Al Jefferson, All-Star?
Certainly no one who was in the Target Center last night. Jefferson's 39-point, nine-rebound performance propelled the Wolves to a 109-108 overtime win over the Bulls. Not only did he bull-rush the rim at will, his jumper was falling from 15 feet, which made him unstoppable when the Wolves needed him most.
We're probably preaching to the choir here, but to anyone who's still hesitant to acknowledge Jefferson's place among the NBA elite, consider that he:
- Leads all Western Conference big men in scoring (22.6 ppg)
- Ranks fifth in the West in rebounds (10.6 rpg)-- which bests the likes of Shaq, Yao, and Duncan.
- Ranks fourth in the West in double-doubles (22).
- Is one of just three players in the NBA averaging better than 20 points per game and 10 rebounds per game.
The only semi-valid case against Jefferson is that he plays for a losing team. This knock is misleading for many reasons. For one, the All-Star designation is ostensibly a nod to individual excellence, and to penalize any player for his team's performance is both stupid and unfair... unless, of course, said player contributes to his team's shittiness by being a selfish black hole, a divisive head case, a locker room distraction, or Stephon Marbury (but we repeat ourselves). Al Jefferson is none of these things. Sure, he could learn to pass out of double-teams a little better, but that's being hyper-nitpicky.
Taking the Wolves' most recent performance into consideration (which should count more than the team's overall record), Jefferson comes out looking like an All-Star all the more. Since Christmas, the Wolves have gone 11-4, a run that includes some key road wins (at Phoenix) and grinding victories over bona fide winners, the Hornets in particular. Without Jefferson, the number of Wolves' wins could be counted on one hand belonging to a Simpsons character.
In light of the above--and based on our unscientific, pulled-out-of-our-ass calculations--the odds of Jefferson making a February trip down to Phoenix for All-Star Weekend stand at five-to-one. The fans can be forgiven for overlooking a brilliant player toiling away in relative obscurity (the Wolves haven't played a nationally televised game all season), but the coaches know better. Or ought to.
Should Jefferson get snubbed in the coaches' vote (their ballots are due tomorrow), well... one would have to question whether the All-Star Game is a performance-rewarding meritocracy or merely a media extravaganza showcasing the game's most marketable players. We're totally cool with it being both.
Just throw Big Al a bone.
For more on Al Jefferson, peep this feature we ran last year.
For Timberwolves historic minutiae, read this week's feature.
For game-by-game coverage of the ever-improving Wolves, check in with Benjamin Polk.