I'm trying to understand the fans who really like Al Jefferson's game.
I've been trying to figure out what I'm missing. I'm trying to see why I should have reason to expect him to improve, why I should hope for the Jazz to make a playoff run with him.
I have really tried.
I mean, the Al supporters are very, VERY adamant about him. They went ballistic when it was suggested (early last year) that Millsap was a better post scorer. They insist Al's one of the better centers in the game. They go crazy when the "Let's play the young guys" crew (of which I may be the Captain) want Al jettisoned, benched, or whatever so Favors and Kanter can get their minutes. They scoff when people remind them that Memo is coming back and may deserve to start at C.
I looked and looked, but I just can't see it.
What I did see is after the jump.
First of all, I really like Al the dude. He's a very personable, likable guy. He's the kind of guy you want to see succeed. He's got the attitude and willingness to work that you want in your players. If I could just hang out with any current Jazz-man, Al would probably be number 1 on the list.
But Al the player ...
* * *
Here's a hypothetical question:
If you were a GM, would you believe you could put together a playoff contender by building around Carlos Boozer?
The Jazz tried. And it didn't work until they got someone better than Boozer. That doesn't mean it couldn't work, of course. There were Boozer's "injuries," we know. And Al, thankfully, isn't the kind of guy to pull those off.
But still. Would you build a team around Boozer?
And now the scary truth:
Boozer >> Al Jefferson
Boozer scores better (higher FG%, higher FT rate and roughly equal FT%). Al Jefferson scored 18.8 PPG last year. Put Boozer in with his average TS% and the same number of shots as Al and he scores over 21 PPG.
Boozer rebounds better. His offensive rebounding rate is 1% lower than Al's. His defensive rebounding rate is 4% higher. Total rebounding rate is 1.5% higher. Al has managed only one season with a higher rebounding rate than Boozer's average rate—and that was five years ago.
Boozer passes better. His assist rate is 14% compared to Al's 8%.
Boozer gets more steals.
There are exactly two statistical areas that Al trumps Boozer: blocks rate and turnover rate.
When Boozer was the same age as Al Jefferson (26*) he had played 1 fewer season, 100 fewer games, and 2000 fewer minutes. At the same time he had accumulated more Win Shares (43 for Boozer, 36 for Al). Remember, Win Shares is cumulative, so that Boozer got more WS in so many fewer games/minutes is pretty significant.
* Also interesting: Boozer's best year was when he was 26. He's never given anything statistically better since then.
Also interesting: Millsap has played five seasons to Al's seven. Sap has played over 4,000 fewer minutes and 100 fewer games. Millsap's Win Shares: 33. That's right. In 4,000 fewer minutes, playing 4 of the 5 seasons as a backup and given a secondary role, Sap has only three fewer Win Shares than Al. Incredible.
I've looked and looked, and the only conclusions I can see is this: Boozer was simply a better player. And not just slightly. Boozer was better in almost every facet of the game.
Two summers ago, when the Jazz traded for Al I freaked and called him Boozer 2.0. I was wrong. Al was Google Docs to Boozer's MS Office.
So now it's time for all the fans of Al Jefferson's game to step up. How is Al anything more than a mediocre player given a starring role?