Richard Jefferson, Savvy Businessman

by

When Manu Ginobili plays basketball, he plays with a rose between his teeth. His game is all skill and charm and sizzle.  Falling in love with Manu Ginobili’s game really means falling in love.

The story with Richard Jefferson is different. Accepting RJ as a Spur is a little like inviting your drunk uncle — the brother your mother hates — to your mom’s birthday party. Everyone knows it will end badly, but he is her brother. He should be there, right?

Forgive the hyperbole; Jefferson isn’t nearly so bad. But he was an awful fit for the Spurs last season, and the Spurs just shelled out 38.9 million over 4 years to keep their bad fit in tow. What are we to make of it?

To start, Richard Jefferson’s decision to opt out of his contract was brilliant. Yes, brilliant.

When Jefferson announced his opt-out, he became the butt of too many easy jokes. Sports journalist and hoops bloggers were quick to accuse Jefferson of stupidity for walking away from 15 million in guaranteed money. Why would he do that? Didn’t he learn from the career mistakes of Latrell Sprewell and Bonzi Wells?

Turns out that Jefferson knew more than his critics: he just parlayed 15 million into 38. With a possible lockout and a more frugal CBA looming large on the horizon, Jefferson has locked himself into more guaranteed money over the next 4 years than he would have made otherwise. Credit Jefferson with a shrewd move and big score.

The Spurs also score a win here, but not without qualification.

From the Spurs perspective, Richard Jefferson was the best FA wing left on the market. So resigning him was a matter of capitalizing on the best available option. But, from what I can tell, Jefferson was not getting offers from other teams that approached the Spurs’ offer. Strange that in a summer when the Spurs signed Tiago Splitter to a terrific under-market-value contract, they would overpay for Matt Bonner, and, perhaps, dramatically overpay for Richard Jefferson.  The Spurs gave Jefferson a sweet deal.

It’s still a win for the Spurs. They’re now in a position to avoid tax penalties, and they’ve returned as much talent to their roster as fans could reasonably expect, given their payroll constraints.

But the Spurs’ re-signing of Richard Jefferson leaves fans with two nagging questions.

Will Richard Jefferson commit himself to defense, accepting a roll as San Antonio’s primary wing stopper? He brought very little to the Spurs’ team defense last season — he was underwhelming at best and spent most of the season missing rotations or seeming out of place. We’ll give Jefferson a mulligan, citing a steep first year learning curve in a difficult system. But Jefferson must show marked improvement in this area.

The other question concerns Jefferson’s shooting. The Spurs need Jefferson to space the floor with reliable three point shooting, especially from the corners. Hopefully, Jefferson can improve upon his .316 mark from last season, but his career mark of .348 suggests that lower expectations are in order. Still, the question remains: will Richard Jefferson emerge as a reliable, floor spacing shooter for the Spurs?

  • The Hammer

    Gamble! The Spurs did not expect to gamble when they recruited RJ last year because the expectations were different. Now on this sweet deal RJ is a gamble for the front office. RJ may come out this year and earn the heart and soul of the Spurs fans or he may go and underachieve again this year or next. We must wait and see before any of us can make an honest call. RJ can show his stuff and earn everybody’s heart by going out ther this year and improve from last year. I think a 15 pp and solid defense, would suffice the requirements.

  • Aaron

    I agree that RJ needs to be a bit more reliable on D. But as far as the offense goes, his success there is as much Pop’s responsibility as his, and I really think they BOTH fell down on this last year. If you brought RJ in just to be a Bowen clone, then it was a mistake to bring him. When you make this sort of financial committment to a player, then it only makes that you also commit the time implementing an offense that maximizes that investment. Make room for RJ to be RJ. He didn’t underperform because he’s a bad player. He underperformed because the role they want him in was a bad fit. Now that they’ve locked him up long term, lets hope that they come up with a plan to get the most out of RJ.

  • Scott

    I can’t believe we overpaid this old piece of junk. He didn’t work well with us last year…so lets sign him to 38.9 mil! What an awful move. I’ll be surprised if we finish 3rd in the division this year…have fun Mavs and Rockets and probably Grizzlies beating up on us!!

  • http://www.nba.com fatsocalifornia

    I am so disappointed with Pop and the Spurs to have to go with RJ. That was a Big Mistake last year and Still is. He opt out and No Team even looked at him. While he was with Nets in NY, if I am to rank better players by then, Kid 1st, the guy who is with Nuggets 2nd and RJ 3rd. What did Pop see in RJ to trade him with so much Value?! This is crazy. It ain’t gone work. Very Sad.

    Quest – Who is a reliable 3 pointer to help Manu spreading the floor? of which Spurs need badly?!

  • Bake

    I think considering the options presented this is the best case scenario. Since we made the commitment last year and were forced to deal with it this year (the past is the past can’t break it down now) we got him to resign at less money…though its still a decent amount. But fact is there was no better solution to fill that spot. The front office knows what they are doing so their faith make me give them the benefit of the doubt. Though the core is getting older last year and was McDyess/Hill/Blair/RJ’s first real go with the unit. All important guys and we all know how our system is. RJ’s always been the best player for losers aside from the few overachieving Nets squads. Considering having almost the same team come back with a few key new pieces (splitter and gee/temple/neal) I think we’ll flyer under the preseason hype radar unlike last year…which I don’t think helped matters. The west hasn’t really changed (Dallas can do what they want but we own then. Not worried about Houston. Hornets suck. OK City getting better but not yet) so I think we just need to match up against the Lakers. I guess we should just sit back and trust and hope.

  • Pingback: Video: Can Alonzo Gee make the San Antonio Spurs? | 48 Minutes of Hell

  • Joe R

    Does not matter if RJ is back, Lakers will win West again.

  • Pingback: Spurs offseason review :: Is San Antonio done for the summer? | 48 Minutes of Hell

  • Pingback: Video: Can Alonzo Gee make the San Antonio Spurs?

  • Pingback: Is this summer the end of the San Antonio Spurs role player?

  • Pingback: Now looking to make trades: The Milwaukee Bucks : Bucksketball – A Better Milwaukee Bucks Blog