to his teammates.
Green said of the young forward: “I think [Bell’s] evolved mostly mentally. Obviously he’s shooting the ball better. He’s more confident in his little 10 to 14-foot range. He’s shooting his free throws better. You know, he’s gotten more intelligent. I think all those things are great but more important than all of that, is mental… I think right now, that’s paying off for him the most.”
It’s not just the preparation that has been key for Bell in the postseason though, but also a natural enthusiasm that is simply a part of who he is.
“Jordan Bell is one of those guys who has got that energy,” said Andre Iguodala. “He thrives off the spotlight. He enjoys being in those moments and people are watching him.”
Bell, in just his second year in the NBA, has stayed prepared for his moments through the playoffs; now, Dub Nation is watching the young forward grow at the right time and on the biggest stage.