Utah Jazz Center Al Jefferson isn't as bad as some of us think he is. That said, he's also not as good as some of us think he is. And furthermore, and this is personal opinion, I don't think he's as good as he needs to be as a first option on a legit contender.
But this isn't going to be another thread for re-hashing the holy war that's being waged for our $15 million dollar man. Instead, I wanted to share some of the interesting data I'm finding when looking at our bigman. Al had a very interesting season, and I am writing a larger piece on him. But did you know that in the history of our team there have only been 5 different guys to average at least 18 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 apg, and 1 bpg in a season? Obviously Karl Malone is up there on that list. Al Jefferson is too. Bet you can't guess any of the other player(s) on the list.
Big Al in 2011-2012:
This past season Big Al scored 19.2 ppg, pulled down 9.6 rpg, dished off 2.2 apg, and sent back 1.7 bpg. Not a lot of Utah Jazz centers dish the ball over two times a game. Heck, not a lot of Utah Jazz centers even block 1.7 shots a game. As far as being a Utah Jazz center he scores very highly in assists and blocks. But Al isn't just supposed to be graded against his most direct peers. He also inhabits the role of being our best big, and our first option over all. Our best big is supposed to get a double double. Our first option is supposed to average over 20 a game. Being the best big and the first option means he should be a 20-10 guy. In two of his six seasons with the Jazz, Carlos Boozer was a 20-10 guy, and that is above being a double double guy in 4 of his 6 years here.
Boozer wasn't either of those things in his first two seasons on the Jazz. And he hasn't been either of those things on any other team, not before or after playing here. (Okay, double checking my work, yes, he was a double double guy in his last year in Cleveland, but that kinda ruins the narrative.)
Big Al has played two years here now. And both times he has failed to be a double double guy, or a 20 point scorer. I'm not ragging on him. I'm just stating facts which are based upon statistics. And, before we go too quickly here, statistics are the quantitative measurements of on court production. After all, the final score of the game (the single thing that determines wins and losses) is a statistic.
Is Big Al going to get 6 years here? I don't know. I do know that right now his production appear less than Carlos Boozer, but in Boozer's first two seasons here he wasn't a double double guy, or 20 point scorer either.
And also, Boozer never had an 18/8/2/1 season for the Jazz. Big Al did this last year.
18 / 8 / 2 / 1
As we saw last night in the NBA Finals, LeBron James finished a great game one rebound shy of something that would have appeared to be immortalized that much more. We care about big numbers, especially big round numbers, or multiples of 5. That said, our infatuation with those numbers (a double double, or a 20-10) make us over look really solid play, especially over all play. Big Al could have been a 20-10 guy, but he also blocked nearly 2 shots a game. Boozer's never done that. There have only been 5 times in Jazz franchise history where a player had season averages of 18 / 8 / 2 / 1.
Like most other historical Jazz lists, Karl Malone makes a big impression; and his magnificence is hard to avoid. Or ignore. Each of those years he was a double double guy, and also a 20-10 guy. He also averaged close to 4 apg in each of those years as well. And at least 1.5 spg as well (which we're not including in this discussion). The other guy was Spencer Haywood. And he only played in 34 games for the Jazz that year.
First of all, it's great that Big Al is on such an exclusive list of players. Nothing can take that away from him. Second, yes, Karl Malone's new nickname should be "The outlier". He skews all the data because he was such a beast. That said, as a Jazz fan I can't avoid comparing our first option to the gold standard. If anything Karl is a frame of reference. I need him (UDQM) to be that in order to know how good or bad some one else is.
Big Al plays the least minutes, scores the least points, but blocks the most shots. He never gets to the line, but that's in the "Extra stuff columns", and not the "Important" ones. His performance last season, within this exclusive club that he has done so well to be a part of, was below average.
And that's the thing, Big Al is very good on his own. He's currently our best big, and as a best big, he's not that bad. He's not perfect, but no player is perfect. When you compare big al, well, that's where the problems start. This is not a grass is always greener issue either. Compared to other first options his numbers were, well, also below average. I know, I did a post on it a while ago. (I can't find the link to it. Man, there are too many posts on this website) (20 mins later I found it . . . here).
But again, that doesn't in any way mean Al is a bad human being, father, common law boyfriend, attentive family member, or team mate. It just means that at his current role, or location on the scoring totem pole, he's not where he *should* be. Knock him down to being the #2 guy and the only criticism of him is that he's expensive. As the #1 guy he's over-paid and under productive.
He's not as bad as some of us think. He's just not as good as we'd want him to be. I don't think any of us have said that if Al Jefferson becomes super efficient, gets to the line 5 times a game, and is super mobile on defense that we'd still call for his head. We who are critical of him are criticizing his play. And I think that is valid.
And again, there's a bigger Al post coming up later. This is to SHOW that Al is very unique and while he does not dominate in any one category (doesn't score 30 a game like Karl, or get 15 boards like Boozer, or block 5 shots like Eaton), he's very capable in a lot of them.
And it is capability that is currently irreplaceable.
Derrick Favors is someone we feel can be a player who can take 'it' to the next level. A lot of us have high hopes for him. Myself included. Clearly. I think he will be an All-Star one day if developed properly. He's just not an All-Star now. He now has two seasons under his belt. And he really came on strong. April 2012 wasn't his best month ever, but across the board it was a pretty strong one. Let's look at how Favors stacks up against this 5 man strong club:
|Month of April||2011||2012||20||13||25.1||9.8||8.4||0.9||1.5||57.1%||70.6%||2.6||0.5|
|April prorated up||2011||2012||20||13||34.0||13.3||11.4||1.3||2.0||57.1%||70.6%||3.5||0.6|
See, he's way off in a few places, but does satisfy the criterion in a few others. He satisfies more when you Pro-Rate his minutes up to Big Al's 34.0 mpg. 13 and 11 gives you that double double. And it's a nice place to start for a 20 year old. It's also a) a very small sample size (n = 13); and b) impossible to suggest that Favors will have these numbers. Favors will have numbers, more and more numbers as he continues to improve. But "these" numbers will not be his numbers. He can be better or worse than any projection. And reality > than a projection. And in reality, Big Al had a very solid season -- two years younger than the average (27 < 29).
Favors will improve for sure. The question is how much more can Big Al improve? If he can, then it would be silly to get rid of him so soon. After all, we hung onto Carlos Boozer for 6 years. Right?
Food for thought.