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Do the Jazz need to ‘fix’ Al Jefferson and if so, how do they do it?

Sep 15, 2012, 6:21 PM EDT

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In a very thorough and open-minded post on the Jazz Blog SLCDunk, they’ve reached a conclusion that Al Jefferson is not nearly the player that Jazz fans want him to be or the organization needs him to be. This is going to run counter to what a lot of people outside of SLC tend to think about Jefferson, because, well, he’s a really good basketball player and we’re not pinning 35% of our hopes and dreams on him. (The other percentage is made of Paul Millsap 25%, Gordon Hayward, inexplicably, 20%, and Derrick Favors 20%.) The basic concept is that Jefferson’s defense is allegedly so bad, that he would need to be an elite scorer to justify his minutes and usage. So if that’s the case, how do you get him to elite scoring position without just having him throw the ball at the rim a bunch while Paul Millsap studies free agency?

 

From SLCDunk.com:

If we’re serious about playing Big Al big minutes in a contract year, and we’re serious about having him deserve those minutes, he’s going to have to be an Elite scorer.

And he CAN be an elite scorer if he: goes to the line more, and takes more shots where he makes them from.

It’s almost too simple.

To fix Big Al he needs to do more of what he’s good at. I could care less that he improved his fg% from 16 feet by 7%. He shot 68 fg% at the rim last year. He only shot there 4.1 times a game. That’s the problem on offense.

via NBA Elite Scoring, and being constructive about Utah Jazz Center Al Jefferson – SLC Dunk.

So the idea that’s presented is that Jefferson needs to get the ball on the cut, off the pick and roll, in simple dump-offs for quick scores, essentially making him a “quick-strike scorer” rather than someone you just feed in the post and let him do his thing, because what winds up happening is that he shoots from further out where he’s less efficient. That’s bad. It’s a weird kind of idea. Can you have someone who is your primary option on offense but who isn’t given the ball to create the shot he’s comfortable with and instead merely charged with finishing simple plays?

And that’s kind of the underlying tone of the piece, that this entire exercise doesn’t make sense, which is why Jefferson has to go as the Jazz have more and more decisions to make about their frontcourt in the future.

Now a few issues with this. One, I’m not willing to set sail on the Al Jefferson defense train of Hope yet. Big men tend to reach their fullest defensive potential much later than any other types of players. I’m not saying Jefferson’s going to morph into Serge Ibaka, but he can get to a point where he’s passable. In fact, the post mentions Dirk Nowitzki who is just fine in the way that Rick Carlisle has designed his defense. Second, it’s not like we haven’t seen Jefferson with the ability to score efficiently in the post. In truth, if you told me there’s a minute left in the game and one guy has to get the ball for the Jazz in a close game, I’m going with feeding Jefferson in the post. Guy’s money in the clutch, and I mean that in the scientific sense of the term.

But the blog is right in that Jefferson needs to become an elite scorer, and that means efficiency. But instead of trying to find him different spots or create a new model for an elite scorer, essentially extrapolating Tyson Chandler to 25 shots per game, instead the offense needs to improve so that doubles can’t come, and Jefferson can take advantage of mismatches. From there, it’s mostly a matter of Jefferson just… doing it. Sadly, no one can really control that, perhaps not even Jefferson, and that’s what makes it such a boggle for the Jazz.

I’m going to keep telling you, the Jazz are one of the most fascinating stories this season. They could detonate and hold a firesale, make the playoffs and go on a surprising run, anything. It’s a complex and nuanced situation that deserves your attention.

  1. jmclarkent - Sep 15, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    I think that Jefferson needs two things to be a key part of a winning team.

    1. Drop weight/ hit the gym. He is 6’10” – 290. While he definitely isn’t Oliver Miller, he is a far cry physically from Karl Malone. I think if he can get down to 255 – 260 it will GREATLY help his lateral movement.

    2. He needs to be next to a really strong defender. I think he and Favors can work well (assuming the continued development of DF), while he and (undersized but high effort) Paul Mislap are a sieve. If you could get him next to a Noah, Chandler, Ibaka type, he would thrive.

    I like what Al brings, but I (still…) think he is far more valuable to another team than he is the Jazz (If they keep Milsap and wish to develop Favors and Kantner). A deadline trade for some young parts/ a miscast wing could easily be a win/win.

  2. wj4122 - Sep 16, 2012 at 4:22 AM

    We were spoiled with two of the best players in history for so long that we still are scrambling to find a true identity. So many questions are to be answered and each one of those answers can have major reproductions if things don’t work out according ” to plan ” this will be fascinating to watch.

  3. scottieplongballs - Sep 16, 2012 at 4:36 AM

    Al Jefferson is a black hole. Once the ball goes in it never comes out. Hes not the kind of player to build a team around but instead a nice third peice.

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