by Tyrone Anthony
It is now February and the Spurs have a 42-8 record. It has been an enjoyable ride these past 50 games. But with regards to the Spurs offense, would they benefit from more scoring at the rim and in the paint? I would bring you to the attention of one player, who in the past, has been a highflyer, catching passes from the likes of Jason Kidd, dunking and scoring the ball with brilliant cuts to the rim, Richard Jefferson.
It has come to the attention of many a Spurs fan that Richard Jefferson's improvement, especially from beyond the 3-point line, has netted the Spurs many victories. When it comes to crunch time, the 3-point shot has been almost automatic. However, is that all Richard Jefferson can do? If all Richard Jefferson is relegated to is being a 3-point shooter and jump shooter, does he really warrant the 4-year, $40 million contract? Surely, there is more he can bring to the table. Otherwise, the Spurs may have as well signed a 3-point specialist at the SF spot to fill in for Richard Jefferson to shoot 3s.
Now, if Richard Jefferson has another option to go to, like the chance to slash to the rim off the ball and not primarily be a 3-point shooter, could it improve the Spurs offense? For the record, 78% of Richard Jefferson's shot attempts come from jump shooting. By comparison, 80% of George Hill's shot attempts are jump shots and 96% of Gary Neal's shot attempts are jump shots. Wouldn’t Jefferson be more of a difference maker in the rotation with stats like that if he were attacking the rim more often?
With all the talk about Richard Jefferson's improved efficiency shooting the ball, where has his offense near the rim gone? Free throw shooting attempts have dipped from 3.5 per game to 2.7 per game from last season to this season. Shot attempts have also dipped slightly from 9.6 to 9.0. Where is Richard Jefferson's reward for his improved efficiency? Is there a reason why Gary Neal is taking more shot attempts than Richard Jefferson on a per minute basis?
With that said, it is important that we look through what the Spurs and Richard Jefferson can do to open up space inside. The alley-oop play has been a potent weapon for the Spurs to utilize, but the baseline cut from Jefferson has been missing this season. Richard Jefferson has been more than happy to showcase his new-found range from the 3-point line and not cut to the rim, so as not to affect spacing. As the saying goes, 3 points is worth more than 2. Of course, it would be easier for Jefferson to put the ball in on a lay-up than a 3-point attempt, but he chooses not to do so in order for the Big 3 to have more space to with which to work.
Living and dying by the 3 is an option. But if there are other viable options, such as Richard Jefferson's ability as a finisher, wouldn’t the Spurs be wise to take advantage of it? Making him just a jump shooter is really a waste of talent and not maximizing his ability to be an off-ball threat in every area of the court, particularly near the rim.
It is never over watching Spurs basketball, making new observations everyday. Let's hear what you think.