Keys to the Wolf Den: Al Jefferson's Worst Year Is His Most Important
Al Jefferson is a commodity around the NBA.
Considered one of the most unorthodox big men in the league due to his old school post-up moves with his new school flavor, Al Jefferson is arguably the best low-post scorer in the league.
Al Jefferson is coming off a torn ACL, an injury that would have ended an NBA career 20 years ago. Going from averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks, to 19 points, 10 rebounds and one block has been hard on Al.
"I'm not quite a 100%, I am getting better; I feel more comfortable on the offensive end as far as me scoring the ball, but back to back still gets to me. I feel real fatigued off back-to-back games; my knee still hurts a little. So I'm not 100% but I'm getting there."
Before his injury, Al Jefferson dominated games with his back to the basket, and had his defenders awed and worried almost all the time he was on the court. Last season against the Chicago Bulls, Jefferson dropped 11 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including a jump-hook that tied the game to force OT.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Joakim Noah told reporters afterwards. “I was playing as hard as I could and he just kept scoring the ball. He’s just a great offensive player and we just couldn’t slow him down tonight.”
Considering that the Wolves are back to stage one, Al Jefferson is more than likely taking the time to re-evaluate his game, starting right from his post moves leading to less trips to the free throw line.
"It's something I've been dealing with my whole career...not being more consistent in getting to the line," Jefferson said. "It's not a big issue with me, but it would be a lot better for the team if I got to the line more."
"One of the reasons I don't get a lot of calls from the refs is that when I ball fake, I go away from guys," Jefferson said. "I don't lean into guys to draw fouls. I haven't gotten that part into my game yet, where I consistently draw the contact and still go up for my shot. I do sometimes, but I'm not consistent with it. It's something I have to get better at."
When a big man is able to score 20 points on post moves without getting to the free throw line, is he arguably too good in the post? After all, when Al Jefferson was merely a rookie, he was called for an immense number of travel calls, and the Boston Celtics had to send numerous videos on his post moves to verify that they were indeed, not travels.
Seeing that the Wolves are running the triangle offense, with limited offensive production, it would benefit the Wolves to get to the free throw line when they struggle to score.
Big Al has been criticized on many an occasion for his lack of effort on the defensive end. Sure he'll block a shot every now and again, but his defensive awareness for the most part has been incredibly horrible.
Lately, Big Al has been giving a very decent effort in the paint, and has been drawing charges and contesting shots more on a regular basis. He also has been passing out of the post a lot more than he has ever before, and it's starting to benefit him and his teammates on the offensive end.
With the Wolves having a couple of nice pieces (Jefferson, Kevin Love, Jonny Flynn, and Corey Brewer), a lucrative free agency in which they will have money to sign a big player or young talent/potential, and three first-round draft picks in the top 20 in the 2010 NBA draft, the future is looking up.
Considering all that, and the fact that Al Jefferson is embarking on a healthy season, this season is very important for the young star.
As it is shown in his last 10 games, Al Jefferson is averaging 21 PPG and 12 RPG, and is starting to return to form. Last season, Jefferson averaged 19 attempts a game, and this season he's averaging 15 attempts a game. Although his scoring has dropped five PPG, his attempts would suggest his scoring would have dropped eight PPG, but that isn't the case.
Next season, I expect the 20-point, 10-rebound beast to be in full effect, and not only will it be with Jonny Flynn, Corey Brewer, and Kevin Love, but it will be with arguably another group of young prospects (three first-round picks, free agent prospects) looking to make an impact on a franchise that hasn't seen success since Kevin Garnett.
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