Charlotte Bobcats’ Al Jefferson is the Best Center in the NBA Right Now
Al Jefferson dominated once again with 32 points and 12 rebounds as the Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Detroit Pistons 108-96 on Tuesday night. This isn’t the first time we had to raise our eyebrows about Jefferson’s performance; actually he’s been at this pace for quite some time now. In fact, he could also make the case of becoming the best center in the NBA at this moment. It may be hard to believe because of the position his team is in right now, but his impact alone has taken Charlotte to new heights and expectations. This is a Charlotte team that finished with only seven wins just two seasons ago and now we are talking playoffs with this team. Yes, playoffs, and it is all because of Jefferson. Don’t believe he can make the case of being the best center in the NBA? Well, numbers never lie.
In 16 games in January, Jefferson averaged 23.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.0 block in 35.6 minutes while shooting .537 (169-of-315) from the field and .710 (44-of-62) from the free-throw line. Jefferson recorded 14 double-figure scoring games, including a dozen 20-point games and five 30- point games. He posted nine double-doubles, eight games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, four games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds and two games with at least 30 points and 15 rebounds. Jefferson ranked seventh in the NBA in scoring (third in Eastern Conference), 10th in rebounding (fourth in Eastern Conference), tied for third in defensive rebounds (tied for first in Eastern Conference) and tied for 11th in double-doubles (fourth in Eastern Conference) in the month of January. He set Bobcats franchise records and career bests of 11 straight 20-point games (Jan. 11-31), three straight 30-point games (Jan. 25-31), four straight 20-point and 10-rebound games (Jan. 17-22, tied franchise record) and three straight 30-10 games (Jan. 25-31). Still don’t believe he was snubbed from being an All-Star?
Along with a dominating performance, Jefferson also added seven assists in the win. This could play as a key factor for Charlotte if they are looking to solidify a spot in the playoffs. Just as projected when Jefferson first arrived in Charlotte, serving as a divergence would take a lot of pressure off some of the other players to create their shots, including Josh McRoberts. Last season, when Charlotte acquired McRoberts, he had to serve as a defender and rebounder which hindered his opportunity to showcase ability to shoot from long range. This season serves different for McRoberts with Jefferson in the lineup. McRoberts went 3-of-5 from beyond the three-point line against Detroit and is shooting 29-of-58 from beyond the three-point line (.500) over his last 14 games. The matchup against Detroit marked McRoberts’ 11th game this season with at least three three-point field goals after having just two such games in his career prior to this season. He has recorded two games with a career-high five three-point field goals this season (Nov. 11 vs. Atlanta and Jan. 17 at Orlando) after having just one career game with four or more three-point field goals prior this season when he made four for Indiana on Dec. 3, 2010 at Phoenix. McRoberts has made 69 three-point field goals this season, topping his career total of 58 entering the season.
Many fans may find it hard to consider Jefferson as the best center in the NBA because of the team is playing with now. When fans probably hear or see Bobcats, the first thing that comes to mind is how much of a laughingstock this franchise has become over the last 10 years. Part of the reason why Jefferson was snubbed from the All-Star game was because NBA fans nationally do not get the opportunity to see him play on big television networks like ESPN and TNT. Fans vote on who they have seen play the most over the course of the year. Seeing the fact that Charlotte has not played well for the last three years, it wouldn’t have made sense to schedule them on national television not knowing if this season would have been a repeat. Maybe this is why Joakim Noah was selected over Jefferson as one of the top centers in the east. Noah is a great player averaging 11.9 points and 11.5 rebounds, but 20.3 and 10.5 from Jefferson sounds much better to have on your team.