Seeing Al Objectively

[Ed. Note: Good discussion going on in here!]

I am a long time reader here at SLCDunk. I love the commentary of the Jazz and the different perspectives and attitudes about different things that face the Utah Jazz. I also feel like I get a general feel for where people stand on topics here. As such I have always felt like Yucca Man is one of the best writers and is the best storyteller. I think Yucca Man has great insight and I like the way he looks at a lot of things and I always like reading his opinions. I also always felt like everything that he says about Al Jefferson has to be taken with a grain of salt because I always believed the big fault in his analysis of Al is that in my opinion he couldn't see Al objectively. That is why I couldn't help but call him out on twitter the other day when he pointed out that others can't see Al objectively. It struck me as very funny.

Like in politics, everybody needs someone to blame for everything that doesn't go right, Al Jefferson has become that guy for a lot of Jazz fans. So I got into it with Yucca on twitter and went way more rounds back and forth on twitter than should ever be gone. In the end he finally said, “You can't just look at one metric and say, There is complete O analysis.” I couldn't have said it better myself. Now he was referring to turnovers, but I loved the overall point. With Jefferson everybody that gets down on him seems to comeback to the one thing on offense that he does very poorly, lack of getting to the foul line, yet some are not willing to look at the one thing that he does so far above the rest of the league that there is a chance that those 2 things could balance out and make him a solid offensive player. I hope this post will at least help us do what Yucca Man wants and help us see Al Jefferson objectively.

With Al Jefferson we have all heard that Al isn't an "efficient offensive player." Everyone from Amar to David Locke has pointed out that Al isn't efficient. Spencer Checketts, when he was still on ESPN 700 even asked John Hollinger about Al's seeming lack of efficiency and the first thing Hollinger mentioned about Jefferson was incredibly telling to me. He started talking about the amazing thing about Jefferson is that he has two catchers mitts for hands and he has incredible footwork, resulting in him almost never turning the ball over. In the NBA when every blogger, analyst, play-by-play announcer, you name it, is trying to look at advanced stats to show what they think they know, yet the guy who has been doing number analysis longer than any of us quickly pointed to hands and footwork. It was telling to me. In our twitter back and forth not once did Yucca Man look at the fact that Al might have actual skills that help him not turn the ball over. He along with a few others said well it must be the way that the Jazz use him. It had to be that he doesn't pass or set screens or whatever. Nobody seemed to bring up the undeniable truth that Al has great footwork and stick'em on his hands. So I am not saying that those other things don't help his turnover percentage, but they aren't near enough alone to make him that much better than others. So we must accept that some of Al's ability to not turn the ball over is his skill set.

The Value of a possession

When discussing turnovers with Yucca, he made the point that, It doesn't matter that Al doesn't turn it over, because it isn't him doing a good thing it is the lack of doing a bad thing. My response is well what is efficiency? Efficiency to me is not just maximizing good things, but it is also limiting bad things. In business if you maximize the the quality of a good that you manufacture, but the costs get out of control to do that to the point where you can't sell the good at a price to cover the cost you are not efficient. If Al Jefferson is limiting a bad thing and still able to produce good things then that is a benefit to our team and he helps us run more efficiently. Also remember the one stat that cost the ESPN guy his job with Jeremy Lin. His turnovers were hurting his overall game. They were making him less efficient. Everybody could see that was the weakness to the kids game. So if a lot of turnovers hurts a guys overall game wouldn't that make a lack of turnovers a help to a guys game?

It was also pointed out in our twitter discussion that turnover's might not matter that much. I really disagree with this thinking. In my way of looking at things a turnover result's in 0 points for your team and they can often give the other team numbers the other way resulting a lot of times in an easy basket, a foul, or both. Whereas not turning the ball over will end up in a shot that the Jazz happened to make 48.1% of the time (efg%), or a miss which the Jazz had an offensive rebounding rate of 30.2 % so they can start the whole process over again, or a foul on the defense and the Jazz getting to the line where they shot 75.4%. so basically if you don't turn the ball over you have a pretty good chance of scoring, but if you do turn the ball over not only are you not even giving yourself a chance to score, but you could be putting the other team into an advantage situation which they get a higher percentage shot than normal or they draw a foul on one of your players and head to the foul line.

Look at the Miami Heat this year. When they try to run their half court offense they are just guys going one on one and are very beatable. Where Miami kills teams in in transition when they can create turnovers and get out and run. The nuts and bolts of not turning the ball over is you can shoot a lower percentage and stay in the game if you take care of the ball, plus you can get your defense set and not give up as many easy baskets. If you turn it over you dig yourself a hole and have to shoot lights out to stay in the game.

Al Jefferson the shooter

Another thing about Jefferson that I want to clear up is the idea that he is a poor shooter. While his TS% isn't great, because of his lack of FTs, the guy had an eFG% above the league average and shot above the NBA average from all ranges inside the 3-point line. Al also shot the ball better than any of our main 4 big men this year from the field (Regular season + playoffs) and turned the ball over about half as often as Millsap and about a 3rd as often as Kanter and Favors. Also for a guy that is supposed to be such a bad passer his AST Percentage was very close to Millsap's in the regular season and in the playoffs his ast percentage was higher than Gordon Hayward's. Also when you look at the fact that nobody outside of Al was shooting the ball above 50% in the playoffs it is all the more impressive to have an ast percentage like that in the post season.

Look Al isn't perfect. His P&R defensive was not good to say the least, that being said most big centers (Bynum, Perk, Duncan, Hibbert, etc.) do struggle to handle a PG 20 feet from the basket, just like most PG s would struggle to guard those guys on the block. David Locke even issued an apology to Al after watching other big men get eaten alive on the Pick and Roll. What Favors can do on defense is so amazing that he makes Al look even worse than he is on defense. Favors defense is unreal and what a team needs in the Pick and Roll heavy NBA right now.

I am not a complete Al homer, I think we should have done a lot more offense for defense substituting this year, but the truth is Al Jefferson was the go to guy on a playoff team. He had the 3rd highest PER among centers in the NBA (12th overall), he was 11th in the NBA in value added, tied for 10th in the NBA in estimated wins added. The Jazz were plus 3.2 Per 100 possessions with him on the court and minus 4.7 points per 100 possessions with him off of the court. Al didn't get to the foul line enough and his TS% shows that, but like Yucca said, "You can't just look at one metric and say, there is complete O analysis." If we really try to look at what is really going on the Jazz were a better team this year because of Al Jefferson. I don't know if he will be here forever or even passed the NBA draft, but let's not be so busy pointing out Al's faults that we don't also recognize his strengths.

So in short I am just asking for the same thing Yucca wanted, for us to see Al objectively.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.