"D Williams is Batman…He's the captain..[a]nd I'm Robin. So I'm willing to do whatever…I'm going to adjust to him. Whatever he needs me to do is going to be done. Because the first thing he said to me when I talked to him is, 'I'm going to make you an All-Star.' And when he said that to me, I believed him." - Al Jefferson
I accepted the Jazz's addition of Al Jefferson with great excitement this summer. He said the right things, he was younger and taller than Boozer, their statistics were in the same neighborhood, and Al was coming at a cheaper price. But, admittedly, for all of Jefferson's advantages, my enthusiasm was somewhat tempered by the advantages Boozer seemed to be taking with him. (i.e. Boozer is clearly the better passer. Boozer is clearly the better shooter). Today, however, it is my belief that Al will give us everything Boozer did and more. As if you needed any more reason to love Big Al, let me provide you with a pair of tasty statistical nuggets.
1. Boozer is NOT clearly the better passer.
Prevailing thought suggests that Boozer is a better passer than Jefferson. Boozer tallied 3.2 assists per game ("APG") last season while Jefferson only managed 1.8 APG. But looking closer, we quickly see why those marks are deceptive. Although Boozer had more APG, he also averaged 1.01 bad pass turnovers per game ("BPG"). Jefferson? Only .48 BPG. So while Boozer had more APG than Jefferson, he also had twice as many passing turnovers. In short, Jefferson had 3.697 assists for every bad pass while Boozer only had 3.159 assists for every bad pass.
Why should this excite you? Al is a better passer than we thought. Now, is he better than Boozer? The jury is still out. It may be the Jazz system requires more from a passer. The flex offense involves a lot of moving parts: picks, backscreens, cutters. Passing in the flex system often requires finding a moving target who has only a little (though an important little) separation from his defender. Minnesota's offense, however, is more simple. It wasn't infrequently that Big Al just received the ball in the post, did his thing, and if he didn't have success would kick it out to an open shooter. The numbers support this idea. 65.2% of Big Al's assists went to teammates who hit a jump shot or a three pointer. Only 34.8% of his assists led to close shots or dunks. In the Jazz system, however, 50.0% of Boozer's assists culminated in a close shot or a dunk. This suggests that Boozer may have been making more difficult passes which could account for his lower assists to bad pass ratio. One point to Boozer. BUT, we also must remember that Big Al was often passing out of double teams that Carlos Boozer rarely saw, if ever. This could easily outweight the more demanding flex passes Boozer was making. One point to Al.
So while I'm not prepared to declare Jefferson the better passer, I'm ecstatic that, contrary to prevailing thought, I also can't declare Boozer the better passer. Jefferson has a higher assists per bad pass ratio. And while Boozer was making tighter passes inside that led to easy scores, Jefferson attracted double teams Boozer rarely faced. All this suggests to me that Big Al is going to be just fine as he learns to make the passes the flex offense requires.
2. Boozer is NOT clearly the better shooter.
Prevailing thought also suggests that Boozer is the better shooter. Boozer's FG% last season was a whopping 56.2%! Big Al's FG%, though respectable, was a much lower 49.9%. So how can I say Boozer isn't clearly better? Prepare to have your mind blown Jerry Sloan style.
Last season 74% of Carlos Boozer's field goals were assisted while Jefferson's field goals were only assisted 45% of the time. WHAT?! Seriously, that's no typo, and it is incredibly significant. Passing leads to easy looks, leads to separation, leads to buckets. Case in point: Big Al, the post player, the warrior of the paint where men are made, only made 40% of his shots in close proximity to the rim (meaning 60% of his FGs came from jump shots). Boozer on the other hand made 51% of his shots close to the rim. How's that? I'll give you a hint, his number starts and ends with 8. (credit also to the rest of the crew and the flex offense) Indeed, Boozer, the same Boozer who was blocked 6 times by the Lakers in a single game last season, made 7% of his shots on dunks while "Big Al" only dunked it home 4% of the time. That's a 57% difference! Ladies and gentleman that number is going to change in Utah. In short, Deron is going to make Big Al an all-star.
Now, I know what you are thinking. Dunking is not shooting, surely Boozer is the better outside shooter? Perhaps. Boozer shot an effective field goal percentage of 44.8% when away from the basket. Jefferson only shot 38.9%. But again, Boozer was assisted 75% of the time on jump shots while Big Al was only assisted 50% of the time on the same shots. This difference is meaningful. It's the difference between Big Al shooting with a guy in his face and Boozer enjoying a clean look at the basket courtesy of a Deron Williams orchestrated pick and pop. David Locke, reviewing all of Jefferson's post plays from the 2009-2010 season had this to say:
On the over 200 post plays I watched only 7 times did [Jefferson] catch and shoot right off a pass, think about how many times Boozer and Millsap have just caught the ball and quickly put it up off good passing.
Jefferson's shooting percentages will go up this season. And, my apoligies to Chicago and the commendable efforts of Derrick Rose, Boozer's will decline.
Smile. This preseason while you celebrate that Jefferson is taller than Boozer, younger than Boozer, wants to be in Utah infinitely more than Boozer, was blocked 44% less last season than Boozer, and costs less than Boozer, don't forget to give a shout for Big Al's (at the very minimum) "comparable" passing and shooting statistics.
Big Al, welcome home!
All statistics courtesy of 82games.com and NBA.com