Al Jefferson vs. Paul Millsap: Which Utah Jazz Big Man Is Better?
For the first three years of his career, Paul Millsap played the journeyman role of giving the Jazz valuable minutes off the bench in resting Carlos Boozer, and when Boozer was injured for much of the 2009-10 season, Millsap came in and showed the NBA what he could do as a full time starter.
Last season the Jazz let Boozer go off to the Chicago Bulls in free agency and brought in Al Jefferson from Minnesota. Jefferson was expected to replace the 20 points and 10 boards a night that Boozer previously brought with a bonus potential of better defense.
Both players have played well throughout their relatively short careers so far, but combining the two last seasons enabled both players to feed off one another and take their games to another level. This two headed monster in the paint gives Jazz fans a lot of hope and excitement for the future.
The question is: which player is better?
Paul Millsap had the highest single season scoring average of his career last season at 17.3 points per game. His career average is only 11.3. What happened?
The Jazz made a huge splash in free agency by bringing in Al Jefferson after losing Carlos Boozer to the Bulls. Jefferson didn't disappoint. He didn't quite achieve the 20-plus points a game and 11-plus boards he was averaging with Minnesota, but he was pretty close at 18.6 points and 9.7 rebounds.
More importantly, his presence opened things up for Millsap, who increased his scoring average by six points.
Their presence around the rim fostered efficient shooting from both guys, with Millsap firing away at a 53 percent rate and Jefferson making just under 50 percent of his shots.
Both of these guys were more effective from the free throw line last season than they had been over the course of their careers, checking in at around 76 percent, up six percent.
With less double teams down low, the passing lanes opened up more and both players took advantage. Neither will be renowned for passing prowess the way Karl Malone was, but they were effective, chipping in 4.3 assists per game between the two of them, with Millsap leading the way.
Jefferson uses his size to aggressively attack the rim while Millsap relies on a soft touch and good range to pull defenders away from the basket.
Millsap's a little more efficient in shooting, which is impressive since he probably takes more shots away from the key, while Jefferson gets more points. Both guys are equally effective shooters from the stripe and equally adept in the passing game. I'd say this category is a wash.
Al Jefferson became the Jazz shot blocker that fans have been missing since Andrei Kirelenko was at the peak of his swatting days. He batted away nearly two blocks a game, a half a block more than his career average, while Millsap chipped in nearly a block a game last season.
Paul has always been fairly agile, and gets his hands on his fair share of steals; he increased from a career average of one a game to 1.36 a game. Night after night, he just puts on his hard hat and does a solid job on the defensive end of hustling and getting after the ball.
The presence of both players in the paint has helped the defense down low, but ultimately, Jefferson's size and agility allow him to make players change shots more often and wreak more havoc at the rim than Millsap.
At 6'10" and 280 lbs., Al Jefferson can control a lot of real estate in the key.
Last year he ripped down 9.7 boards a game, better than his career average of 8.8 a game which included three straight 11 rebounds a game seasons.
Millsap is extremely effective for a guy who's only 6'8" because he uses his 250 lb. frame to effectively box people out and has a nose for the ball. He snatched 7.6 rebounds a game last year, also an increase for him over his career, up from 6.7 a game.
Again, having both big men in the paint is highly advantageous for the Jazz, and the numbers show that it has improved this aspect of their games as well.
Statistically speaking, Jefferson gets the edge here because he outduels Millsap both on the offensive and defensive glass, though Millsap often seems to come up with some of the tougher rebounds on a regular basis.
Both these guys are key players for the Jazz and give the team tremendous star quality and talent in the paint.
They are both effective scorers, solid passers, excellent rebounders and skilled defenders.
The Jazz are fortunate to have both, but when it comes right down to it, Al Jefferson is the better player.
Jazz fans, what do you think?