The Utah Jazz made an off season trade with the Golden State Warriors this summer, as everyone knows. One of the players involved in that trade is rarely talked about. This very well might be the first article written about him since he joined the Jazz on July 10th. I’m introducing a new segment here at Purple & Blues called Getting To Know Your Utah Jazz Players. This week, I’m starting it off with getting to know, Richard Jefferson.
Jefferson is a 33 year old small forward for the Jazz. Standing at 6’7″ and weighing 230 pounds, he has spent 12 seasons in the NBA and has had a very successful career. Before the NBA, Jefferson attended Moon Valley High School in Phoenix, Arizona where he helped lead his team to a 4A State Championship in 1998.
After high school, Jefferson played at the University of Arizona under Hall of Fame coach, Lute Olsen. During his tenure at Arizona, Jefferson played in 84 games, in which he started in 77 of those games. Averaging 11.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists, he capped off his collegiate career by helping Arizona reach the 2001 NCAA National Championship game. Because of his play in the Midwest Region portion of the bracket, Jefferson was named an All-Midwest Regional selection. On top of that, his play in the final four had him named as an All-Final Four selection.
Jefferson entered the draft in 2001, where he was selected 13th overall. He was selected by the Houston Rockets, but was sent to the New Jersey Nets. Jefferson spent 7 seasons in New Jersey and the first few years were fantastic. Jefferson was a key piece in helping the Nets win back-to-back Eastern Conference Championships in 2002 and 2003.
Jefferson began his career in New Jersey as a backup to former Utah Ute standout, Keith Van Horn. New Jersey recognized Jefferson’s potential and decided to make a move to make him the starting small forward. After a conflict between Van Horn and power forward Kenyon Martin, the Nets traded Van Horn to the Philadelphia 76ers and put Jefferson in the starting unit. After proving himself, in the summer of 2004, Jefferson signed a 6 year, $78 Million contract extension to stay with the Nets.
After signing his extension, Jefferson had some injury issues and never really returned to full form until the 2007 season. He started the 2007-08 season looking his absolute best. In the first 7 games of the season, Jefferson averaged 26.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.3 steals, 97.1% free throws, and shooting 49.1% from the field. He ended up injuring his wrist at the start of the season, but still ended up averaging his highest points per game average of his career.
Jefferson spent 3 seasons with the Spurs, starting in 192 of the 203 regular season games he played in. He averaged 30 minutes a night and put up average numbers, considering he was coming off seasons where he averaged nearly 20 points per game. With the Spurs, he averaged 10.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game.
Before the trade deadline of the 2011-12 season, Jefferson was again involved in a trade, this time to the Golden State Warriors. Jefferson found his way onto a young Golden State team, and as a result, he found his way onto the bench and seen his minutes per game average go way down. Not only minutes, but points, rebounds, and assists all took a fall.
This off season, the Jazz were looking to create cap space and, in doing so, were looking to take on expiring contracts. In a deal with the Warriors, Jefferson has found his way onto another young roster. Will Jefferson have a role on this team? If you asked that question to Jazz management, surely the answer would be yes. But, what role is that going to be?
This much is almost certain. The starting lineup should consist of Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter. As far as bench rotation goes, the Jazz have many options they can pursue.
Jefferson’s playing time could really depend on what Jazz management talked about with Ian Clark. If the Jazz signed Clark to help with shooting, he could see time as the primary back up guard, which should push Brandon Rush to small forward. That would push Jefferson out of the rotation.
However, having a guy that sits on your bench with 12+ years of experience in the NBA is not necessarily a bad thing. Jefferson can bring a veteran presence to the you Jazz roster and can make the young guys better in practice. Hayward is still only 23 years old and Jefferson can push him to be better.
Other notes on Jefferson include being inducted into the Pac-12 Hall of Honor in 2012 for his collegiate play at Arizona. Jefferson also gave back to his Alma-Mater in 2007, when he donated $3.5 Million toward the University’s planned basketball and volleyball practice facility. University officials claimed it to be the largest donation ever received by a former player and after completion, named the facility after him.
Jefferson participated in the 2003 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. He was also a part of the USA Gold Medal team that participated at the 2003 FIBA Americas Championships and a part of the USA Bronze Medal team that participated in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
Jefferson could only see garbage time with the Jazz this season, but his presence could make the biggest impact on a young team. Richard Jefferson, welcome to Utah.