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Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson's Underrated Value Is Unbelievable

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 09:  Al Jefferson #25 of the Utah Jazz reacts after his team scores a basket against the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 9, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Joshua J VannucciniSenior Analyst IIIFebruary 19, 2013

Every season, the media and NBA fans alike enjoy discussing the overall player rankings. While LeBron James and Kevin Durant make their regular appearances at the top of the list, the remainder is often different based on opinion and preference. One name rarely discussed as a top-tier player is Al Jefferson.

The 6'10" center, drafted straight out of high school, has performed well this season. Jefferson has averaged 17.5 points and 9.5 rebounds, both the lowest since joining the Jazz.

He's also secured 26 double-doubles this season, which is tied for sixth with LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard and Joakim Noah—all three were All-Stars this season, but we will get to that later. 

However, the big man is playing a full minute less per game. While it may be a negligible difference, it's the least amount of playing time Jefferson has received since the 2009-10 season.

He's seeing just 32.9 minutes of action a night, however his lessened contributions are seemingly attributed to lack of possessions. Jefferson was taking about 15 shots through the first four months of the season, which has boosted to 17.1 in February.

In doing so, Jefferson is putting up 19.8 points and 9.1 rebounds this month. Regardless of this, his season averages are still extremely efficient in terms of production.

Jefferson is currently 25th and 13th in the league in points and rebounds per game, respectively. What is most troubling is the lack of attention he receives for his efforts.

There are five players who are in the top-25 in scoring, yet playing 33 or less minutes per game. Four of them were selected to participate in the All-Star Game this past weekend—Jefferson was the sole player who was not.

 

The Jazz are in the playoff hunt in the West, so blaming the team's troubles as reason to omit Jefferson are moot. The voting system in terms of fans voting starters is understandable, however the 2013 All-Star ballot results were shocking.

In last place for the Western Conference's frontcourt was Houston's Chandler Parsons, which is expected given the Rockets hosting All-Star Weekend this season. Nevertheless, Dirk Nowitzki placed ahead of the small forward by about 1,000 votes. 

The gist of where this is headed may be obvious, however the argument remains valid: Jefferson did not appear in the leading vote-getters for the West's frontcourt. It contained the likes of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, who are both skilled players in their own right, yet Jefferson is having a better overall season than either big man.

The thesis of this is to really point out just how unappreciated Jefferson is. He is the unquestionable leader of Utah's team, to the extent that management is willing to let Jazz veteran Paul Millsap leave via trade. 

The potential deal of Millsap for the Clippers' Eric Bledsoe would bring a bundle of attention to Utah, and hopefully shed light on Jefferson's play.

He's been one of the most underrated players since stepping foot in the league, quietly averaging close to a double-double for almost a decade.

When you consider Jefferson has averaged 18.9 points and 10.1 rebounds since becoming a full-time starter, the sole accolade of his selection to the All-Rookie Second Team in 2005 is alarming. 

Whether or not the future of the Jazz will raise awareness of Jefferson's play remains to be seen. Fans and Jefferson himself can only remain optimistic that a day will come when he is appreciated for his contributions. 

All information sourced from espn.com/nba/statistics, nba.com (votes) and espn.com/nba (story).

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