During Al Jefferson's three seasons in Utah, the Jazz routinely finished in the bottom half of the league in a variety of defensive statistics.
From the 2010-11 season to this past year, the Jazz were never ranked among the NBA's top 15 teams in opponents' points per game or opponents' field-goal percentages.
Jefferson was particularly weak against the pick and roll. According to Yahoo Sports! writer Dan Devine, the Jazz finished in the 20s (24th, 20th and 21st) in opponent points per possession during Jefferson's time in Salt Lake City, and the Jazz allowed "an eye-popping 9.2 more points per 100 possessions with Big Al in the middle than when he sat last season."
Who wanted to bring Al back? They will definitely be a lot better defensively this year.
During a recent interview with Grantland's Zach Lowe, Jefferson acknowledged his defensive deficiencies.
"It ain't no secret around the league that I struggle with my defense," Jefferson told Lowe. "My pick-and-roll defense is my weakness. And that's mind over matter. I just gotta suck it up … and do it."
The Bobcats signed the former Jazzman to a three-year, nearly $41 million deal in early July. What Charlotte gets out of the deal is an offensive-minded center — he ranked 20th last year in the NBA in points per game — with a high shooting percentage.
His % is actually pretty low for a guy with the supposedly greatest post moves in the game. Rarely draws fouls either.
Lowe said he met with Rod Higgins, Charlotte's president of basketball operations, and new Bobcats head coach Steve Clifford over dinner. It was at that meeting that Jefferson realized just how much the Bobcats were willing to invest to get him, an incentive the big man called "icing on the cake."
"It made me feel so good that there's a team out there that has so much belief in my game," Jefferson told Lowe. "I was like, 'Done deal.’ ”
The fact that no one else was offering you the same kind of money I'm sure had nothing to do with it!
During his three years with the Jazz, Jefferson averaged 18.6, 19.2 and 17.8 points per game while shooting right around 49 percent from the floor.
Based on those numbers, he goes into Charlotte as the team's top offensive option. Last year, point guard Kemba Walker led the Bobcats by averaging 17.7 points per game.
Be interesting to see how that plays out. Kemba should be given the chance to score more and he's the one that wanted Al.
His assists-per-game ratio also hit a career high in Salt Lake City as he averaged more than two per game in his final two seasons with the Jazz.
Jefferson credited his time in Utah with helping him mature in his offensive game.
"They used to call me The Black Hole, and that's really who I was," Jefferson told Lowe. "But going to Utah just matured me in so many ways. I'm past the stage in my career where I feel like I have to take all the shots."
Lowe wrote that "skeptics around the league will tell you the Jefferson signing might represent the perfect 'best of both worlds' endgame for Charlotte." What that means is Jefferson could help lift the Bobcats — who had a 21-61 record last year and a historically bad 7-59 in 2011-12 — a bit out of their recent winning woes while still leaving themselves in a position to obtain high lottery picks.
"Having a starting, big-minutes center who's a confirmed liability in pick-and-roll coverage … makes it awful hard to build a winning team, and awful hard to justify the whopping $13.5 million annual price tag Al now carries," Devine wrote.
His ball stopping at the other end is hard to justify to.
Skeptics around the league will tell you the Jefferson signing might represent the perfect "best of both worlds" endgame for Charlotte — that Jefferson's post-up efficiency could remove the stench of historic awfulness, a must for any franchise wishing to attract even quality midlevel veteran free agents, without pushing them out of the top five in the 2014 draft.
Higgins and Steve Clifford, the Bobcats' well-respected new head coach, scoff at that notion. They view Jefferson as a building block who will make things easier for their young perimeter players by drawing constant double-teams, and who will work as the pick-and-roll partner Kemba Walker desperately needs.
Pick and roll isn't really his game. Jazz went to Al ball despite their long histroy with the pick and roll game.
"Al instantly helps the development of everyone else," Clifford says. "Or at least he should, if we are organized the right way and execute the way we need to."
Charlotte, in other words, patiently pursued a "one step back, two steps forward" strategy, but lost patience with it right before the draft class that represented pay dirt. That may be wrong in the eyes of the calculating strategist thinking about those 55 wins, but not every franchise approaches team-building that way — at least not on every step of the team-building journey. Owners can lose patience if things still look bleak after two years of rebuilding; Michael Jordan, the team's majority owner, is famously competitive and impatient, and executives around the league still aren't sure who makes the final calls among Jordan, Higgins, and Rich Cho, the team's GM. Multiple lotteries might fail to produce a franchise-level star, damn near a must-have for any true title contender, an unfillable hole that leaves a franchise in a non-glamour market like Charlotte with a question: continue to go all-out in pursuit of one, or see if we can build to something "pretty good" over the long haul? The media views the Joe Johnson–era Hawks, built from the ashes of a 13-win catastrophe in 2004-05, as a boring failure, but a lot of executives around the league think of them much differently.3
Charlotte, of course, isn't giving up on the idea that this insanely young core could one day grow into a 55-win contender, provided that it gets the right veteran help. It certainly pursued Jefferson aggressively. He didn't meet with any other teams, save for the Jazz, who politely told Jefferson at the start of free agency they had no intention of re-signing him, he says. "They called me on July 1 and told me they wasn't gonna go in my direction," Jefferson recalls, adding that he wasn't surprised. "I told my teammates all season, 'Utah would be a fool to bring me back, with Enes [Kanter] and Derrick [Favors]. Them boys are gonna be the truth!"4 Utah offered to sign-and-trade Jefferson to a better team lacking cap space, but Jefferson short-circuited the free-agency process early after Higgins, Clifford, and other officials wooed him over dinner. Higgins says the team had been talking about Jefferson for several months, and they offered him big money early in free agency, even though there do not appear to have been any other serious suitors.
"It made me feel so good that there's a team out there that has so much belief in my game," Jefferson says of his dinner with Higgins and Clifford. "I was like, 'Done deal.' And then when they started talking money, it was like, 'Oh my god!' It was icing on the cake."5
Walker emerged as a more efficient scorer last season, and the Bobcats hope Jefferson will provide him with the kind of pick-and-roll partner the team just hasn't had. Walker and Clifford have already watched film together for hours, and, Clifford says, Walker began one session with a plaintive question for his new coach: "Why can't I ever hit the roll man?" Walker's game probably leaned too far in the "score-first" direction last season, but that was understandable given the sub-replacement big-man contingent on hand — and the spacing issues that cramped Walker's passing lanes.
One reason for those spacing issues: Kidd-Gilchrist, the Davis lottery consolation prize, cannot shoot at all. The Bobcats have hired Mark Price to work with Kidd-Gilchrist on his jumper, but they know it is going to be a long process. Clifford wants Kidd-Gilchrist focusing on his strengths — defense, cutting, and crashing the offensive glass. Having a wing chase rebounds like that can be dangerous for a team's transition defense, but the Bobcats will have rules in place allowing for Kidd-Gilchrist to attack the glass, the coach says. Clifford was an assistant with the Rockets under Jeff Van Gundy, and Houston during those years made allowances for Steve Francis's above-average offensive rebounding, Clifford says. The rules were simple: If Francis sensed an opportunity for an offensive board, at least one of the team's big men was to sprint back in transition, along with the other perimeter players.
KENT SMITH/GETTY IMAGES
Clifford is also working with Kidd-Gilchrist on his post game and some isolation moves from the elbow area, he says. Kidd-Gilchrist is probably the wild card here — the young guy with the best chance to become that franchise-changing All-Star. Walker still has room to grow, but he's 23, and he hasn't flashed the passing skills of a franchise-lifting point guard. Zeller projects as a nice complementary starter, and the team is already growing impatient with Bismack Biyombo. Gerald Henderson finished the season strong, flashing an improved 3-point stroke and taking on more ballhandling duties, but he's almost 26 and might peak as a league-average wing starter.
If Kidd-Gilchrist tops out as a fringe All-Star with a defense-first game (Gerald Wallace 2.0?), it's hard to see 55 wins from here — especially since the front office seems content to let this core grow as their rookie contracts creep toward expiration. The coldest long-view move would be to use Walker as the Sixers just used Jrue Holiday — as a young piece of surprise trade bait for future assets, including a 2014 first-round pick.6 But a trade in that vein doesn't appear to be in the team's immediate plans, though Higgins, of course, cannot rule it out. "If there are opportunities to make this team better via trade, we will do that," he says. (He also denied that the Bobcats ever seriously discussed trading the no. 2 pick in the 2012 draft, which became Kidd-Gilchrist, to the Thunder for James Harden.)
Those 55 wins recede further into the distance if Charlotte wins just enough games this season to fall outside the top five in the 2014 draft. Depending on health, luck, and player development, sticking within that range might be tight. Orlando and Philly are gunning for the top of the draft; Utah and Phoenix are in similar developmental stages; Sacramento is always a good bet to malfunction; and Boston wants a shot at a high pick. Toss in one or two injury- or trade-ravaged disappointments, and the Bobcats could suddenly be looking at a pick in the lower half of the top 10. And they won't seem to care.
"You just can't predict what's going to happen in the lottery," Higgins says. "We've been in the top three spots going in the last two years, and we've moved back both times. What does that tell you?"7
In the meantime, Clifford, a defense-first guy, faces the challenge of repairing a sieve that now features Jefferson at center. Jefferson's teams have always failed on defense, and the big man knows his issues against the pick-and-roll have often driven those struggles. He's a bit plodding in space, and has struggled badly to corral opposing point guards. "It ain't no secret around the league that I struggle with my defense," Jefferson says. "My pick-and-roll defense is my weakness. And that's mind over matter. I just gotta suck it up, get my ass out there, and do it."8
Jefferson is confident he can be better, and working within a more consistent scheme might help him. The Jazz were constantly asking their bigs to do different things against the pick-and-roll, switching almost possession-by-possession from schemes in which Jefferson hung back around the foul line to strategies that demanded he lunge to contain the ball handler 30 feet from the rim.
Clifford won't say what sorts of scheme he'll use, and some game-by-game tweaks are always necessary. But he's a proud Van Gundy acolyte, especially in terms of shot selection. "We want to take away layups, defend without fouling, and take away 3-point shots from better shooters," Clifford says. The flip side: hoping opponents fire away from midrange.
Jefferson might manage better in a system that allows him to hang closer to the paint on nearly every pick-and-roll, similar to how the Pacers and Bulls use Roy Hibbert and Joakim Noah, respectively. Such a scheme might also help the Bobcats clean up the defensive glass, a big Clifford goal; only Sacramento rebounded a lower percentage of opponent misses last season, and flying around in blind chaos to contain all those second chances contributed to Charlotte's very high foul rate — a major Clifford no-no.
One thing neither Jefferson nor Clifford is worried about: Jefferson hogging the ball on the left block on offense, stunting the development of his teammates.
Bill Oram: Dennis Lindsey says on @1280thezone that conversations about extending Favors, Hayward are ongoing. But willing to let market dictate price. Twitter @tribjazz
Looks like the Bucks may be setting the price for Favors now. I'd guess Hayward is more likely to sign. They have a lot better idea what they have with him I think. If they can get Favors for 10-12 they probably have to roll the dice that he'll live up to the hype because he could get a lot more next summer. Hayward to for that matter especially with them getting the chance to take the reins of the team. But I guess that could go either way if they have dissapointing seasons. Hayward might get something similar though the new CBA does seem to have had an effect on spending.
Jody Genessy: Jazz promote David Fredman to director of pro player personnel and Richard Smith to executive director of basketball operations. Twitter @DJJazzyJody
Bill Oram: Hired former interns Bart Taylor (coordinator of scouting) and Isaiah Wright (asst. strength and conditioning coach) Twitter @tribjazz
Fredman has had a lot of different positions with the team over the years. Think he's been with the team the longest by far now probably. Maybe since the b eginning in NO? Certainly since the early Utah days. Actually come to think of it he may have left to another team for a while?
The euphoria Jazz fans felt when the team acquired Trey Burke in the NBA Draft could soon be waning.
I’m not saying it wasn’t a nice move.
I’m just sayin’.
This isn’t going to be an easy recovery.
SI.com came out last week with its preseason power rankings, via writer Chris Mannix, and he had the Jazz ranked 14th of 15 teams in the Western Conference. The only team Mannix rated below Utah was Phoenix.
Phoenix has better proven vets. Jazz have better young guys.
I believed this in June and I haven’t changed my mind: The Jazz didn’t have a lot of options. They knew where they were going with the Jefferson-Millsap approach – mid-to-low end of the conference.
Better to roll the dice.
It’s going to be painful and with what they have now, it won’t be smooth. They’re at least two All-Stars away from being serious, maybe more. In fact, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirilenko and Devin Harris were All-Stars and even played on the same Jazz teams. They didn’t go far.
Neither will this team, as it stands.
I know it’s early, but this might be a good time for Jazz fans to temper expectations. Sports Illustrated can see that from a distance. From up close, it might have looked better a couple of months ago than it really was.
Not sure what people are expecting from the young Jazz? 20 wins will be a good result from my perspective. It's not really about winning games at the moment, it's about development and seeing if the guys they've recruited have it in them to carry the team in the future or not.
I'm hoping they win at least 10 so they aren't the worst team ever. Could definitely be the worst Jazz team ever which would be saying something considering their early history. Most people want them to finish with one of the worst records so they will get one of the studs in the next draft. Hard to imagine that they won't and would be pretty disappointing if they didn't with the obvious tank job they're doing.
See what they have so they know who they want to pay in the next couple years(Hayward and Favors might get paid beforehand though). See if they want to bring Neto and possibly Tomic over next year based on what Burke, Clark and their bigs do. See if Biedrins, Rush and Lucas will be worth keeping around.
I think they should be more exciting anyway. Pushing the ball. Getting after people defensively and hopefully running the Jazz offense again in the half court. Looking forward to seeing what Enes and Burks can do in a featured role finally.
Last edited by Xiao Yao You : 08-22-2013 at 07:05 AM.
Over the next week or so I am going to dig inside the numbers on the our returning Jazz players. Here is the Alec Burks breakdown
• Year 2 jumps in three point shooting from 33% to 36%, however free throws per 36 minutes decreased from 5.5 per 36 to 4.1 per 36
• Shot just 71% from the line.
• Defensive rebounding percentage was up to 11.2%. Overall rebounding down but his defensive rebounding up could be very valuable
• Post All Star break – 45% FG, 39% from three.
• Post Feb 1st – 25 of his last 59 from three point range (42.3%) Overall 110-224 (49%) but just 3.2 FT’s per 36 minutes.
Shooting Locations Development
• Rookie year angle right three – 4 of 14 second year that became 10 of 25
• Corner three’s 4 of 12 2nd year that became 6 of 16 – 10 of 28 (35%) below league average of 39.5%
• Hit from straight away 7 of 16. Above the break was 27/76 (35.5%) league average.
• Restricted Area – (55.6%) down 3% from rookie season
• 5 to 14 feet – 17/58 (29%) up 3% from rookie season
• In Paint (non restricted) – 12/43 27.9% up 2% from rookie season
• Mid Range – 44/120 – 36.7% up 5% from rookie season
• 16 to 24 feet – 37/98 (37.8%) up 5% from rookie season
• Shot 33.9% in 1st half of games and 30% from three
• Shot 27.3% in 1st quarters of games just 90 minutes – 2nd quarter 36% 30% from three.
• This is not new – rookie season he shot 31% in the 1st quarter and shot 14% from three
• 4th quarter was his best 49.2% and 39% from three
With Gordon Hayward
• Burks a little less efficient – 41% FG and 33% from three. Rebounding up
• Jazz +4 per 36 with both on the floor
• Gordon scoring goes up to 20.6 pts per 36 minutes. Three point shooting sky rocketed to 47%
• With Burks no Gordon Jazz were -2.7 per 36 with Gordon no Burks Jazz were -2.7
• Spot up three pointers – 37.7% (23 of 61)
• Transition – ranked 266th scored on 51.7% turned it over 14.4% and shot 50.6% with 1 of 10 from three.
• Pick and Roll with the ball – ranked 88th – shot 36.5% scored on 37% of plays turned it over on 14.2%
• Strong off the cut shot 15 of 19 when catching off the cut.
• In isolation shot 38.5% (10 of 26) turned the ball over 15.6% and scored on 34.4% of isolation plays
From Locke. Everything looks good except the drop in getting to the line but I guess that goes with a better shooting touch.
When Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin reached out to Alex Jensen about joining his staff, a number of qualities drew him to the D-League Coach of the Year and, likewise, Jensen to Corbin. That Jensen was a Centerville native and played a starring role on the University of Utah team that advanced to the 1998 NCAA championship game was low on Corbin’s list. Presumably, too, was this side benefit to five years playing professionally in Turkey: a unique ability to communicate with Jazz center Enes Kanter. "I’ve already sworn at him [in Turkish]," Jensen said, his permanent half-smile twisting into a full one. "Those are the first words you learn."
Salt Lake Tribune
A much-beloved local guy on the bench? Not a priority, said Lindsey. "I can understand why it would be a story and why it would be a question," he said, "because it’s hometown kid done well. But I think Ty first looked at the coaching acumen and the background and how he adds to our staff. It’s clearly an ancillary benefit but it’s not one that ... was at the top of the list."
Salt Lake Tribune
Someone to communicate with Kanter after they got rid of Okur.