Drafted by: San Antonio Spurs, No. 60 overall
Traded to: Brooklyn Nets for cash
Height/Weight: 6'9", 218 lbs
Age: 23 years old
Projected NBA Position: Power Forward
Pro Comparison: Udonis Haslem
Twitter Handle: @
I disagree with the negative view toward drafting college seniors. Everyone's path is different. I arrived to Baylor at 170 pounds and I had to gain weight and get stronger to play at the college level. That year, I learned a lot from guys like Mamadou Diene and Quincy Acy.
Every day in practice was a lesson. I had to wait my turn behind standout frontcourt players, Ekpe Udoh, Perry Jones, Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller, all currently in the NBA. I didn't really get regular minutes until my junior year, but that helped me mature and it showed my patience. That is something a senior can show that a freshman can not.
Jefferson actually shows a lot that freshmen can't, seeing as he's improved quite a bit since he first came to Waco, Texas. Not only has he seen his numbers improve rather dramatically, but he's also honed the tools that will allow him to make it in the NBA.
Whether he's taken in the late second round or signed as an undrafted free agent, Jefferson will have a chance to ply his trade in the Association.
|Statistics at Baylor|
Though he still needs to improve the strength of his lower body, Jefferson's biggest asset undoubtedly comes from his physical profile.
The 6'9" power forward has size for his position, but he's also working with some of the best athleticism you could ask for from a 23-year-old prospect who will turn 24 before the 2014-15 season is too far underway.
In addition to his length, he's extremely explosive. His top speed is excellent for a 4, and his quickness and ability to elevate both bode well for his transition to the ranks of the Association, as he'll be a useful player both in the open court and when serving as a slasher in half-court sets.
Jefferson excels when jumping, regardless of the situations he's in.
If he gets a running start, he can easily finish plays above the rim, but he's also fully capable of elevating from a standstill. At the draft combine, per NBA.com's databases, Jefferson recorded a 37.5" max vertical leap, which was in the elite portion of the group, and his 33" standing vert trailed only six prospects in the field.
Not only did Jefferson flash three-point range by connecting on 14 of his 38 attempts from beyond the arc as a senior, but he also looked good when taking mid-range looks.
Unfortunately, though, he regressed in this area after a truly stellar junior season, as DraftExpress.com's Derek Bodner explains:
The first area of regression for Jefferson this past season was as a jump shooter. After taking virtually no jump shots during his first two seasons at Baylor, Jefferson was able to connect on 48.8% of his attempts during his junior season, ranking in a very impressive 83rd percentile, although on a very low sample size. As Jefferson made the jump shot a more pronounced part of his game during his senior season, he was not able to maintain that excellent efficiency, as he took over twice as many attempts, but connected on a 33% clip, according to Synergy Sports Technology.
The tools are absolutely there, though the slow-it-down style Baylor employed during his senior season wasn't helpful to his development.
Under NBA tutelage, Jefferson will—almost without question—be able to function as a floor-spacing power forward, which also gives him the ability to play as an oversized 3. He'll probably never be a true stretch 4, but I'm not ready to make that sentence definitive quite yet.
Athleticism and Motor
As addressed above in the "physical tools" section, Jefferson stands out as an elite athlete.
However, there's a big difference between being a great athlete and turning into a stellar basketball player who thrives when he's able to use that athleticism. Jefferson used his four seasons at Waco to fall into the latter category.
Not only is he an excellent transition finisher, a player who's fully capable of playing above the rim, but he also learned how to thrive in pick-and-roll sets, flashing to the basket and finishing through or around contact. He can elevate seamlessly, even when starting from an awkward position.
On top of that, Jefferson never stops going.
There shouldn't be any questions about his motor and desire, as he's one of those experienced players who recognizes the benefits of hard work at all times on the court.
Each season he spent at Baylor, Jefferson averaged at least 10 rebounds per 40 minutes, according to Sports-Reference.com.
That's no easy feat, especially because the power forward spent more time on the court every year, topping out just shy of 30 minutes per game as a senior. And despite the drastic increase from the 4.6 minutes per contest he received during his freshman year, he actually upped his per-minute rebounding rate.
Jefferson became more than an athletic phenom who could jump over and burst around players. He learned the techniques that will help this part of his game translate to the next level, holding box-outs on the defensive end and reading the bounces with more ease.
Now he's an active and disciplined player on the boards.
Age is going to work against Jefferson, especially because he already spent so many years developing at Baylor.
If the athletic prime is considered 27 years old, Jefferson won't even be done with his rookie contract—so long as it's not less than the maximum length—by the time he's reached that prime and moved past it.
But that's not the only problem, as the big man isn't a polished player on either side of the court. He's a lackluster defender, one who prefers to save his energy for the more glamorous end, and can be beat both off the dribble and in the post.
A lack of discipline often betrays him.
And speaking of the post, Jefferson has a shockingly limited arsenal. Given his explosiveness, he should be capable of finishing plays when he begins them with his back to the basket, but such is not the case.
Instead, he falls in love with his jumper, which still isn't all that threatening. He's shown potential, as discussed earlier at more length, but he can grow overconfident in his ability to score from outside the paint.
Essentially, Jefferson might fall onto the basketball player side of the spectrum, rather than being a guy who relies solely on his athleticism, but he hasn't reached that terminus—far from it, in fact.
Jefferson doesn't have the established skills necessary to make much of an impact as a first-year player.
Sure, he's a great rebounder for his position and can run the floor with the best of them, but what else does he bring to the table? He's a decent floor-spacing option and has defensive potential, but that's not enough to separate him from the pack of prospects who have fairly similar tools.
Chances are, Jefferson is an NBA D-League candidate.
There, he can work on his jumper—which, while it looks promising, regressed during his final season with the Bears—and begin to build the defensive foundation he needs to eventually carve out a bigger role in a big league rotation.
Call me crazy, but I'm a believer in Jefferson.
Sure, he's spent an abundance of time at the collegiate level and is already 23 years old. But he still has untapped potential due to his crazy physical tools. His jumper is ripe for improvement, and he has the ability to excel on the defensive side, so long as he manages to commit to that end of the court and listen to the coaching he's sure to receive in the pros.
Some players are just late bloomers, and Jefferson should be one of those guys.
Though he'll never be a star player or even a high-quality starter, he's more than capable of earning a prominent spot in an NBA rotation a few years down the road—maybe even sooner than that.