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Season Report Card ’13-14: Al Jefferson


Big Al big

PER PER Against (Net)
Al Jefferson 24.5 17.4 (+7.1)

While there’s usually an influx of uncertainty that surrounds a high-priced free agent signing in the NBA, that level of skepticism was escalated when the Bobcats signed veteran Al Jefferson to a three-year deal. Despite the fact that the move marked a potential change in the overall landscape of the Bobcats organization, there was still some skepticism about the moves for a multitude of reasons.

As mentioned in the following piece,  SBNation’s Mike Prada criticized the Jefferson deal based on the notion that the ‘Cats would have to restructure their entire offense around an inefficient player that struggles on the defensive end. While that  reputation was absolutely warranted based on his past performances with Utah or Minnesota, a return to the Eastern Conference marked a pivotal for Jefferson and the future of the Bobcats/Hornets organization.

Strengths: While the aforementioned flaws of Jefferson’s overall game hasn’t completely vanished, the 29-year-old center’s overall impact on the team was undeniable. On a team that arguably hasn’t featured that “go-to” offensive weapon in franchise history, the addition of Jefferson helped solidify an offense that was otherwise considered to be a barren wasteland of mediocrity and Byron Mullens. While the team’s offense didn’t quite turn into the 2nd coming of the mid-00’s Suns, Jefferson’s overall offensive approach was solid enough to elevate the team to where they’re currently at.

Even though Charlotte’s offensive improvements can’t be entirely attributed to the addition of Jefferson; the veteran 6’10 center definitely helped push the overall progression. From a statistical perspective, the Bobcats’ offense definitely turned the corner into becoming a more effective unit. A prime example of this could be pointed at the drastic improvement with Charlotte’s eFG% (effective Field Goal Percentage) from 2012-13 (.46%) to this past season where the 6’10 center helped push it to 48%.

As the league continues to turn into a perimeter-oriented game, Al Jefferson’s ability to completely master the art of the low-post game continues to be one of the more breathtaking sights to behold. Per Synergy Sports, the 29-year-old center was able to average an extremely impressive .97 PPP (points per possession) in post-up situations which sets him above the rest of the top-notch front-court players in the NBA. As previously mentioned, Jefferson’s low-post ability is definitely an extremely amazing sight to behold because of the relative ease that he displays on a play-by-play basis.

Although people may point to Jefferson’s previous issues on the defensive end, the 6’10 center made some noticeable improvements from his time with Utah. While a portion of Jefferson’s developments to the overall defensive scheme of Charlotte coach Steve Clifford, Big Al definitely looked like a more consistent, focused part of that Bobcats system. Even though he could still seem to be a little slow-footed during PnR situations against more mobile front-court players, it’s safe to say that he fit into his given role in Clifford’s defensive scheme. With that in mind, opponents finished the season with a below-average of .81 PPP (Points Per Possession) when they square off against Big Al which was a pretty solid improvement from the previous season.

Weaknesses: While it might be safe to say that Jefferson isn’t quite the 2nd coming of Hakeem Olajuwon, it’s really hard to find any major weaknesses from his 2013-14 season. One of my minor issues with Jefferson would be his work away from the low-post. Even though Jefferson is definitely effective away from the rim because of his PnR work with Kemba Walker, the 29-year-old center is prone to taking a wide array of mid-range jumpers. Between 15-19 feet away from the rim, Jefferson shot an incredibly pedestrian 37%.
Reasons for Optimism: At this point, the addition of Jefferson to the Bobcats/Hornets organization has been an extremely solid success. As the 2nd half of the season wore on, the overall chemistry that Jefferson and the rest of the Bobcats had was one of the more entertaining and exciting aspects to observe. Jefferson’s low-post was an absolutely beautiful thing to behold and it’s just going to be fun to watch the rest of the team grow around him for the near future.

Reasons for Pessimism: While it was courageous and gutsy to watch Jefferson to play in that Miami series with a torn plantar fascia, you can’t help to be a little worried about his future. With that in mind, Jefferson will have the entire season to recover from that injury, so I wouldn’t expect it to cause him too much trouble during the 2014-15 season.