Thursday, October 4th, 2012 at 4:02 pm  |  24 responses

Top 50: Al Jefferson, no. 45

The definitive ranking of the NBA’s best players.

by Doobie Okon | @doobieSLAM

Player A: 18.6 pts/9.7 reb/1.8 ast/1.9 blk/49.6 FG%/76.1 FT%/35.9 minutes per game and started 100% of his games

Player B: 19.2 pts/9.6 reb/2.2 ast/1.7 blk/49.2 FG%/77.4 FT%/34.0 minutes per game and started 92% of his games

Who’s better?

Oh right, you can’t answer that because those are virtually the same stat lines for a regular season. Interestingly enough, SLAMonline ranks Player A at No. 33 and Player B at No. 45. Tell me how that makes any friggin’ sense, please. And no, I’m not telling you who No. 33 is—you’ll have to find that out next week. Player A was actually ranked 33 on last year’s Top 50.

Have you figured out yet that Player A (‘10-11) and Player B (‘11-12) are both Al Jefferson? Well I hope so, because apparently Big Al initiated decline mode this past season. And that thought is just ludicrous.

First of all, the stat lines for the two seasons speak for themselves. The only difference is that Jefferson only played in 61 games this past season due to the lockout, but as mentioned above, that was good enough for 92 percent of his team’s games. Other than that, all of the numbers in each category are in the same ballpark.

Now, I guess some people would have expected Jefferson’s numbers to distinctly improve in his second year with the Jazz, but it’s not like there was much to refine, at least offensively. For a guy who’s nearly 6-10, 290, his offensive game is electric. Capable of using the dribble and the shot-fake effectively in the mid-range and post, he can create his own shot like a guard. He rarely turns the ball over (1.0 per game) which is even more impressive when you consider that Big Al, along with his penchant for offensive moves, also really likes to dish. Jefferson has learned to utilize the passing part of his game more and more when facing the better defensive teams who know how to double him.

And I’ll tell ya one thing he did in 2012 that was decidedly better than anything he did 2011—Jefferson finally got his squad to the postseason. Although Al came off the bench for the Celtics in seven Playoff games back when he was 20, you could say 2012 was Jefferson’s first ‘real’ foray into the NBA’s grand second season.

And he didn’t disappoint.

His team sure did, but Jefferson performed admirably. Although the Jazz were swept by a torrid Spurs team, who at that time looked utterly impossible to beat, Big Al put up 18.3 points and 8.6 boards for the series, including 23 and 11 in Game 3 and 26 and 10 in Game 4. The Jazz didn’t make any huge moves this summer, so a little more continuity should have the Jazz eager to sneak into the Playoffs again in a tough Western Conference, and if they do, it’s pretty obvious who will be leading them there.

The guy is 27 years old and going into his ninth season. That’s youth and experience in one package. That’s called a prime. He has nightly 20/10 potential, takes care of the ball, and would boost any single NBA offense.

Yet, somehow, someway, Jefferson is dropping 12 spots this year, from 33 to 45. Okie dokie silly okio, I’m an idiot.

I seriously don’t get this one. I mean, sure, defense is a glaring hole in Jefferson’s game, but it always has been, so that can’t be the singular reason to drop Big Al so low. Even though Jefferson had one of this best years defensively last season, he’s never been the strongest man-up defender which renders him largely ineffective against the bigger centers. But it’s not like he’s an other-worldly awful stopper like, say, Brook Lopez. At least Al can rebound with the best of ‘em and can swat some balls away in the paint.

An improved Utah team might even help Jefferson on the defensive side even more. Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors can certainly pick up the slack. Tyrone Corbin has a year under his belt and will be better suited to craft his team, which is essentially the same group from last season. Jefferson certainly has the opportunity to jump back into the top 35 with a stellar season and a couple Playoff series.

What this No. 45 ranking tells me is that Jefferson has proven much, but he still has much to prove. That he’s a very good center, but not an elite one. That until he shoulder’s a deep Playoff run, his talented, offensive game won’t be able to mask his status as a secondary star in this League.

At age 27, entering his ninth season, Big Al still has plenty of time to do just that.

Where should Al Jefferson rank in the SLAMonline Top 50?

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SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2012
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Greg Monroe Pistons C 8
49 Tyreke Evans Kings PG 14
48 Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 13
47 Stephen Curry Warriors PG 12
46 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 11
45 Al Jefferson Jazz PF 14

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’12-13 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jake Appleman, Maurice Bobb, Rodger Bohn, Brendan Bowers, Franklyn Calle, David Cassilo, Bryan Crawford, Adam Figman, Eldon Khorshidi, Eddie Maisonet III, Ryne Nelson, Ben Osborne, Allen Powell II, Sam Rubenstein, Jonathan Santiago, Abe Schwadron, Leo Sepkowitz, Dave Spahn, Ben Taylor, Tzvi Twersky, Peter Walsh, Tracy Weissenberg, Yaron Weitzman, DeMarco Williams and Dave Zirin.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.

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  • Yes

    This write-up perfectly mirrors my reaction.

  • danpowers

    nice description of his game but an explanation about why he slipped would have been nice. or you guys couldve just spared the last one or two passages of text. i was reading it, thrilled like “wait for it, waaiiit fooor ittt” but then just empty phrases. come on slam, you guys can and normally do better than that ;)

  • 23

    I kinda thought Al was a center.

  • LeroyShonuff

    With an actual training camp and improved pg play, Al should have a better year. Utah has improved on the wings defensively which should improve his defense. Hopefully he no longer have to help as much and focus one on one. He could have a Zach Randolph type explosion in perception.

  • http://twitter.com/niQknacks niQ

    I’m not going to lie, I thought he was better than 45. I understand his defense is not as good as his offense but still, there’s not many 20/10 players in the league anymore…

  • JR

    Great write up Doobie, Al Jefferson certainly is a beast. Isn’t it possible that 12 players improved more than Al-Jeff since last years rankings? Reading this article reminded me of how seriously deep the Jazz are with quality big men: AJ, Millsap, Favors and Kanter..whoa.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    “Big Al, along with his penchant for offensive moves, also really likes to dish” – lol he doesn’t really like to dish. Although this season was his first where he wasn’t a complete black hole, the guy does not like to pass at all. Which is the reason he is so low on turnovers. He just shoots the ball when he gets it. Missing a shot isn’t a turnover. Shooting 18 shots a game to score 20 is pretty much glaring evidence of that. Plus, this year his .520 true shooting % is the lowest of his career. Couple all that with the complete lack of defense, i just don’t like him as a player. He’s cool for the box score, but not for the win column.
    And the reason Al Jefferson has dropped 12 spots is pretty simple, he was completely and utterly overrated last year.

  • LakeShow

    Good spot. He was too high last year. I like him more than some, but he is in the 2nd tier of PF/C’s.

  • Max

    Kevin Love went from Al Jeff light to Al Jeff senior.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sajjatam Sajjatam Tp Kulsomboon

    You can’t be the same player and expect to be ranked in the same position each year. There are other players out there who actually went out and improved their game.

    But Big Al was overrated last year anyways, so this is as good a spot as any for now…until Carlos Boozer finds his way into this ranking.

  • spit hot fiyah

    nice intro to the article, had me so confused with all that player a player b stuff. what’s more remarkable though is that he was ranked 23rd a few years ago

  • danpowers

    i hope youre getting paid by slam for this

  • Drig

    If Brook Lopez/Boozer end up on this list infront of him, that’d be absolute BS.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    what you mean? why would they pay me to disagree with them so often lol

  • danpowers

    for doing their work properly! lol

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    ahh lol, i appreciate it man. in defense, i think Doobie couldn’t say he was vastly overrated in the article, that would have looked bad.

  • danpowers

    sure but he couldve said smth about the true shooting % referring to his t.o. numbers and willingness to dish. his assist % went up from about 10% in 10/11 to 12% in 10/12 tho. but this guy is really a strange case and a mixed bag. his win shares went down from 7,8 to 7,5 while his win shares per 48 minutes went up from 0,128 to 0,173. thats almost the story of his whole stat sheet. offensive reb% decreased, defensive reb% increased. steal % increased, block % decreased and so on. but i think the most important thing is that a guy whose trademark is his offense and decreases in both, true shooting % and effective % even tho just slightly, has to slide in a comparison to others who improved even though his overall per increased from 20,1 to 22,8. to put a long story short, your statement explained it a little bit better than the explanation in the articel. you should write an application for slam if you didnt do that alrdy lol

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i have no journalism training, i am good at arguing (in my opinion) but i really just don’t know what the hell i’m doing writing my own story. I’ve tried to blog before, it just didn’t turn out well. idk.
    But back to Al Jefferson – his defensive rebound % and block % are directly correlated, like Kevin Love, Jefferson neglects contesting shots in and around the paint, to make sure he is in position to rebound. idk if it you can contribute it to his ACL tear from a couple years ago, or if he is just interested in making sure he isn’t beat as an individual or what….but there is a huge issue with his defense, and it skews his advanced statistical numbers, which causes people to interpret what he does as positive, when really, he’s hurting his squad.

  • danpowers

    lol just gve it a try and write an example. lets say about anthony and why you ranked him TOO LOW! lol

    i am also very skeptic about defensively weak big men. d is always important but especially down low where u normally are supposed to keep the number of opposing high percentage looks low not only for your own matchup but especially for guys driving to the rim. in jeffersons case thats a very important aspect because he plays major minutes for his team.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i would like to give it another shot, but idk, i just lack the confidence or i don’t think i’m entertaining enough (whatever you want to call it) to be a successful writer/blogger/whatever.

  • Doobie

    wow both of you guys need to relax. Wasn’t the whole point of my article that I was confused why he dropped so low? His great stats are all the same from the year before, he prob had his best overall year and also led his team to the playoffs, so if anything I think I made it clear that I thought he shouldn’t have slipped so much. Sure I could’ve gone into a million hollinger stats but nothing significant warranted his drop.

  • danpowers

    no offense on your article.i check on here every day so in my oppinion u guys r doin a great job. its just that the last few paragraphs were like “now he is going to explain it… now he is going to ex… the end!? wtf?” i didnt say it was a bad read. just that nbks argument made more sense. i think the point he made ( He just shoots the ball when he gets it. Missing a shot isn’t a
    turnover. Shooting 18 shots a game to score 20 is pretty much glaring
    evidence of that. Plus, this year his .520 true shooting % is the
    lowest of his career. Couple all that with [... there u took it too far nbk lol ...] lack of defense) couldve been a reasonable point. sometimes nbk is just killing it in here. his understanding of the game (with some exceptions) is jus above average and he is able to put valid points simple. i jus gave him props for that.

  • danpowers

    im not a journalist neither and english aint my mother tongue. so my judgement may not be important. jus sometimes looks to me like youre gifted at understanding and explaining the game to others. which could be called talent when it comes to writing about bball. ive read guys writing for big magazines or nba.com who were worse than you (not you, doobie. lol) y not give it a shot?

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    We are relaxed nobodies saying anything about you as a writer I just disagree with parts of the article.