Al Jefferson a possibility for the Houston Rockets?

None of these pieces were available to Houston last season: Jordan Hill, a lottery pick, the rights to flip first round picks with the Knicks in 2011, a 2012 Knicks first round pick, Chase Budinger, the expiring contract of Jared Jeffries and Sergio Llull.

Add Shane Battier (expiring contract and desired by contending teams) and Aaron Brooks (rising star at a bargain price for one more year) to a considerations list and look out — it’s not a matter of “if” the Rockets acquire a bigger name star but “when”.

The “who” is another story altogether. Free agent Chris Bosh and potential free agent Amare Stoudemire will get the most attention, but the Rockets are actually better positioned to acquire a player already under contract to a team looking to get out from underneath the financial burden, as they did with Martin. While not the ideal fit in Houston, Timberwolves power forward Al Jefferson could find himself in that exact position. It’s a stretch right now, but depending on the direction Boston heads after these playoffs, the declining Kevin Garnett may as well.

Whoever they target, you can just about guarantee the Rockets will make a big trade before the February 2011 deadline.

Dave Hardisty, founder of Houston Rockets message board, writing in his annual season recap, mentions Minnesota Timberwolves forward/center Al Jefferson as a potential offseason trade target for the Houston Rockets.

While not Bosh, Jefferson would be an enticing addition.  While the injury history is frightening, I have for some time considered Al to be the most offensively gifted center in basketball.  The 25-year-old would immediately become option A in the Houston offense.

Viewing the numbers at 82games, it immediately caught my eye that Jefferson shoots 57% from the floor in 4th quarter or overtime with under 5 minutes remaining and neither team ahead by more than 5 points.  For a Rockets team that often struggles scoring in the clutch, that late-game dominance could be attractive.  (Unfortunately, Jefferson shoots only 68% from the stripe which greatly mitigates that prowess.)

Utilizing the Synergy Sports database, I found that Jefferson shoots 56% in pick&roll situations, boasting a very fluid jumpshot, something which could come as a serious boon in this offense.

However, what I find most interesting was that Big Al has three years remaining on his contract, the same number as Kevin Martin.  With the window on Yao Ming’s prime closing, the Houston Rockets could set themselves up with a timely escape route in 2013.

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Chris Bosh should still be the primary target this summer for the Houston Rockets.  Jefferson’s overwhelming preference in the paint is a concern – not nearly as many options as would be provided with Bosh.

Still, if the Bosh route fails, Al Jefferson would be quite the consolation prize.  Given the concerns over his compatibility with Kevin Love, and Minnesota’s purported preference for the latter, I do think Jefferson could be available at a palatable cost.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of

in musings
  • Stephen

    Can a person have buyer's remorse over a trade that hasn't happened yet?
    I've been fortunate enought to get League Pass the past 3 yrs and have watched a ton of basketball,usually Westen teams and the Magic and Heat. My impressions were Al was a bad weakside defender,just a bad defender overall,a ball hog and possesed of a dazzling array of low-post moves.(In fact he reminds me of a Scola on steroids in that both play below rim but using a wide array of fakes,spins,jabs,etc can get off a shot any time.)

    Meanwhile I had the impression Bosh was a far better defender,a better rebounder and a more accomplished offensive player w/superior passing skills and a decent mid-range game. But I rarely watched Toronto games,so I was going off of accepted wisdom.

    One of the things Rocket fans have wanted the past few yrs is a tall PF who could block shots,rebound and complement Yao. Bosh seemed ideal.
    So imagine my shock when looking up their basic stats and finding over the past 3 seasons:
    Bosh has played in 214 games,w/7876 minutes and has 2113 rebounds and 212 blocks
    Jefferson has 208 games,w/7216 minutes and has 2162 rebounds and 300 blocked shots.
    (To put Bosh's blocked shot totals in perspective,Shane has 220 blocks in 207 games over the past 3 yrs. Scola btw has played 7182 minutes in 246 games and has 1950 rebounds.)
    On the other hand Bosh is superior scoring machine getting over 700 more points in that span on @ 80 fewer shot attempts.(Mainly due to Bosh getting almost twice as many FT attempts as Al.)

    I didn't think Al would be a good fit w/the Rockets,because as good as he is in the low-post,that's where I want Yao operating. Now,I'm not so sure. For a scorer like Al,would he learn a mid-range jumper like Scola to take advantage of open shots at the hi-post?
    Advanced stats will prob show Bosh is a better defender that the basic numbers look,but for now I'm of the opinion while Bosh would be a much better fit for the offense,Al might be better defensively. At prob $4mil/yr less,I'm working my way to preferring Al's edge on D and rebounding over Bosh's superior hi-post play.
    And w/a Brooks/Martin backcourt showing itself to be a turnstyle on defense,I really don't want to add the starting PF from a Toronto team that was playing historically bad defense thru first part of season.

    To be honest,I'd love for Minn to win the Lottery and the Rockets facilitate a multi team deal and picking up Rubio as their price for helping.
    And while Minn management would prefer to lose Al's contract,their coach is really down on Love. So if Minn gets the #3 pick,really expect to see either moved.
    (Actually,being completely honest,I'd be overjoyed w/a straight Martin for Jefferson trade,signing Mike Miller to the MLE and grooming Bud for the starting SG.)

  • Pingback: Wolf Tracks: Fred Hoiberg and Al Jefferson | Howlin' T-Wolf()

  • Mike B

    I think I'd be pretty ecstatic with either of them, and I believe Jefferson would only end up here if his defense was approved by Morey's analysis.

    The problem I see, however, is that it would seemingly take MORE to trade for Jefferson than to S&T for Bosh. The T-Wolves aren't forced to deal Al, whereas if Bosh hand-picks the Rockets, we hold all of the leverage in negotiations. I think we could get Bosh for significantly less in a trade than Jefferson (perhaps we get to keep one or more of Budinger, Hill, and the numerous picks we have to offer in a). I think the one constant will be that Scola is a goner if anything happens, since it would take his salary to make it work .

  • Stephen

    It will prob take less to get Al as he's not the face of the franchise that Bosh is. Moreover their coach and GM have said that they can't play both Jefferson and Love together,w/the clear implication one's gotta go.
    What's interesting is that the coach really doesn't like Love while Management would rather unload Al's salary-and their GM isn't invested in either as they were McHale players.

    Something like Jeffries,Andersen,Taylor and a First may well be enough. Minn has to restock their roster and to get FA's they have to overpay,so this would get them 2 serviceable players and one young player still w/potential as a scorer.

  • C. B.

    Why do we want another injury prone big man again?

  • I think Al Jefferson would be a very bad fit on the Rockets. His lack of mobility and quickness relative to power forwards in conjunction with Yao Ming's slow footed defense would make the Rockets extremely vulnerable in pick and roll + transition defense. Also, a very poor defensive player overall. Then add the weak defense from the backcourt (Brooks + Martin) and there are serious fundamental defensive issues to the core of the squad.

    Add Big Al's need to play in the low post, along with Yao's need to play in the post, and you have major spacing issues offensively. A lack of player movement (stagnant bigs + lack of open lanes for perimeter players to cut) which will lead to a lack of ball movement.

    I don't think Big Al + Yao are compatible. They compound one another's weaknesses and create serious team-wide problems.

  • Bling

    I think DM should go after CP3. I don't think he's going to have much interest in exercising the player option on his deal after this upcoming season, and I think the Hornets know that. A package including Brooks and some of the other assets mentioned could get the deal done. I think it's feasible and to me, it does more to transform the Rockets into a legitimate contender than any of the other deals or signings I have heard discussed.

  • Mike B

    I've had Chris Paul in the back of my mind since last summer. The Hornets financial situation and glut of contracts compiled with the emergence of Collison makes me think he will be available at some point. That team is going nowhere, and barring them striking lottery gold, they should probably attempt to start over. We would have to take back some atrocious salaries along with him though to make it work.

  • Patrick

    As a player under contract, it would likely take more to get Jefferson than it would take to get Bosh. I honestly couldn't see the Wolves giving Jefferson away for expirings without getting a few assets in return. Jeffries and Battier would likely headline any package, but you would probably have to throw in at least one lotto pick if not two and potentially Hill.

    That said, the more I watch Jefferson play, the more I like him. He is a tremendous low post scorer and pretty good rebounder, and his defense is alright when his guy is just backing him down. But he has terrible mobility which hurts his defense when his man is quick, and would make a pretty poor partner for Yao. Additionally, his shocking inability to draw fouls perplexes me and hurts his value.

    While he would be of help, factoring in what we would have to give up, I can't see any scenario where the Rockets get great value. And Morey typically doesn't do much unless he can get great value (I know he got Ariza at market value but that's about it).

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