Al Jefferson was the centerpiece of the return package in one of the biggest superstar trades in NBA history.
Just when it seemed Jefferson, who was never an All-Star, leveled off as a player. He proved he had another gear with Charlotte in 2014.
That All-NBA third-team selection came in Jefferson’s 10th year. Only Tyson Chandler and Sam Cassell, who made it in their 11th seasons, earned their first All-NBA berth later in their careers.
Now, Jefferson retires as a late bloomer who peaked just in time.
Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:
Just ran into "Big" Al Jefferson, who spent part this season in China. Said he's officially retired from the NBA. Will play in Big3 this summer but is done with NBA. "I was able to be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas for the first time since high school." #Celtics #Hornets30
— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) March 23, 2019
Fittingly, our last headline naming Jefferson came in 2016: “Report: Pacers, Al Jefferson agree to three-year, $30 million contract.” The league was evolving. Jefferson’s athleticism was further declining. Indiana didn’t know it, but he was already about finished by the time he signed that deal.
Jefferson has the highest post-up-per-game seasons in the NBA.com database, which goes back to 2013-14 – 19.8 that year and 17.7 the following season. He was sturdy on the block with craft and touch. Defensively, he lacked the hops to protect the rim and mobility to defend smaller players.
In other words, he’s the type of big man who’s becoming obsolete.
But before NBA embraced stretch bigs to the degree it has, Jefferson had some nice years in Minnesota, Utah and Charlotte. He worked hard to improve despite his natural limitations.
Jefferson was also part of one my favorite teams – the 2016 Hornets, who were full of expiring contracts but pulled together anyway. In Charlotte, Jefferson committed more to defense and helped Steve Clifford (who now coaches the Magic) establish his bona fides as a head coach who could implement a strong defense regardless of personnel.
By declaring for the 2005 draft straight out of high school, Jefferson gave himself a lot of time to develop and flourish while in the NBA. He took advantage of it.