Jefferson’s drop in production: Who is to blame?

Last season the San Antonio Spurs added Richard Jefferson to the team and much to the dismay of many, he did not pan out as expected.

After a turbulent first season, he re-signed with the Spurs and this past off-season worked with Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich to refine his game and better understand the Spurs’ system.

“My training this summer, it wasn’t that I didn’t workout summers before, it was just I knew what I needed to go in and work on to help this team and to be more efficient,” said Jefferson when I spoke to him earlier this season.

With the added work over the summer, things seemed to have paid off for Jefferson and the Spurs when the season started. The Spurs were running-and-gunning more, and he was playing with more aggression, hitting his shots – especially three-point shots – and many felt he was turning into the player the Spurs hoped he be. 

At one point November, he was averaging 29.8 minutes, shooting 65.9% FG, and 20 points per game. He finally looked comfortable in the Spurs’ system.

However, as the season has progressed, his numbers have dropped and Spurs fans wonder if Jefferson is regressing into the player he was during his first season with San Antonio or if the Spurs should be trying to establish him more often in the offense.

Check out his stats since the season began:

This season he is averaging 11.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and shooting 48% from the field including 43% from the three-point line but as the chart above shows, his point production is on the decline.

Look at the amount of shots he was taking since the beginning of the season:

• November: 146
• December: 145
• January: 115
• February: 75
• March: 35

Also, look at his shots per-game since the beginning of the season:
• November: 9.7
• December: 9.6
• January: 7.6
• February: 6.5
• March: 5.0

 

At the beginning of the season he seems to be heavily involved in the Spurs’ offense but as the season has progressed, he isn’t involved as much anymore.

One has to ask: Perhaps the Spurs have gone away from him thus the drop off in production.

There is the other side of the coin and that’s Jefferson’s play on the court.

Taking a look at his usage rate, it is at an all-time low at 15.5%. Basically, he is finishing only 15.5% of the Spurs plays. That’s down from more than 18% last season. Not to mention his turnover percentage has gone up to 11.6% this season. Meaning, Jefferson isn’t a big part of the Spurs offense but a higher percentage of his touches end in turnovers, even though is turnovers per game number is slightly down from last year.

That doesn’t exactly instill confidence on the part of the Spurs to give him the ball more.

Perhaps it’s a little of both. The numbers show if given the touches, he can produce but in order to get the touches, he needs to be more effective and cut back on the turnovers. 

Regardless, this is the wrong time for Jefferson to have a decline in production on the court. The playoffs are fast approaching and the Spurs sure can use a more productive Jefferson. He must become the solid complimentary player to the Spurs’ “Big Three” of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker as he was at the beginning of the season but this means he needs to be more involved in the Spurs’ offense.

When I spoke to Jefferson during the Rodeo Road Trip, he had this to say about his transition into the Spurs:

“Well you just have to understand that it takes time to accomplish what you want. I know everybody expects a seamless transition in sports but sometimes it takes a season, a season and a half, for people to understand their roles and to see where they can fit in best.”

Well it has been over a season and a half for Jefferson and the way things are looking, it seems he hasn’t fully fitted in yet.

John Karalis of RedsArmy.com contributed to this post.

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