Charlotte Hornets: The Al Jefferson Hate Needs to Stop…Now


The Charlotte Hornets have been pretty disappointing this year, and as a result, there are many disgruntled fans in the Queen City. It’s no surprise that many have begun pointing the finger, with Lance Stephenson getting the majority of the blame.

However, recently, there has been an influx of people that are beginning to turn on the Master of the Left Block, Al Jefferson. I know, I’m shaking my head as well.

Live Feed

NBA Trade Rumors: 1 Player from each team most likely to be traded in-season
NBA Trade Rumors: 1 Player from each team most likely to be traded in-season /

Sir Charles In Charge

  • NBA Power Rankings: Tiering all 30 projected starting point guards for 2023-24Sir Charles In Charge
  • 4 Teams that should trade for Tyler HerroAll U Can Heat
  • 1 Advantage the Heat have over every Southeast Division teamAll U Can Heat
  • NBA rumors: Trae Young drops Hawks on Insta, Harden's only suitor, Kelly Oubre Jr. updateFanSided
  • Golden State Warriors' forward predicted top trade target for two rival teamsBlue Man Hoop
  • Jefferson was the new guy on the block (pun intended) last season and was a huge factor in getting that over-achieving Charlotte squad to only its second-ever postseason appearance with the Bobcats moniker. He did so to the tune of 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game while shooting 50.9 percent from the floor.

    This season, his numbers are slightly down, but are they bad enough to lay blame?

    Through last night’s loss to Dallas, Jefferson is averaging 17.2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while shooting 48.2 percent on the season.

    The doesn’t sounds bad, but how does it stack up to the other centers of the league?

    Only four other centers are averaging at least 17 points and 8 rebounds per game while shooting at least 48 percent – Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, and Nikola Vucevic. I don’t know about you, but I’d say that’s pretty good company.

    Sure, his shooting percentages are down, but are they all that bad?

    Big Al is currently shooting 60.6 percent from less than five feet away from the basket – that’s sixth among all centers with at least three attempts from that distance per game. He’s also shooting 45.8 percent from 5-9 feet away, which is second among all centers with at least two attempts. Call me crazy, but I’ll take those numbers.

    A big difference this year is perimeter shooting. We all know that floor-spacing is important for a post-player, and Charlotte certainly wasn’t elite from three-point range last season, but they were better at it then compared to this season.

    During the 2013-2014 season, Charlotte shot 35.2 percent from deep. By no means is that elite, but it’s not terrible. This year, they’re shooting 30.8 percent – that is terrible, and it’s good enough for last place in the NBA.

    So with the Hornets being even less of a threat from outside than a season ago, are we really surprised that teams are upping the pressure down low? We shouldn’t be. Opposing coaches are essentially saying, “We’ll give you those outside shots, take ’em, I dare you.”

    With the increased inside pressure, Jefferson has found himself double- and sometimes triple-teamed, yet is still forced to put up a shot. Many scream for him to pass out, but I ask those people one question – where is he expected to pass to?

    Let’s look at an in-game example of what happens when Jefferson is fed the ball back in an early season game against the Chicago Bulls. I chose this possession because it near-perfectly epitomizes most Al Jefferson low-block possessions.

    This is right after Big Al was given the entry-pass from Lance Stephenson. First off, notice the shot clock. There are only 14 seconds remaining by the time the Hornets are beginning to run their play. The significance here is that if the original play doesn’t work, there’s very limited time remaining to make something out of nothing.

    Next, notice where everyone else is – on the opposite side of the court, with the exception of Stephenson, who’s on his way out. This means that if Joakim Noah (who happens to be a pretty good defender) stands his ground, Jefferson has nowhere to go.

    This also allows Cody Zeller‘s man to cheat in and protect the rim if Jefferson were able to get by Noah.

    Here’s a look four seconds later. As we can see, Gerald Henderson has shifted over some, but he’s at an angle were if Jefferson attempted to pass out, Jimmy Butler (another pretty good defender) is right in his passing-lane.

    Noah is holding his ground, and Zeller is actually bringing his defender even closer to the basket.

    Ideally, what you’d like to see here is someone cutting to the basket.

    If Lance Stephenson were to make a hard cut, he would either be open for an easy layup or he would attract attention. This could alleviate some of Noah’s pressure and it also could free up Kemba Walker on the perimeter.

    Finally, we have where Jefferson spun in and shot – he made the basket and drew a foul, for those of you wondering.

    The main thing of note here is where everyone else is located.

    Walker, Stephenson, and Zeller are in just about the exact same spots. Henderson is the only guy that moved, but did it actually create anything? He’s a career 29.8 percent three-point shooter – and is shooting 29.3 percent this year – so the defense would be happy to let Jefferson pass out to him.

    Also, notice how far off the line Jimmy Butler is (and how far off he was in the second image) because he isn’t concerned about Henderson taking that shot. That allows him to come in tighter on Jefferson, clogging things up even more.

    Possessions like this one happen all-too-often.

    For those exclaiming they’re sick of seeing Jefferson force up a shot in these scenarios, I ask you this – what’s his alternative?

    Is it the sheer volume of shots that are causing frustration?

    His 16 attempts per game are good for only 21st in the league. That’s not very high for a go-to scorer – in fact, it’s not even the highest on the team (Kemba Walker averages 16.6). Is it a lot of shots for his position? Not really – only fifth-highest among all centers.

    Jefferson has also received a significant amount of criticism for defense – or lack there of. I’ll give you that, he’s a below-average defender. However, we knew that when he was signed and it’s the same level of defense he was playing last season, so I’m not sure why it’s a surprise.

    Look, I get it, people are frustrated. I’m frustrated. Everyone’s frustrated. It’s natural to want to point fingers, but let’s be sure to look at the details before we break out the fire and pitchforks.

    Is Al Jefferson having a down-year compared to last season? Yes. Is he the main reason for Charlotte’s struggles? No – not by a long shot.

    Next: Despite a 5-game losing streak, Hornets fans should be optimistic

    More from Swarm and Sting