We’ve all been taken hostage by NBA free agency for much of the month of July. Almost every sports Web site or blog, including this one, has offered insight on LeBron James and the other guys (and no that is not a plug for Will Ferrell’s latest movie The Other Guys… opening August 6). The point is that nearly everything has been said about the marquee free agents, and we know you’re tired of reading and hearing about it. Trust me, we’re tired of it too.
The Sports Debates is going under the radar a bit today as far as NBA transactions and taking a look at some moves that maybe went by without as much fanfare. I was looking over the list of transactions a couple of days ago and a lot has happened that, quite frankly, I must have missed due to three certain players hogging the spotlight (by the way, how did Darko Milicic get $16M?) A move that I think is going to pay real dividends is the acquisition of center/power forward Al Jefferson by the Utah Jazz.
Many casual fans may have immediately written off the Utah Jazz completely once Carlos Boozer decided to jump ship, which he tends to do (right, Cleveland fans?). That left a big gaping presence in the middle as Boozer, when healthy, was capable of giving the team 20 points and 10 rebounds each night. Over the course of his eight year career Boozer, one of the few Duke players to produce professionally, has averaged 17.2 PPG and 11.2 RPG. Impressive. How do you replace that?
Enter up and coming superstar Al Jefferson.
You may not know Al Jefferson and that’s understandable considering he’s played the last three seasons in Minnesota under the likes of Randy Wittman, Kevin McHale, and Kurt Rambis. Yikes! (Sorry Bleacher Fan…I had to use it!) Over the past three seasons combined he’s averaged over 20 PPG and 10 RPG, which is obviously comparable to Boozer. What’s impressive to me is that while he torn his ACL 50 games into the 2008-09 season, he still made it back for the beginning of the 2009-2010 season and didn’t miss a beat.
There’s something else that really makes me want to root for this guy. Before the 2007-2008 season Jefferson was advised by his agent to play it out and sign the max contract that he would most definitely get offered. Jefferson was not interested and signed for lesser money, though he still got a nice contract. He said that he wasn’t worth max contract money yet and that he had not proved himself. That tells me a lot about this guy, and he is quite refreshing in this NBA free agent era. It’s true that he had not fully proven himself at that time, as he was coming off just one good season in Boston.
Jerry Sloan has a history of bring out the best in power forwards. There was Boozer and of course before that, there was Karl Malone. I’ve got a feeling Al Jefferson is going to flourish under Sloan. This pick up will be considered one of the better moves of the off-season.