“I’ve been disappointed by All-Star Games for years. I’ve stopped listening to the hype,” said Al Jefferson a few days ago. “I know what I can do and my goal is to get Charlotte to one of those elite teams in the East. Into the playoffs.” This was an odd quote for two reasons. First, I’d love to know which specific hype Al Jefferson stopped listening to, and also when, because Big Al doesn’t receive a lot of hype, period, let alone for All-Star games. I guess I’ve seen him on a few lists of All-Star snubs, but not even near the top (in this list here, he’s not even his own entry but a sub-genre of the supposed Andre Drummond snub). So I would say there’s been some extremely mild “Al Jefferson, All-Star” advocacy from a few sportswriters, but nothing approaching hype. Which only leads me to conclude that Big Al keeps his own personal hype man in his entourage, constantly telling him how awesome he is (I like to picture him as a short, heavyset, Flava Flave-type with some sort of gimmick, e.g., a giant clock, a top hat, a lollipop, a megaphone, etc.). Anyway, the other funny thing about that quote is that Al left out the critical word “be” in that second sentence: “my goal is to get Charlotte to be one of those elite teams”—at least I’m assuming he did. It’s a critical omission—akin to forgetting to say the word “cancer” in the phrase “breast cancer awareness month”—because without it, it sounds like Jefferson’s goal is merely to get the Bobcats into the playoffs, where they will be served up on a platter and promptly devoured in four games by actual elite teams such as Indiana and Miami.
Strange quotes aside, Al Jefferson has lately been dropping 30-point games like Justin Bieber drops his pants. I’m writing this on the morning following Big Al’s one-man Rambo-style takedown of the Lakers, in which he scored 40 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, dished 4, stole 3, and finished plus-11. He made the black-clad Lakers (because what better way to promote your cool alternate black uniforms than on a non-nationally televised Friday night game against the Bobcats?) look helpless. Don’t get me wrong, the Lakers are terrible this year, and they’re thinned out from so many injuries that their “bench” is little more than an actual bench. But as a Bobcats fan, I am completely foreign to the idea of the game plan being, “Give it to this guy, and let him save us.” I’ve always wanted this, and I’ve never had it. And now that I have it, let me tell you: it’s awesome!
Let’s take a look at Big Al’s usage. As of this morning, it’s up to 28.6%, which is 7th in the league, after I filtered on guys who’ve played at least 30 games and at least 20 minutes/game. That actually seemed low to me, until I filtered to the post-Kemba Walker injury date range, during which the Bobcats have used Jefferson like a drug mule an amazing 37% of the time. This would be the most of anyone in the league (Sacramento Kings center and noted Sacramento Kings playcalling critic DeMarcus Cousins is currently #1 in the league at 33%). And the good news is that Big Al’s earning all of those touches, at least from a shooting perspective. Among those high usage players, Jefferson’s eFG% is an acceptable 49.1%, slightly ahead of Cousins and essentially tied with Carmelo Anthony, although way behind LeBron James (62%), who when it comes to marksmanship is essentially Richard Harrow without a full head of hair but with a full head of face. And the even better news is that A-Jeff has stepped it up during these troubled Kemba Walking Boot times, putting up a 55.3% eFG%.
And if you don’t think you’ve seen anything like this before with the Bobcats, you’re right. Like a dumpster-diving crack addict of terrible basketball history, I rummaged through the Bobcats’ history to see how Big Al’s usage compares to the team’s all-time users. If he maintains his 28.6% usage rate, Jefferson would be the all-time leader, ahead of (no surprise here to any longtime Bobcats fan who didn’t subsequently turn to injecting horse tranquilizers) Stephen Jackson in 2010 and…Stephen Jackson in 2011. But Big Al is way ahead of Jackson in terms of effectiveness; besides outshooting Jackson, Jefferson’s up to a 22.0 PER and .139 win-shares/48 minutes. Captain Jack topped out in 2010 with a 27.8% usage rate, a 15.7 PER, and .085 WS/48, which also reminds me of the Peyton Manning-style welts I used to give myself from watching him endlessly chucking and then subsequently pounding my head against the wall.
So let’s all enjoy Al Jefferson—maybe even hype him up some! At the same time, let’s also ignore the 16.9 PER he’s allowing opposing centers, the fact that the defense is at its 2nd-most efficient once Al stops playing, and the fact that he’s still just an average finisher from within 8-feet, which is possibly because he’s a 7-footer who’s mysteriously incapable of slam dunking…and also the fact that for, for some strange reason, since Walker’s injury the offensive is an incredibly putrid 96.7 points/per 100 possessions when Jefferson is ON the court. Whatever. Since he’s learned that little turnaround one-hander, teams haven’t had an answer for Jefferson, and you just NEVER hear that about Bobcats players. In fact, you hear the opposite: it’s easy to have an answer for Bobcats players. They’re like a People magazine crossword puzzle. Big Al’s coming, haters, and he’s posting you up with a Sunday NYT crossword’s worth of post-up damage. You can’t stop him, you can only hope to solve for the letters around him and maybe backdoor the answer. (sorry, just trying to hype him up)
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