A trade for Al Jefferson has been the hottest San Antonio Spurs news for the last 24 hours, but not many have really examined what it would do for the franchise. The few that have say Jefferson would be a terrible fit and the Spurs shouldn’t do it, citing the Richard Jefferson trade of 2009 as a reason not to pull the trigger. True, the Spurs have great chemistry and are rolling right now having just won their 11th straight game, but a trade with the Utah Jazz for Jefferson would not be the end of the world.
The first NBA beat writer to report the news is extremely confident this deal will happen, basically saying it’s a “when,” not “if” situation. If that’s the case, San Antonio better make room for another big man.
Now Jefferson is nowhere near the player Tim Duncan is, so to say he would come be Duncan half the time is ridiculous. However, he’s further along in his career than Tiago Splitter and he hasn’t had the coaching that Gregg Popovich can provide. Right now, Jefferson’s offensive production is extremely reliant on scheme, which isn’t a problem for a team like the Spurs that runs specific setups for each of its stars. Jefferson is a basic center who can post up on the block and score. San Antonio can definitely handle that.
On defense, Jefferson is decent in the paint, defending the post and blocking shots close to the rim. If I’m not mistaken, the Los Angeles Lakers won two championships recently with trees down low that literally went up and over all their opponents. The Spurs used to have that with Duncan and David Robinson, so maybe Popovich is trying to create something similar to his 1999 team.
However, like the Oklahoma City Thunder built their team to beat the Lakers in the playoffs, the Spurs now have to build their team to beat the Thunder, who like to play small ball, especially against older and/or bigger teams. Jefferson can’t guard Serge Ibaka or Thabo Sefolosha, but he can take the physical burden of Kendrick Perkins off Duncan’s shoulders, which might be the key to San Antonio bringing home one more trophy for the Big Fundamental.
The difference will be coaching this year and you can bet Popovich won’t allow the much younger Thunder to run circles around his team again. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are solid perimeter defenders and when they need rest, Kawhi Leonard can take on a guy like Kevin Martin if necessary.
Of course, this isn’t a series preview, but we all know why the Spurs would make this trade if it actually happens. If Jefferson comes to San Antonio, you can bet Popovich has a specific plan for him and that will involve getting another title for Duncan and Ginobili this year.