While the Charlotte Bobcats allowed LeBron James to drop 61 points on them earlier this week, the second time they’ve been burned by a 60-point effort in the 2013-14 NBA season, a footnote of the loss for Charlotte was the play of center Al Jefferson. On any other night, his 38 points and 19 rebounds on 18-24 shooting from the floor would have probably been the line of the night.
In an upset 109-87 victory over the East-leading Pacers, Jefferson was near unstoppable as he put up 34 points, eight rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes while shooting 16-25 from the floor. The epitome of how much Jefferson was feeling it on Wednesday came late in the fourth quarter when Jefferson launched up a 31-footer with the shot clock winding down on a broke play; he banked it in from the top of the key.
Jefferson’s first season in Charlotte has been admirably productive. The veteran big man has put up 20.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 33.9 minutes per game while shooting 49.7 percent from the field and showing improvement on the defensive end of the floor under new Bobcats head coach Steve Clifford.
What’s more impressive about Jefferson’s season is how he’s turned it on as of late as Charlotte tries to lock themselves into a playoff-spot. Since the start of February, Jefferson has averaged 24.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 34.1 minutes per game while hitting 52 percent of his shots. To put that in perspective, the center ranks eighth in the NBA over that time in terms of points per game, but has also played fewer minutes than anyone in that top eight.
Though many fans might dismiss Jefferson’s season because “it’s the Bobcats” and people are still failing to realize their success this season, Charlotte’s center is making a legitimate case to earn All-NBA honors at the end of the season.
It’d be far-fetched to think that Jefferson is going to be first team All-NBA or, to a lesser degree, second team All-NBA because of the seasons that Joakim Noah and Dwight Howard are having this year. However, there’s a legitimate case to be made for Jefferson when you put him up against guys like DeMarcus Cousins, Chris Bosh (if you consider him a center), or Marc Gasol. Bosh and Gasol have had more team success, but Jefferson’s offensive numbers are substantially better than those guys’. While his production is comparable to Cousins’, the success of the Bobcats gives him the edge in my mind.
There was a mixed reaction when the Bobcats signed Jefferson this summer, many people questioning the deal and the “win-now” mentality that it seemed to bring along with it. However, as Charlotte is improving and in a good place to make the postseason out of the weak East, all while Jefferson is producing in the manner that he is, it’s hard to question it now. Nothing’s a lock at this point, but the Bobcats are turning things around and it’s a possibility that Jefferson could reap some individual honors as a result.