September 15, 2009

NBA Top 50: Al Jefferson (No. 42)

GYI0050819052.jpg, originally uploaded by Oldtimer13.
OtB is counting down the days 'til the NBA 2009-10 season tips off by ranking the top 50 players in the league. On Tuesday there are 42 days left.

There was a stretch during Kevin McHale's tenure as T'Wolves coach where they looked like they were on the road to respectability. They went 10-4 in January. And then Al Jefferson went down, and that was that. Before he injured his knee, Big Al was going at a rate of 23 and 11. Put quite simply, he's one of the best young big men in the league, and the only reason he's as low as this is the questions always surrounding a season ending injury. Hopefully he comes back strong and consistent as he's been in the past. He's unassuming almost to a fault, even taking a less-than-max contract because he "hadn't proved himself yet." In persona and on the court, he looks to be the next decade's Tim Duncan, though it'll take a big leap in the win column for Minnesota. However, he does share the leap from high school to the pros with Kevin Garnett, with whom he'll forever be linked since the trade between Minny and Boston two summers ago.

Last season, both went out with knee injuries before getting to game number 60. You gotta think Jefferson's gonna look better coming back. And before they went down, Jefferson was looking much more solid as well. There's no denying that Garnett has been a revolutionary player, but Al Jefferson is simply a force in the conventional areas that KG has ever shied from. How dominant can Jefferson be? Look at some numbers in perspective. In only his fourth season, Jefferson was hitting for 23.1 points per game, which is more than KG scored in all but one of his seasons. Last season, the Big Ticket scored less than 16 points per game. Jefferson also went for 11 rebounds a game to Garnett's 8.5. Another solid number for Jefferson is his .505 career field goal percentage, which doesn't scream efficient when compared to Garnett, but it is 10th best among all active players and 81st all time. Let's go a little deeper with our stats, though, as those two come straight from the boxscore outside of which we reside.

Jenga, originally uploaded by jeremy.plemon.
It's easy to take pot shots at Garnett, even if Doc Rivers says totally unbiased-ly that KG looks good and ready to go for 09-10. But how does Jefferson stack up against KG when comparing them at similar ages? In his five seasons in the league, Jefferson has been surprisingly consistent when it comes to effective production. Jefferson's scoring has gone up as he's become more and more the focus of his teams' offenses, which is to be expected. When it comes to rebounding, he's been between 10.1 and 11.7 rebounds per 36 minutes of play. In Garnett's first five seasons, Da Kid went from 7.9 to 7.4 and then steadily up to 10.6. That's right, as dominant as Garnett has been rebounding, Jefferson could have the potential to be even more dominant. Furthermore, Big Al has consistently pulled in between 17 and 19.5 percent of the caroms available when he's on the floor. Conversely, KG didn't reach that kind of production until he was 23 and didn't break 18 percent until he was 26. AJ has done it twice already, and in 06-07 when he played in all 82 games, he pulled in the astounding 19.5 percent, which was good for 4th in the league.

Is all this the Skinny or why he's #42? I don't know. Is this unnecessarily meta-? Probably. Is it time to stop? Yeah. Up next, a rookie with, well, swag. 'Til there are 41, S.

By Sean "Ho'omana'o" (previously "snagamat") with No comments


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