Does Al Jefferson Deserve to Make the NBA All-Star Team?

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Does Al Jefferson Deserve to Make the NBA All-Star Team?
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Al Jefferson is arguably the best low-post scorer in the NBA. He is one of the game's most consistent big men and has a history of carrying unimpressive rosters to respectable records.

Yet, the 29-year-old center has never made an All-Star team.

There are reasons for this. Big Al does have an Achilles' heel, and it has stopped him from becoming a world-beater. The big man does not have enough of a mid-range game to be an elite power forward and does not defend well enough to be an all-NBA center. Because of this, he has always been viewed as a second-tier player.

Also, Jefferson has not played in a big market since his early days with the Boston Celtics. His other teams—the Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz—have never been dominant enough to make up for their relative obscurity.

After reaching unrestricted free agency last summer, many believed that Jefferson would seize the opportunity to join a big-market club and finally receive the recognition he deserved. Instead, he signed with the Charlotte Bobcats.

The move could be chalked up to nothing more than a smart financial decision. The Bobcats offered him $41 million over three seasons, which is likely more money than big-market teams would have offered given the hype surrounding the 2014 free-agent class.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

His decision to go to Charlotte may also be viewed as a conscious decision to avoid big-city pressures. Jefferson knew that his consistent game would translate to Charlotte and that it would be tough for a fanbase to criticize a player who's better than any player the team has ever had.

It could also be that he wanted to be the No. 1 option somewhere. Or that he wanted to return to the South (he is from Mississippi). Or to avoid the bruising bigs of the Western Conference as much as possible.

Whatever the reason, Jefferson came to Charlotte, where he has put up the same gaudy numbers and consistently superb performances as he has throughout his career.

And once again, it will probably not be enough to get him into the All-Star Game.

Since the center position has been abolished by the NBA All-Star ballot, the Eastern Conference's best center (Roy Hibbert) will have to occupy a reserve spot. It's extremely unlikely that Frank Vogel will choose three centers, but if he does the remaining two will almost certainly be Joakim Noah and Chris Bosh, two excellent bigs who play in excellently big markets.

This, combined with the Bobcats' losing record, suggests that Jefferson will turn 30 before making his first All-Star appearance. With his prime years likely to fade away before he leaves Charlotte, Big Al may never make the cut.

This is wrong.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Since becoming a starter in 2006, Jefferson has averaged 18.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.5 blocks on 49.7 percent shooting.

The numbers are impressive enough, but the consistency is what's shocking. Take his worst output in each category over the past full seven seasons, and you still get 16.0 points, 9.2 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 1.1 blocks and 49.2 percent shooting.

Jefferson's shooting percentage is actually down to 48.3 percent this season, a career worst. Then again, his rebounding is higher than it's been in five years (10.5), and he's enjoying one of his finer assisting campaigns (2.1).

He is also playing the best defense of his career, or at least anchoring the best defensive unit he's been a part of. His defensive rating of 100 is best on his team, and his team has the league's seventh-best defensive rating at 103.8. His blocks are slightly down (1.2), but that's a result of limited penetration.

Perhaps the most impressive element of Jefferson's 2013-14 campaign is that he has been just as dominant without Paul Millsap. His frontcourt mate in Utah made teams pay for double-teaming him, something that Josh McRoberts, Cody Zeller and Jeff Adrien cannot do.

Despite consistently facing multiple defenders this season, Jefferson has managed to maintain his stellar inside scoring. He's making 58.6 percent of his shots inside the lane, an extremely high percentage considering he averages over nine attempts from the key each night.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The only post player in the league who rivals Jefferson's consistency over the past seven seasons is Tim Duncan, who has averaged 17.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 0.7 steals and 2.0 blocks on 50.8 percent shooting since 2006.

Duncan's uncanny footwork, endless array of moves and deadly touch off the glass have earned him six All-Star appearances in that time. Jefferson has had no such luck.

Bosh is a deserving player this season, and that makes it tough to include Jefferson. But when you look at Bosh's seven-year averages—20.4 points, 8.9 boards, 0.8 steals, 1.0 blocks, 50.4 percent shooting—and the fact that he's been an All-Star every single season, something doesn't add up.

If Jefferson is passed over for the 2014 All-Star Game, there will again be valid reasons. His team is not quite as good as this guy's, his defense is not as superb as that guy's. But considering his career-long body of work and the fact that he has the traditionally lowly Bobcats sitting in a playoff spot, giving Big Al the nod in a weak Eastern Conference would be completely correct at best and a forgivable lifetime-achievement nod at worst.

Jefferson may never be recognized as an elite player, but it would be a shame to see such a monstrous talent and model of consistency never be recognized.

 

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and Vorped.com

Follow me on Twitter @Simoncgo

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