After spending the last three seasons with the Utah Jazz, center Al Jefferson signed a three-year, $41 million deal with the Charlotte Bobcats in July. It’s hard to call his averages of 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds per game last season especially disappointing, but the talent level around him is not as good in Charlotte and that alone could lead to improved production.
Jefferson has a streak of seven straight seasons averaging at least 16 points and nine rebounds per game, and playing in relative obscurity has surely left him underrated around the league and perhaps overlooked in fantasy basketball circles during that time. What can fantasy owners expect from Jefferson this coming season?
One of Jefferson’s backups, Brendan Haywood, has a stress fracture in his left foot and is expected to be sidelined for around 12 weeks as of Thursday. Haywood was unlikely to eat into Jefferson’s minutes very much even if he was healthy, but the possibility for extra playing time is good news for any player. Bismack Biyombo will now be Jefferson’s primary backup during the early part of the season, but his limitations offensively put a ceiling both on his minutes and his stand-alone fantasy value.
Jefferson’s field goal percentage is not as high as you would expect for a low-post player (49.4 percent last season, a shade below 50 percent in five straight seasons), but his free-throw percentage (77 percent last year) is not a drag on his fantasy value and his contribution as a shot blocker could be undervalued since he is not know for his defensive prowess.
Depending on the scoring format used in a league, a case can be made for Jefferson to be the third center off the board in fantasy drafts (behind Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol). He has less downside (and upside, perhaps) than DeMarcus Cousins and does not carry the durability concerns of Joakim Noah or Al Horford. With a primary offensive role for the Bobcats and little competition for touches, I think Jefferson could approach his career-high for shot attempts (19.5 per game during the 2008-2009 season with the Minnesota Timberwolves) this year. I’m comfortable penciling him in for averages of 20 points, 10 rebounds and one or two blocked shots per game, with some upside potential.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.