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Thursday, September 26th, 2013 at 3:00 pm  |  75 responses

Top 50: Al Jefferson, no. 44

Big Al is poised to push his career bests in Charlotte.

by Abe Schwadron / @abe_squad

They say honesty is the best policy. And after all, my first name indicates I can’t lie to you guys. So let’s get this out of the way up front—Al Jefferson wasn’t on my personal Top 50 list. Big Al was one of my final cuts.

That means two things:

1. That you should remember these rankings are a composite. And while my list, or anyone else’s list, may seem perfect to us, that’s not the way it works.

2. Enough of my SLAM fam peers still have faith in Jefferson that I’ve been forced to re-consider.

I’m not mad at Jefferson’s ranking. Truth be told, it’s within spitting distance from where he landed for me, and upon a closer look, I can rock with it. I’ve got bigger fish to fry later on in this countdown, anyway. Matter fact I hope, for the handful of Charlotte Bobcats (are we supposed to call you Hornets yet?) fans out there, that he far surpasses this spot. Lord knows dude has the talent.

The first time I saw Al Jefferson play basketball was back in 2004, when I sat in the lower bowl at University of Maryland’s Comcast Center for what was then still called the Jordan Capital Classic. The previous year, I’d watched LeBron James do his thing in the Jumpman showcase down in DC. This time, top billing went to future No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Dwight Howard.

And while Dwight picked up MVP honors in convincing fashion, a wide-bodied, bruising man-child from Mississippi had me scanning my program from the jump. (I learned his name was Al Jefferson, and that he averaged a ridiculous 42 ppg in his senior year of high school.) Jefferson gave Howard all he could handle on that day with 17 and 10, and looked destined to be a perennial All-Star and sure-fire 20-10 guy in the L.

College? Nah, b. I like this nugget from an ESPN scouting report prior to the ’04 Draft: “Jefferson, when asked by reporters about whether he’d play at Arkansas next season, laughed at the question. ‘They’re like, ‘Come one year and be a lottery pick next year,’ and you can’t get an education in one year.’”

Of course, none of that has anything to do with Jefferson’s No. 44 ranking for ’13-14.

But perhaps it helps contextualize why Big Al’s trajectory on this list looks the way it does since entering the League with the Celtics nine years ago. After showing flashes in Boston, he exploded in Minnesota, then finally logged legitimate post-season minutes in Utah. And yet here we are: Charlotte next up on the 28-year-old’s wandering NBA career.

Coming off a monster ’08-09 season, Big Al looked like a top-25 player on the planet. Offensively, dude couldn’t be stopped, dropping consecutive seasons of 21-plus points and 11 boards a night. Alas, neither season resulted in so much as an All-Star bid, let alone a first-round playoff series victory.

Still, we wanted to believe that Jefferson still had it in him to be a bona fide No. 1 option on a contender. But his production slipped slightly and his teams stayed mired in barely-above-average-ness at best. Last season, we ended our Top 50 write-up of Big Al with this:

“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 shoulders 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.”

Now a decade into his career, and on a team that no sane person would call a contender, is time beginning to run out on Big Al?

A year later, after Jeff’s Jazz missed the Playoffs and his numbers dipped to 17.8 and 9.2 per, we moved him…up a spot. Because, well, a new face in a new place often breeds optimism.

Jefferson inked a three-year, $40.5 million deal with Charlotte back in July, which by default immediately makes him the biggest free-agent signing in the history of the Charlotte Bobcats. He will surely make the Cats a better team offensively and probably produce big numbers as the top option in Charlotte, while freeing up space for Kemba Walker and shooters.

Sure, there is nothing sexy about Jefferson’s game. On offense, it’s a whole lotta post-up, and he’s damn good. Big body, big hands, big task for opposing centers. He’s never been terribly efficient, but since entering the NBA, he’s scored between 1.08 and 1.12 points per possession in every year where he played at least 60 games. That’s good, not stupendous.

On the other end of the floor, even Jefferson admits that, well, he stinks. He’s a proficient defensive rebounder, but he’s generally lost beyond that. He literally told Grantland’s Zach Lowe that this is what he thinks about when playing D: “On defense, I’m just thinking, OK, Al, you gotta be ready. Be focused. Here they come with the re-screen! Oh, shoot!

He promises to get better, though. And if he can improve defensively even in the slightest, he may finally be poised to put together that All-Star season we’ve been waiting for—after all, on a Bobcats team devoid of scoring, he’s primed to push his career bests in points. Convince me, Al.


Where should Al Jefferson rank in the SLAM Top 50?

Loading ... Loading ...
SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Monta Ellis Mavs SG 5
49 Luol Deng Bulls SF 10
48 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 14
47 Greg Monroe Pistons PF 12
46 Kawhi Leonard Spurs SF 9
45 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 13
44 Al Jefferson Bobcats C 9

Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.

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  • Dundler

    I like Al. Really is an offensive and rebounding force. To be honest I think he got a bit unlucky with Utah and how they handled the team cos they probably had a real oppotunity there with him and Millsap.
    He’ll put up good numbers on Charlotte, but that’ll probably be it. Solid ranking (but Conley is above him now)

  • Nathan Shane Long

    Big Al will form a solid frontcourt with Cody Zeller in Charlotte

  • LakeShow

    I don’t like.

    Al is a terrible player. He is a stat filler and that is all.

    Sorry, the hate runs strong in this one.

    Shaq scored 25ppg on 16 shots… Al Jefferson scores 17.8 points on 16 shots. Dwight Howard has never even got off 13 shots per game in his career and scores 2 more ppg on his career….That is embarrassing for a center. Then take into account how he doesn’t play a lick of defense and I really don’t like this rating.

    He’ll put up pretty #’s in Charlotte.

    Probably 18-10-1.5 on 49%

    But they’ll be just that, numbers.

  • LLC#12

    Seeing that Big Al was at 25 just 3 seasons ago made me curious, so I checked out the 2010-11 rankings, to see how much has changed in 3 years. Turns out, quite a lot..here’s a couple things that stood out
    Ray Allen at 50, his last year in the top 50 I think?
    Gilbert Arenas at 49!
    Odom at 48, his fall from grace has been sad to watch!
    Yao at 38 (heading into his final season?)
    Gerald Wallace at 32. Long before he got Space Jam’d of any shooting ability
    Chauncey Billups all the way up at 23! (1 above Westbrook)
    Carlos Boozer at 20
    Nash at 15! (in the rankings prior to last season, he was at 21. From 21st to NR has to be the biggest drop ever?)
    Brandon Roy at 11. 1 above D-Rose, just prior to his MVP season.

    Due to age, decline, injuries, shenanigans, or all 4, these guys top 50 days are probably long gone.

  • Junior Taylor

    Looks like Caboose and NBK were on point when talking about Slam not caring one lick about defense. It explains why Al “Saloon Door” Jefferson is ranked above one of the best defensive players in the L (Conley).

  • spit hot fiyah

    if by solid u mean score some points while getting murdered on defense on a bottom 5 team, then yes.

  • spit hot fiyah

    He literally told Grantland’s Zach Lowe that this is what he thinks about when playing D: “On defense, I’m just thinking, OK, Al, you gotta be ready. Be focused. Here they come with the re-screen! Oh, shoot!”

    that’s gold right there

  • shockexchange

    Al is also really, really tall. The last time the Shock Exchange checked, basketball was a tall man’s game and really, really tall guys received extra credit for being really, really tall.

  • Stepfan Raiford

    Saloon Door hahahaha

  • LakeShow

    Perfect right? haha

  • Stepfan Raiford

    Al Jefferson one of the best ball stoppers/black holes in the league. Decent offensive talent that refuses to play defense. Defense is all about position and effort, both of which he doesn’t understand. Shouldn’t even have made the top 50.

  • Stepfan Raiford

    I wish I thought of that. That joint got me in tears.

  • Nick Holden

    Like many others here I am not feeling this ranking. Good defensive centers are just so important and Big Al sure ain’t one. Slam are slowly realizing themselves how they are overrating this guy, look how high they had him not too long ago! And one would think he would be in his prime now

  • Caboose

    Bravo on Saloon Door.

  • Dundler

    At this rate, Nick Young is making an appearance here

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    I am not that upset about this one. I had him at 51 (he’s been falling though) and I expected him even higher. So, meh

  • Dundler

    Guesses for remaining 8 centres? I have Howard, Gasol, Noah, Lopez, Hibbert, Chandler, Davis…who am I missing? Unless Duncan is listed as C?

  • Defense over Defense

    No man i think it’d be Howard, Gasol, Noah, Hibbert, Chandler, Lopez and Mcgee. No Davis and Duncan is a PF.

  • Dundler

    Javale…Mcgee…

  • LakeShow

    lol…

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Al Horford or Tim Duncan. Idk which one is C and which one is PF.

  • Dundler

    Oh yeah maybe Horford is then. Splitter seems full time starting C to me.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Duncan is a Center. He literally played every single minute he was on the court last season at Center. Got to 82games.com and look. .
    Duncan has literally played Center every year since Robinson retired. It’s just the Spurs/Popovich kept labeling him a PF on their starting lineup. What is really hilarious is how many teams defended him with PF’s because of this distinction. He has always been a Center skillset wise. Just couldn’t call him that with David Robinson. (He also didn’t want the C label – which has really helped his legacy. He’s the GOAT power forward, instead of the 5th/6th best Center)

  • Dundler

    Potatoes, potatoes. Regardless, what did you think of the order (minus Horford/Duncan)

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Just a bit different, and for the record, Pau Gasol is a Center too.

    Howard – Gasol – Duncan – (Horford) – Noah – Hibbert – Lopez – (Davis) – Chandler – Cousins – Gortat – Sanders – Vucevic – Asik

    But Pau Gasol, Duncan, and Davis will probably be rated as PF’s.

  • Dundler

    Yeah I agree with Hibbert over Lopez. Ha your right, too long watching him start at 4. Can’t be bothered to look, but wonder if this is highest number of centres on the top 50′s

  • Nathan Shane Long

    Answer me this troll what “BIGS” in the EAST are going to “murder” Al Jefferson when all of them are face up jump shooter that has little or no post up game that are not bangers on the block

  • BugEyes

    I’m lost saloon door?

  • BugEyes

    Got some al haters. has the best post game in league

  • Dagger

    If we’re projecting for next year, a 28-year-old big man who plays minimal defense, shoots less than 50% and has never been on a winning team should not outrank a talented young point guard who just led his team to the conference semis and can do a little of everything on both ends of the court. Seems pretty simple to me.

  • RKJ92

    When you go through saloon doors they just swing wide open, really easy/convenient to walk through.. AKA Al Jefferson’s defense.

  • RKJ92

    Brook Lopez, Al Horford, Valanciunas, Noah, Drummond, Garnett, Bynum (if he plays), Roy Hibbert, and Chris Bosh. Just off the top of my head, good thing you know about basketball and still continue to post on this site though! :)

  • Nathan Shane Long

    so lets recap you name drop Bosh who is a soft ass perimeter jump shooter Drummond who is raw and has no offense only freak athleticism Horford who is a mid range shooter who continues to play out of position Hibbert,Bynum,Lopez they do post up but all they got is a jump hook and Garnett post skills have eroded and it’s real funny how you name drop VALANCIUNAS really AS I SAID BEFORE DO RAPTORS FANS EVEN EXIST?

  • star

    i miss roy :(

  • Saleem Rainman

    All these guys are exactly the type of player Jefferson cant keep up with, quick guys that will get right by him off the dribble…

  • Nathan Shane Long

    what the fucc is quick about Bynum,Hibbert,Lopez,Garnett,Horford,Noah

  • 3Chainz

    When you know about “SALOON DOORS” Be sure to say “no homo”….

  • RKJ92

    Bynum, Hibbert, Lopez, Garnett, Horford, are exceptionally gifted offensively when against a player of Al Jefferson’s defensive capabilities. Noah though not exceptionally gifted offensively; now has a solid 15 foot jumper, and can beat Jefferson off the dribble through speed, and off of the pick and roll.

  • RKJ92

    1) Bosh is one of the most offensively talented post players so we don’t “drop” him.

    2) Jefferson would no way, shape, or form, be able to contain Drummond who is worlds faster then Jefferson and would beat him the same way I had previously mentioned Noah would, which was off the dribble, and pick/rolls.

    3) Horford will pick apart Al Jefferson’s defense any which way he pleases as he is a threat from anywhere inside the 3pt line.

    4) Hibbert, Bynum, Lopez, and Garnett isn’t even a conversation I should be having with you.

    5) Valanciunas is very gifted offensively, and thrives on slower centers, so where are any of your VALID points without calling people trolls, or making ignorant comments that I would expect from a child.

  • RKJ92

    “no homo”.

  • BCoops

    Shenanigans has to be number 1 career ending ailment ever!

  • Armando

    Sorry man, RKJ92 is right. He will struggle, and not only one on one. Try having Jefferson defend th P/R-P/P against George/Hibbert or Williams/Lopez (that is murder) or Wade/James/Bosh or Rose/Boozer or even Jennings/Drummond, Lowry/Valanciunas….

  • Armando

    I’d squeeze in Pek over Vuc… Asik is difficult, skills wise he’s better than Gortat and maybe Cousins imo, but he won’t get the minutes…

  • Dundler

    I’d take Vuc over Pek. Already a better rebounder and has a lot more upside. Pek just got paid too, so will be interesting if he comes with the same effort.
    Asik is superior on D, but overall Cousins has him beat I reckon

  • Max

    Here goes the first player Conley should be above.

  • pposse

    Boogie

  • Dundler

    Assumed he’d be listed as PF, and am now wondering whether he gets on the list. Should be very soon if so, in my opinion

  • TR

    Chandler’s definitely on there, but I think his name should have already been on this list. Barely a top 50 guy to me.

  • Dundler

    I’d see him in top ten-fifteen

  • Dundler

    Sorry not top, I mean the first 10-15, so 50-35

  • BugEyes

    I’m lost why do you have to say no homo

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ben Osborne

    He’s gonna have a great season. I voted him much higher

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Have you never seen Asik play? That sounds like a very uninformed guess. Asik has absolutely no reliable offensive skills at all. How you can say he is more skilled than Cousins/Gortat I have no shred of an idea.

  • RKJ92

    I don’t! lol I just wrote it to make him happy

  • http://twitter.com/niQknacks niQ

    Lol on Saloon Door! I think that name also applies to Amare.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    He will be on the list. And he plays Center

  • Saleem Rainman

    What’s quick about them is they’re all considerably quicker than Jefferson…? Especially the last 3 u listed, Garnett, Horford and Noah.

  • BugEyes

    Why say no homo?

  • Nathan Shane Long

    I will start by saying that Al Jefferson will have a great season in Charlotte and have the same level of production he had in Minnesota when he was an all-star level player but never got the recognition because those Wolves team sucked after Garnett left anyway you fail so hard trying to VALIDATE your “points” so lets review them troll ass nerd first of all how is Bosh a talented “post” player when all he does is shoot mid range jumper come on now the words “post player” should never be associated with Chris Bosh moving on to Drummond what skills does this guy have Andre is extremely raw offense not to mention a bad free throw shooter just like Noah so they ain’t a threat to Jefferson “bad” defense as far as Horford goes dummy you do realize that Horford plays PF and Jefferson plays C so they won’t even guard one another as far as Hibbert and Lopez go it does not get bigger than that in east so that’s an automatic mismatch for Jefferson as far as Bynum goes i don’t recall Bynum having big games against Utah when Jefferson was there and it’s funny how you mention Valanciunas since that is the most IRRELEVANT name you dropped someone who is your typical soft ass EURO-BIG

  • Nathan Shane Long

    none of those players are quick or crafty in the half court

  • LakeShow

    A great “statistical” season.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    offensively

  • LakeShow

    There.

    Now were good lol.

    (He’ll grab “defensive” boards and block shots is the reason why left it open with “great statistical season”)

  • brothasdontsurf

    Big Gay Al!

  • Armando

    OK. Maybe, but put Asik on any team and I believe he would have a more positive impact despite limited offensive skills than those two right now.

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  • 3Chainz

    who walks through saloon doors?? GIRLS!

  • Ross Fawcett

    No D

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  • Conner David Boyd

    Some serious Big Al haters.

    I obviously agree that his D holds him back, but anyone hating on his offense is being silly. He’s the best offensive post player in the game, and I dare anyone to say otherwise. Charlotte has NEVER had anyone play the post, and all of a sudden they have two great post scorers with Al and Zeller.

    44 is about right, but he’s going to put up Minnesota-like numbers this season. Jalen Rose said he’ll be the highest scoring center and second in rebounding to Dwight. He predicted 22-11. That automatically makes him a legitimate talent that a lot of haters need to take note of. He has Ewing coaching him, Brendan Haywood helping him become better on D, and a defensive-minded head coach. He won’t be great on D, but he can still get better.

    And to the random idiot who said Zeller can’t play D, be quiet and sit down. Zeller’s a very good defensive player. Just because he won’t block 2 shots per game doesn’t mean he isn’t a good player. His athleticism and height (and astronomic basketball IQ) make him a legitimate defender who will stick with his man and contest every shot.

    I understand that the Horncats have to earn respect. I’m a Charlotte fan, and I recognize why they’re the joke of the NBA. But seriously, it’s a team on the rise. I think most people should see that.

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