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Big Al Still Needs Work

He's the future of the franchise. He's a natural talent that's ready to contribute way before anyone thought possible. He looks good even when he makes mistakes. But don't forget, he still needs some work. Here's my highly untrained-eye look at what this kid needs to improve to be an All Star (because starter isn't that far off).

1. Passing out of the post

So far, he doesn't do it much. So far he hasn't had to. Posting up one-on-one, Al Jeff can get a makable shot off 90% of the time. Since he has great touch, it seems like more of them are falling than not. However, as soon as his average gets up in the teens, the other teams will have to start game-planning for him and will send an occasional double team. If I were playing us, I'd at least have the entry pass defender cheat down to swipe at his dribble. If his court vision is like the rest of his game, he should be able to sense the double team and swing it to the open man. If not, he's going to get frustrated by the complicated double teams and see his turnovers increase.

2. Defense

In particular, positioning and moving to the right spaces before the ball handler can get there. A lot of his fouls come out of being in the wrong place and trying to make up for it with his hands instead of his feet. This is the biggest problem coming straight out of high school in my mind. College coaches drill this stuff into your head. He better be a quick study, or teams will also target him on the offensive side, getting him in foul trouble early so he can't hurt them on the other side.

3. Hands Up

Every foul he makes, his hands are up, palms out, fingers spread wide. He looks like he accidentally put his palms on a freshly painted fence and needs to find a towel or a hose or something. Right down to the perplexed "aw man" face. A variation occurs when he's visibly trying to remember the play. His hands seem to rise up towards his shoulders as he tiptoes around someone setting a screen. Then he finally remembers and runs to the spot he's been assigned and sets his own screen (even if there is nobody to screen). Finally, when he is calling for the ball (on every single play) his hands are up, flapping frantically even before he sets his position on the post. This, at least, is a good thing. I don't mind if the kid has his own style, but particularly when he gets foul calls, it just looks unprofessional. You know you are going to get picked on as a rookie. You know you are fouling a lot. Put your hands down and open your ears because the coaches are about to tell you what you did wrong.

I love Al Jefferson as much as anyone. But it is a good thing to keep in consideration the fact that he's got some real issues to work on before he can reach the next step in his career. I doubt it will take too long for him to reach starting status (perhaps the All Star break?). Hopefully it won't take too long for the rest to fall into place. He's already ahead of schedule.

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