Note: A castaway from other notable Bobcats blogs, Dakota Schmidt is an extremely confused 19-year-old who spends way too much time watching mediocre basketball. As a current resident of Central Wisconsin, Dakota tries to hide the pain of being a lifelong Bucks fan by watching and writing about such topics as the NBA D-League, Utah Jazz, and your Charlotte Bobcats. With the season quickly approaching, this insane young man spent an insane amount of time watching, analyzing and collecting clips of newly acquired Al Jefferson to help introduce the veteran big to the Charlotte Bobcats. Crazy? Yes. Helpful? Possibly, but you’ll be the judge as we take a look at all of the little facets in Al Jefferson’s overall game.
We start out this piece by taking a glance at Al Jefferson’s offensive bread and butter. In the following compilation, Jefferson experiments with a variety of different low-post moves that ultimately lead to success on the offensive side of the ball. That particular skillset was missing in Charlotte during the 2012-13 season, with their frontcourt nearly non-existent on the offensive side of the ball. Even with the acquisition of Cody Zeller in the 2013 draft, the Bobcats were still in dire need of help in the frontcourt, which is the main reason Jefferson was acquired.
The dynamic between Jefferson and Zeller could be extremely interesting because of Jefferson’s ability in the low-post and Zeller’s expertise near the perimeter. A prime example of how that could work would be Zeller working as a pick-and-pop partner with Kemba Walker, which would allow for potential openings inside the paint for Jefferson.
One of the biggest criticisms surrounding the signing of Jefferson pertained to the lack of perimeter threats in Charlotte’s offense. While having some solid perimeter options would ultimately help both Jefferson and the Bobcats in the half-court offense, Jefferson has spent a majority of his successful NBA career playing alongside some extremely mediocre backcourts. That could change with Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson.
Pick and Roll
One of the biggest things that has been holding Walker back throughout his two-year career with Charlotte has been the real lack of a pick-and-roll partner. In a game in which a majority of the teams run their offenses through the pick and roll, Walker had to learn to lead an NBA offense without a reliable frontcourt partner. That situation will most likely change in the upcoming season with the aforementioned additions of Zeller and Jefferson. Like I previously stated, Zeller is most likely going to be paired up with Kemba in the high post, with Jefferson looking to work his way down low.
With that said, Jefferson is an extremely solid mid-range shooter (shot chart below), so it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him work around the perimeter with either Kemba or Henderson. While he isn’t the quickest or most athletic big man in the league, Jefferson should be able to occassionaly wobble his way towards the top of the key to either hit that mid-range jumper or kick it to a cutting Cody Zeller.
While Walker and the rest of the Bobcats offense can help out Jefferson with different pick-and-roll sets, their work as a penetrating offense could do wonders for making Jefferson more effective. As apparent from the above video, Gordon Hayward’s ability to quickly penetrate to the paint and find Jefferson for an easy basket is something that Steve Clifford will hope to copy this season.
One of the great parts of this Charlotte offense is that the core of starters surrounding Jefferson is pretty mobile and athletic. Perhaps it could be MKG or Zeller penetrating from the high post, or Walker moving from the perimeter (like the play below), but there is some sort of potential and promise from this core of players.
One of the biggest criticisms of Jefferson is his questionable defensive ability. For a team that finished 29th in the league in points per game allowed (102.7 PPG), the addition of Jefferson combined with Zeller confused a good amount of Bobcats fans because of their lackluster defensive performances. While the public opinion on Zeller can improve if/when he continues to progress as an overall player, it’s doubtful that Jefferson can really improve on the defensive side of the ball as he enters his ninth season in the NBA.
As we examine Jefferson’s work on this side of the ball, let’s take a glance at how he performs in different facets of the defensive game. The first and arguably most important aspect of his defensive play would be his work inside the post against some of the more skilled frontcourt players in the league. In the following clip, Jefferson works against Blazers center Meyers Leonard, who starts out the play at a notable disadvantage by being placed near out of bounds. Jefferson uses that disadvantage to his own advantage by closing out on the mobile Leonard, who’s trying to work his way to the basket. With the closeout, Jefferson is able to deflect Leonard’s shot attempt.
On the negative side, we take a glance at Jefferson struggling against the extremely talented LaMarcus Aldridge. As Aldridge decides to post up near the top of the key, he’s able to work around Jefferson with the greatest of ease as he puts in the easy layup.
While Aldridge is one of the more talented frontcourt players in the NBA, it’s kind of frustrating to see Jefferson show such a real lack of effort. As you’ll be able to see through different clips, Jefferson has the tendency to just give up on a play if the opponent is able to make his way around him. That tendency and thought process could become extremely dangerous for Charlotte, because they don’t really have a defensive stopper in the frontcourt besides maybe MKG or Bismack Biyombo.
As previously mentioned, Jefferson has a tendency to either give up or to simply just lose track of his opponent. That trait is clearly apparent in the following play, as Jefferson attempts to defend Pelicans (then Hornets) forward Anthony Davis. With Davis attempting to set a simple screen on Eric Gordon, Jefferson motions over to Davis and Gordon in the hopes of helping on guard Randy Foye. After the screen, Davis moves to the top of the key to receive a a small chest pass from Gordon. While Davis is able to get in position to take an easy mid-range jumper, Jefferson loses track of the former No. 1 overall pick, and he’s still positioned by Gordon while Davis hits the open shot.
The addition of Jefferson could turn into a necessary evil for the Bobcats as we move into the 2013-14 season and beyond. By that, I mean it was extremely necessary for Rich Cho and the Bobcats organization to grab a player at the level of Jefferson to help elevate a depleted Bobcats frontcourt that has been one of the worst in the league since the loss of Tyson Chandler and Emeka Okafor. Since the absence of the duo during the 2010 offseason, Charlotte has been stuck in a historically awful rut. Could the addition of Jefferson alongside Zeller help push the team to respectability? That’s still up in the air.
From Day 1, Jefferson will be the most potent offensive weapon in team history because of his unique ability to draw double-teams when he’s in possession of the ball. While the lack of any real perimeter threats could be an issue with Jefferson on the court, the added attention that will be directed to the nine-year veteran could lead to some added openings for the likes of Henderson, MKG, Walker or Zeller. Perhaps that won’t be enough to take the Bobcats offense to the upper echelon, but at least it could be good enough to push them out of the cellar.
Where things could get ugly for Jefferson and the Charlotte Bobcats will be on the defensive side of the ball. Per Synergy Sports Technologies, Jefferson allowed a lackluster .9 PPP (Points Per Possession) during the previous season. It’s not likely for those numbers to drastically improve as he joins Charlotte. For a defense that has stayed near the bottom of the NBA cellar for the past four seasons, the frontcourt combo of Zeller and Jefferson doesn’t seem like the best duo to help improve on that side of the ball.
The only way I can see this pair working out is if Zeller can work near the high post with Jefferson being located inside the paint. If an opposing team tries to work a pick and roll against Charlotte, Zeller can try to defend the screener while Jefferson hangs down low inside the paint. While that may not be the most viable option, that’s the only way I can see this combo working because of how Jefferson has performed on the defensive side of the ball.