When the Charlotte Bobcats agreed to a deal with center Al Jefferson this summer, the Bobcats instantly had their best offensive player and their best offensive frontcourt player by an unfathomably wide margin. Over his nine seasons in the NBA, Big Al has shown that he’s one of the most reliable and talented scoring big men in the league.
With the good, there almost always comes some bad and Jefferson is not exempt from that. Jefferson has been notoriously bad on defense over his career, which doesn’t exactly bode well for a Bobcats team that ranked near the bottom of the league defensively last season.
While with the Utah Jazz last season, Jefferson once again submitted another paltry performance on the defensive end of the floor. Per Synergy Sports, Jefferson allowed 0.9 points per possession defensively last season, ranking a poor 279th in the league. Whether he was guarding in isolation, being posted up, guarding a spot-up shooter, or being put in the pick-and-roll, Jefferson struggled to defend effectively.
Coming to Charlotte, though, Jefferson is looking to shed his reputation as a poor defender with the help of Bobcats assistant and Hall-of-Famer Patrick Ewing. According to a report from Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, Jefferson says that Ewing has told him that the Bobcats’ newest big man has to step it up defensively to get the respect around the league that he feels he deserves.
Jefferson also points out that he has the tools to be a successful defender, which he does. Jefferson may not be a freak-athlete or blindingly quick, but he’s a savvy and instinctive player that, if given the right framework, could have more success defensively.
Ewing is certainly a player that has the résumé that could prove beneficial to helping coach Jefferson on the defensive end. Ewing made the NBA’s All-Defensive second team three times over his career, as well as ranking ninth in the NBA in total defensive win shares for his career with 81.4.
With the Bobcats placing emphasis on Jefferson improving his defense and with Ewing coaching him in that regard, it’s likely that we will see some improvement in Big Al’s defense this season. He may not be putting himself in the category as Marc Gasol or Dwight Howard, but any kind of improvement should help Jefferson’s stock and the Bobcats’ stock moving forward.
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