Richard Jefferson is a pretty good fourth option
Somewhat lost in the shuffle of Antonio McDyess’ tip-in and Gary Neal’s mad scramble toss-up, was the shift put in by Richard Jefferson against the Lakers on Thursday night.
RJ scored 18 points on 7-12 from the floor and 4-8 from the 3-point line. Over the last five games, Jefferson is putting up 13.8 points per game on 57% from the field and almost 46% from 3-point range, which are all slight bumps above his season averages.
Early in the season everybody, me included, made a big deal about how much improvement Jefferson showed compared to last season. And for good reason, he averaged about 15 points a game through November. But then things seemed to tail off a bit and he seemed to regress.
That’s not quite the truth, though. Jefferson has improved measurably compared to last year. You just have to think about the role he improved for. RJ didn’t put in all the hours of work last summer to become the go-to guy in the Spurs offense. Jefferson worked on fitting into his role as the fourth option on the team.
His 3-point percentage was the main point of emphasis, as any role player not playing with his back to the basket needs to be a good perimeter shooter to be a Spur. And last season, Jefferson was not that. Now RJ is a 42% shooter from behind the arc and things are sweet.
Jefferson also had to simply learn the offense. As the small forward and small-ball 4, he has to know practically every position on the floor. Last season Jefferson had to constantly be aware of where he was, what he was doing, where his teammates were, etc. This season the offense is almost second nature to him, and instead of figuring out where to go, he can simply react to the game as it happens.
DeJuan Blair talked a couple of weeks ago after the win at home against the Knicks about not thinking and just being able to play, and that’s what has happened to Jefferson this season. Less thinking, more playing.
RJ isn’t the scoring threat that he once was, and for good reason. But the Spurs have fit him into their system and while he may have low scoring nights, with a few pet plays and improved 3-point shooting, he’s everything the Spurs expected when they traded for him.