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Maybe you shouldn’t expect Al Jefferson to be a Spur

Feb 7, 2013, 11:45 AM EDT

Utah Jazz v Dallas Mavericks Getty Images

Yesterday we brought you the report from Chris Sheridan that the San Antonio Spurs were way out in front of the pack in terms of trading for Al Jefferson of the Utah Jazz.

The move has some logic — Jefferson is in the last year of his deal, he’s a better player than Tiago Splitter (the guy reportedly part of the package headed to Salt Lake) and if the Spurs are serious about a title run this season Jefferson helps that cause.

But it’s probably not going to happen, says Dan McCarney at the San Antonio Express-News. And he’s got some really solid reasons why.

1. Jefferson is more expensive. While Splitter is set to enjoy a nice payday this summer, it’s doubtful he’ll approach the $14 million Jefferson is due this season. Considering he’s still only 28, Jefferson will likely be searching for something close to that on the open market after averaging at least 16 points and nine rebounds over the past seven seasons.

2. Jefferson is primarily a low-post scorer who doesn’t fit nearly as well as Splitter does with the Spurs’ pick-and-roll heavy offense. He’s effective, scoring 1.1 points per pick-and-roll play to rank 24th in the NBA per Synergy Sports. But he’s involved in such plays on only 8.4 percent of his possessions. Splitter, in contrast, ranks second with 1.39 points per play on 29.1 percent of his possessions.

3. Various other measures indicate Splitter is a better defensive player. The opportunity to play alongside Tim Duncan is a huge reason why. But not only does Jefferson yield more points per possession according to Synergy, the Jazz allow almost 10 points more per 100 possessions when he’s on the court.

4. Can you see the Spurs, who value consistency and continuity like no other franchise in the NBA, executing such a major trade in the midst of a campaign in which they’ve got the league’s best record with a home-heavy schedule over the second half?

To me, numbers one and four are key. Splitter is playing well, playing well within their system and he costs less now and going forward. Are the additional costs and risks really worth the talent upgrade from Splitter to Jefferson? I think if you answered yes to that question you haven’t watched a lot of Splitter this season, he’s playing well.

Besides, if the Spurs and Jazz do a deal it will come out of left field — these are the two tightest-lipped organizations in the game. There will not be leaks, it will just happen and we’ll find out when the league office does.

Still, expect Jefferson or Paul Millsap to get moved somewhere at the deadline.

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