I know I've said this a lot before, and I'll say continue to say it. We all know that Richard Jefferson isn't going to be much of a defensive specialist a la Bruce Bowen. He's not going to be shutting anyone down and gaining the reputation of his contemporaries in Tayshaun Prince, Shane Battier, or Ron Artest, let alone the all around two-way talent of the likes of Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace (perhaps even John Salmons). On the flip side, his offense is waning and he cannot be expected to rely on his athleticism as of old to get to the rim at will like he used to. If we go back to Spurs championship formulas of old I think it's relatively unrealistic to think that Jefferson, at this point in time, will ever develop the court-saavy of Bruce Bowen, or somehow develop the ball-handling capabilities of Stephen Jackson. As dismal as Jefferson's performance was last season, we can still use it as a kind of baseline:
12.3 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.5 blocks, on 46.7% shooting and 31.6% from beyond the arc in 31.1 minutes of play.
Way shy of his previous season in Milwaukee of 19.6 PPG and the season prior in New Jersey of 22.6 PPG, Jefferson does have the unenviable position of moving from becoming a key cog in the offensive rotation to more of a role-player. Seeing his shot attempts drop from 16.2 to 14.9 to 9.6 season after season, though it wasn't the result we were looking for, it's not totally unreasonable for him to have struggled to fit into as complex an offense as Greg Popovich's. It may not be the most perfect analog but I think a former Spur that Richard Jefferson would do well to emulate is Sean Elliott. We look at Elliott, and at age 30 (which Jefferson is at now), when they won a championship in 1999, Elliott had comparable numbers:
11.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.3 blocks, on 41.0% shooting and 32.8% from beyond the arc in 30.2 minutes of play.
Okay, so the numbers are similar, Elliott used to be a 20 PPG contributor as well, until Duncan came along. How did Elliott adapt? During the 1999 Finals, Duncan and Robinson dominated I would say almost 3/4 of the possessions, but Elliott was a key part of that success, how did he do it? Firstly, Sean Elliott started with picking his shots. The offense is a constant motion, and while Elliott doesn't put up flashy numbers, he made some crucial shots. That requires quick split second decisions on taking the shot or throwing it back into the paint. Secondly, Elliott got aggressive on defense, I know he wasn't the stalwart that teammate Mario Elie was, but he worked hard at it, being aggressive on the perimeter and hounding the ball-handlers on the wing. Sure maybe it was because you had two massive shot-blockers in Robinson and Duncan patrolling the paint, but I would also like to believe that someone who alters shots as well as Tiago Splitter will help Jefferson be aggressive as well. Jefferson ultimately needs to learn to move without the ball and make those quick decisions when he does get it. Sean Elliott, Mr. Jefferson, emulate Sean Elliott.