Would you believe me if I told that Richard Jefferson currently has the league-leading FG% of all wings in the NBA? Would you believe me if I told you that he's 9th overall in terms of FG% in the league? What if I told you he was the leading scorer of all players averaging 10-11 shots per game? What if I told you he's taking 1-5 fewer shots per game than other players in the league averaging 18 points per game?
So what's my point?
Well, certainly it's a small sample size, but it's already a very promising one. Jason Rogers has named Richard Jefferson as our X-factor player. And he does have some rather compelling evidence for why Jefferson's performance (not Splitter or Blair's) will be crucial for the success (or lack thereof) as we continue through the season. That's what an X-factor player is. Most are aware that Lamar Odom is the Lakers' X-factor player, Josh Smith for the Hawks, the non-marquee player upon whom the team's success hinges, not to say that his scoring double digits will be a direct 1-1 correlation to wins and losses, but it's a good indicator. There are a lot of ways to explain away Richard Jefferson's stellar 18 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.2 APG on 60.3% from the field and 52.2% from 3 point land. Oh yeah, he's averaging 2 threes per game (that's made).
He's not being involved significantly more in the offense than he previously was, he's only getting about 1 extra shot per game from last season. In a BDL Live Chat with Yahoo's Kelly Dwyer I asked about Jefferson's shooting and Dwyer said that Richard appeared to be getting his legs under his shots. His set shot, I have to say, is very reminisce of Bruce Bowen and Mario Elie at this point in time, and this is something, now that he's comfortable with it, will only continue, perhaps not at a 18 PPG clip, but at a rate that will drive the Spurs' success.
How about his defensive game? Certainly I can't deny that he's hustling , and maybe this should go in a different post, but I'm consolidating it here. We can't deny that the Spurs have improved offensively. They're now 5-1, 4th in the league for points scored per game at 106.67, behind only the Lakers (112.13), Rockets (112), and Suns (108.29). While that's a nice number to look at, we're also 21st in points allowed at 103. It's only because of that narrow 3 point margin that we're winning these games now. Lakers are holding their opponents to 99.63 points per game while Houston and Phoenix are allowing 112.67 and 109.57 respectively, hence their losing records. To me, it's more distressing to hear that we're giving up 103 points per contest than it is surprising to hear we're putting up 107. Sure, if averages pan out we'll win more than we lose, but I know that's definitely not good enough. I know that Pop has this "Law of 22" which is a goal of limiting opponents to 88 points per game (22 points per quarter). Spurs are hot now, and a lot of that is Richard Jefferson's hot shooting, but it really comes down to defense, and so far it's been a little lacking.
What's hurting us? Well simply put, our perimeter defenders (as good as they are) aren't as good as our perimeter defenders were in our championship years (read: nobody defends like Bruce Bowen). Tack on to that the lack of a shot blocking presence outside of Tim Duncan on the floor consistently, and it really hurts us when our wings are beaten on the dribble. I'm not going to go into a list of every single big man I wish could play next to Timmeh, but I seriously hope that Splitter steps up soon. While Blair may be a more viable offensive option at this point, his liability on the defensive end may cost us later.