Al Jefferson: The great season nobody realizes

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Sunday, March 30, 2014 with No comments
Written By Clevis Murray 

"Big Al" Jefferson was signed by the Charlotte Bobcats this past July to a 3-year, $40.5 million contract and is arguably the best free agent signing in the franchise's young history and probably their second best player in franchise history next to Gerald Wallace. He is currently having the best season of his career since the 2008-2009 season when he was member of the Minnesota Timberwolves and averaged 23.1 points and 11.0 rebound.  After Jefferson suffered a Torn ACL in his right knee, it looked as if would never become a 20/10 player ever again.

Jefferson is a Back-To-The-Basket player and is only one of the few remaining in today's NBA. With his 6'10" 289 pound frame he has great agility and footwork when posting up. He isn't sucked into the trend of big guys taking mid-range and 3-point shots. Jefferson realizes that not many people post up that much anymore saying "I have a game that a lot of people don't have anymore."

This season with Charlotte he has revived the franchise as they are having one of their best seasons in franchise history as they are currently 7th in the East with a 29-33 record (.468). The 29-year old veteran is one of only five players this season to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Jefferson this season has a 23.3 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) which is 14th among qualified NBA players and 3rd among centers. He's also 2nd among centers in usage rate with 26.7 (USG). His 6.5 turnover ratio (TO) is first amongst big guys which is understandable since he attracts double teams and is able to pass the ball out to the 3-point line for his teammates to shoot from behind the line. Jefferson is the defensive anchor for Charlotte as they are 7th in the NBA in defensive efficiency (DEF EFF) per 100 possessions with 101.4. To add "Big Al's" great efficiency, he is 2nd among centers in scoring per 48 minutes with a spot on average of 30. 

He's been gaining help from 2008 Basketball Hall Of Fame inductee and Charlotte Bobcats assistant coach Patrick Ewing saying

"Patrick, he told me the first day I met him that he knew I was a great offensive player, but that I've got to be motivated to become a better defensive player because that's the way we're going to win. When you've got a Hall of Famer telling you that, there's no excuse. You've got to do it. When he can believe in you, it makes it that much easier to believe in yourself. It's been amazing to have him around."

When Jefferson was signed by the team in July not many people were too fond of the idea of bringing in a almost 30-year old center that wasn't the same player since tearing his ACL in 2009 and also that the team should've stuck with brightening their future through the NBA Draft. The thing with Charlotte is that they haven't had much luck in the draft with most of their players either being busts or no longer with the team as in Raymond Felton (2005), Sean May (2005), Adam Morrison (2006), Brandon Wright (2007), Jared Dudley (2007) and D.J. Augustin (2008). The team has made a few good picks though in the past three seasons with Tobias Harris (eventually traded on draft night), Gerald Henderson (2008), Kemba Walker (2011), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2012), Jeff Taylor (2012) and Cody Zeller (2013). 

Al Jefferson has helped Charlotte surpass their win total from the past two seasons combined which was 28 and is making everyone that said him going to Charlotte was a bad move now reconsidering their words. The 10-year veteran has done nothing more than speed up the rebuilding process. 

Kemba Walker believes Jefferson was the perfect guy the team needed as he recruited Big Al in free agency saying

"He's that guy that we need on this team, Not only basketball-wise, off the court as well because he's been through a lot. He's been on winning teams, he's been on losing teams. He's that guy in the locker room that you need. When guys are down, he's the one picking everybody up, so I was excited that we signed him."

When he was drafted back in 2004, Danny Ainge called him a "star" in the NBA and despite never being selected to the All-Star game he hasn't let that hurt his game as he continues to play like one on a consistent basis. Since the All-Star break Jefferson has led his team to a 6-3 record while averaging 27.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 54.6% from the field in 35.3 minutes as he is trying to help his team clinch their second ever playoff berth. Jefferson has had three standout games in the past months when he scored 40 points (career-high) with 18 rebounds against the Lakers, had 38 points and 19 rebounds which went unnoticed because LeBron James went berserk and had a career-high 61 points, and lastly when Jefferson scored 34 points in a blowout win against the best team in the East which are the Indiana Pacers.

The Charlotte Bobcats and Al Jefferson have something in common that many people might not know about, and that is advancing pass the first round. Charlotte made their playoff debut in 2010 against the Dwight Howard led Orlando Magic but were swept and haven't made a appearance since. As for Big Al, he's made it to the playoffs only twice with Boston in 2005 and Utah in 2012. Both Charlotte and Jefferson were doubted by the entire basketball community this season and now with the season almost over, their doubters are becoming their supporters. 

It's very easy to say that without Al Jefferson the Charlotte Bobcats would not be in the position they are in now as he is estimated to help his team gain 11 more wins (ESWA) according to ESPN.

A few reasons why Al Jefferson is having a great season in which nobody is talking about is because he's playing in Charlotte which has a population of about 775,000 and with their small population it equals less notoriety. Also since the Bobcats have had a .189 winning percentage the past two seasons it's a team that has become known for losing and also the Bobcats aren't good enough to be seen on national TV. Jefferson also isn't a dazzling player on the court as he lets his game do the talking for him saying "I've never been the type of player kids want to go see at the park, I've never been that above-the-rim type of player like LeBron and Blake Griffin."

When's the last time you seen Big Al on the highlight reel? The casual NBA fan isn't too interested in hook shots, up and unders or spin moves. Other small market teams like Indiana and Oklahoma City have exciting players that are typically above the rim or just flat out professional scorers in Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Surge Ibaka and Paul George. 

True basketball fans realize the type of player Al Jefferson is and are giving him his props for what he does because what he does on the court is as beautiful as a Leonardo Da Vinci or Vincent Van Gogh painting. All fans that have watched the game back in the day are cherishing Al Jefferson because he is the last of a dying breed that is going extinct very fast.

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