Friday, March 29, 2013

Blast from the Past: Jazz add Al Jefferson in July 2010

This is an interesting draft post that never made publication. It contains my thoughts on the Jazz letting Carlos Boozer go and adding Al Jefferson in the summer of 2010. At the time, I thought it would be a three-year experiment, and though parts haven't gone at all like I thought (Sloan and Deron leaving), I think it is timely to revisit this given the Jazz are heading into a off-season of considerable uncertainty regarding their big man:

I think from the rumors I've heard that this trade is a done deal, so I'll go ahead an preemptively comment on it. Losing Carlos Boozer to add Al Jefferson? I like it.

Offensively, Jefferson was unstoppable in the post before his ACL injury. He had developed a nice series of offensive moves, both face-up and back-to-basket, though I'm not sure what his injury does to his athleticism and ability to overpower defenders. His offensive rating was 111 compared to Boozer's 112 (higher is better, score is points/100 possessions), and due to his youth, I think he has a lot of room to grow. Just take a look at his assist %: it looks the same as Boozer's did when Carlos was in Cleveland. Jerry Sloan took Boozer in and developed him into a post facilitator that could kick to shooters in the right places. Boozer's assist % jumped from 10.3% to 15.9% his first year in Utah, and his per-36 minute assist numbers increased almost 50% from ~2.0 to ~3.0. That may not be a big difference, but the threat of the pass keeps defenses more honest as well as generating good shots. Jefferson's assist % is currently 10.0%, and if he can make the same jump Boozer did, his lower turnover rate and similar true shooting % should make him a better offensive player than Boozer.

On defense, Jefferson is worse at 108 versus Boozer's 102. But I think Jefferson's ineffectiveness can be attributed somewhat to the system, or lack thereof, that Minnesota ran. In fact, his defensive rating was the best among any Timberwolf that played more than 5 minutes all season. I believe he was let down by his teammates in Minnesota and that Jerry Sloan can help me become a better defensive player.

Finally, you have to look at what the Jazz gave up. They fit Jefferson into the massive trade exception generated by the Boozer trade, meaning they got a starting-caliber big man for only two first round picks. I know picks are valuable assets, but are the Jazz really going to draft a starting center picking in the mid-first round as a lower-rung playoff team? His salary is also a bonus: expanding to ~$15mm over 3 years, that is a great level for a starting CENTER. He is younger and better, and gives the Jazz some flexibility to build around in the next three years.

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