The Utah Jazz made some noise this past off-season when moving out the experienced core and leadership group of players from the team. The departures of Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Randy Foye, and Mo Williams gave the Jazz a lot of room to work with. The Jazz decided to go young and build up the talent in Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, and Trey Burke.
This is exactly where Richard Jefferson comes into play. Richard Jefferson has something that every team wants – experience. Not only does Jefferson have experience, he has 12 years of GREAT experience to bring to this young team.
Richard Jefferson was drafted in 2001 and began his career with the New Jersey Nets. In the 8 years with New Jersey, Jefferson developed into a legitimate scoring threat averaging 22.6 points in his final season with the Nets. He gained valuable experience and found success with 2 NBA Finals appearances, 4 Division Championships, and 6 Playoff Appearances as a Net.
Adding to his already impressive resume, Jefferson was traded from New Jersey to Milwaukee in 2008, which led to a solid season for the Bucks averaging 19.6 points while starting in all 82 games.
Jefferson was then traded to the San Antonio Spurs where he played for the great Gregg Popovich. On the Spurs, Jefferson transformed his game and became a more complete player, learning leadership and team oriented basketball. Concerning his time with the San Antonio Spurs, Jefferson said, “it was a great learning experience, I learned a lot there that will hopefully prolong my career.”
As a professional, Jefferson has developed into a leader, contributor, and mentor. Last year, Jefferson’s role for the Golden State Warriors was limited. Due to injuries going into training camp, he got a late start with the team. The young Harrison Barnes received the nod over him and he was forced to take on a role that he was not accustomed to.
He, however, still wanted to contribute, “That was the kid taking my playing time. But I was in his ear; I was pushing him; I was working with him, talking to him, showing him things,” said Jefferson concerning his mentoring role of Barnes.
The Warriors had a surprisingly successful season notching a trip to the playoffs and then beating the 3rd seeded Denver Nuggets. Much can be owed to that success from the team chemistry in which Jefferson was apart of.
Over his 12 years in the NBA, Richard Jefferson has transformed from just a talented and skilled basketball player to a true professional and experienced leader. He brings value in veteran leadership simply because he’s been there. He has played just about every role there is to play in the NBA. When asked how he’s felt physically coming into the season, Jefferson said “Best I’ve felt in probably a few years.”
Combine the experience and leadership with health, Richard Jefferson, who already resembles a bit of who he was in his early career, can surely prove valuable to this young and talented Utah Jazz squad.
He can make great offensive and defensive plays, bring mental toughness, compete, lead, and add chemistry to a team that desperately needs veteran leadership.
Jefferson has the ability to help Gordon Hayward reach the next level in his career, and that alone is one reason why he is wearing the Utah Jazz uniform. “At this point in time, in your career, you want to contribute on a daily basis,” said Jefferson.