How Al Jefferson fits with the Bobcats offense, Part 1
The Bobcats made possibly their biggest free agent signing in their young franchise’s history by locking up Al Jefferson for three years, in what many critics see as a move to get the team from awful to simply mediocre. While it remains to be seen just how far the signing of Jefferson will be able to take the Bobcats, it’s clear he represents a major upgrade on the offensive end. His contributions (or lack there of) on the defensive end aside solely for the purposes of this article, the one thing that is nearly guaranteed because of this signing is that the Bobcats just got extremely better on offense and should see an uptick in their 28th ranked 101.5 offensive rating.
Jefferson brings his career 16.4 points per game on 50% field goal shooting to a poor offense and should anchor the offense on the block. It’s apparent that the offensive strategy of the Bobcats is about to flip completely, as offensive possessions ended by Jefferson, as logged by Synergy, ended in a post up 45.7% of the time,. while scoring 0.89 points per possession (PPP), 44th in th league. . Meanwhile, the Bobcats posted up only 7.5% of the time and were the 26th ranked team in terms of PPP, at 0.73.
The below clips shows the immediate impact Jefferson will bring to the Bobcats, as a player that can be relied on to score in the post. He does not show advanced footwork to beat the defender but has a nice array of moves that allow him to get past the defender depending on how they are playing him.
While the Bobcats will see a rise in the number of post possessions they use, the addition of Jefferson also opens up some opportunities for their other players to play into their strengths, which should increase the effectiveness of the offense as a whole. The defense focusing on Jefferson in the post should open up the offense in ways the Bobcats were not able to exploit last season.
Before diving into how Jefferson will open up space for his Bobcat teammates, it is important to capture just how bad the Bobcats were out of the post last season, specifically Bismack Biyombo. As noted above, the Bobcats used post ups infrequently and were unable to generate any offense out of these post ups. Their PPP was one of the worst in the league and they supplemented this with an 11.1% turnover rate on post ups.
Biyombo was a main cause of this struggle, as he has yet to show any signs of competence in the post. His post ups accounted for 19.4% of his possessions, where he scored 0.61 PPP and had a 16.8% turnover rate. He was also one of the worst passers in the league, as he had a historically low assist rate for big men who played over 2,000 minutes. The clips below show his struggles with turnovers and his inability to find teammates when in trouble. Notice how he does not see open teammates cutting through the lane or spotting up for three point attempts when the defense surrounds him. There is going to be a stark contrast to Jefferson’s skills later in this breakdown.
The first player who should be rejoicing is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as he should have plenty of room to attack off post cuts. One of MKG’s offense strengths is slashing without the ball into the open space for the layup. When the defense converges on Jefferson, this will open plenty of space for MKG to cut through the paint. These clips show MKG cutting off the post, as well as some cuts off dribble penetration, to illustrate how he sees the open space and recognizes the right time to make his cuts.
Jefferson is an adequate passer, especially out of the post, which is evidenced by his 12.0% assist rate last season. When defenders hedge toward Jefferson, he does not hesitate to find the open man. The below frame shows an example of this, as Jefferson is cut off from the basket by two players. However, this opens a lane to the rim and his teammate is able to take advantage with a quick cut to the rim.
While MKG was able to attack the rim off post cuts at some times last season, he should see a rise in this offensive play which should lead to several easy baskets per game. Jefferson will attract much more attention than any post player the Bobcats had last season, which should open up the paint for MKG to exploit.
Another player who will see an uptick in open shots is Ben Gordon, who should see more opportunities for spot up three pointers. Gordon was the best three point shooter on the Bobcats last season at 38.7% and should be the top long range threat again in 2013-14. His 3 point percentage increased to 39.7% on 91 spots up opportunities. Most of these shots came off dribble penetration, as his defender was able to stick to him when the ball was in the post last season.
Just as he was able to find cutters for layups, Jefferson can find three point shooters when open and can deliver an accurate pass so that his teammate can catch and shoot. As seen below, Tony Allen is digging down on Jefferson, leaving his man open. Jefferson is able to see his teammate and deliver the pass for the open three point shot.
Gordon should plant himself in the vision of Jefferson to be an outlet for a kick out and will find himself with more open opportunities for spot up three point shots.
Jefferson is a much better post player than the Bobcats had last year, which will improve their offense as a whole. Jefferson cannot only score himself, he is an adequate passer and will be able to find cutters and spot up shooters that the Bobcats were not able to utilize often enough last season. The Bobcats will be grateful for his post scoring but will also be benefitted by his passing ability.
The second part will look at how Jefferson’s skills fit with Kemba Walker on the pick and roll.