New Orleans Pelicans MLE Tournament: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Richard Jefferson

Richard Jefferson (1 Year and $3 Million)

by Joe Gerrity

Let’s lead with a headline from The Oklahoman–

Following a regular season littered with injuries and an extended shooting slump, Thabo Sefolosha’s struggles worsened in the playoffs

How about Another?

One season after a career year behind the arc — making 108 threes on 42 percent shooting — Sefolosha completely lost his stroke.

While Thabo Sefolosha may be known as a quality defender, the reality of 2013-2014 is that the Thunder were just as good when he rode the pine as when he started at the two. Regardless of whether or not Sefolosha played, the Thunder had a defensive rating of 101. Interestingly enough, when the offensive-minded Reggie Jackson was on the floor they actually improved to a 100.5 rating.

All in all, it appears that the Thabo-OKC relationship is over. They simply need more production from that position in order to become a championship caliber team. We will too, and Thabo has reached that point in his career where he’s no longer improving, but declining. His most valued skill set– his defense– was never truly at an elite level, and now appears to be closer to average than to excellent.

I won’t argue that Richard Jefferson is a better defender than Thabo, but his contract is less burdensome and his upside is roughly the same. He’s also a reliable option on offense, as I demonstrated last week while disposing of Spencer Hawes.

While Thabo did post three point shooting percentages over 40% in two of the last three seasons, he’s also been below 36% the other seven years he’s been in the league, including 2013-2014 when he wound up at just 31.6%. Let me remind you that these are his numbers on a quality offensive team that gave him plenty of opportunities to take advantage of double teams elsewhere. Check out his shot chart to see the full inadequacy of his offensive game–


It’s worth noting that these are his number for the regular season. When the playoffs started Thabo fell off the face of the map offensively. Thunder Coach Scott Brooks is on record saying that given the choice he would have preferred a three-legged nutria to Thabo in crunch time.

The thing is, his playoff disappearance isn’t unusual. Thabo has never been good when it mattered. In the postseason he’s a sub 40% shooter from the field and his three point shooting drops to a dismal 28%. This is his track record in over 1500 minutes during 78 postseason games.

The best postseason he ever had was as a reserve for the Bulls in 06-07 when he shot 37.5% from three in extremely limited time. Whenever he’s had the opportunity to play more meaningful minutes in the postseason, he’s consistently struggled. Here’s a fun fact– Thabo has scored double digits in 4/78 postseason games. Impressive…

So yes, we can sign a declining defensive specialist who managed to not improve his team’s defense last season and has a long history of struggling in the playoffs. We can pay him 4 million dollars a year for three years and optimistically assume that last season was truly just a fluke caused by injuries. We can pray that he’s break out of his lifetime postseason slump that as recently as this season resulted in getting benched. We can hope, just like we hoped with Greg Stiemsma, that the best is yet to come.

Or we can just stick with a one year stopgap that leaves us with more long term flexibility to add players that can actually help us when we do finally get to the postseason.

The choice is yours.

Thabo Sefolosha (3 Years and $12 Million)

by Ryan Schwan

Wait a second . . . didn’t I just dispatch this guy?  First Caron Butler, and now I get to bludgeon Richard Jefferson?  I mean, I’m feeling kinda bad beating on the geriatric wing brigade here.    Is someone loading these barrels with fish for me?

Let’s just start by asking when was the last time Richard Jefferson played for a team that even wanted him?  You think I’m kidding?  Let’s go back to the time he signed his last contract.  Armed with a contract that owed him nearly $16 million, the Spurs realized they couldn’t have him on their cap and still sign any of those solid players they had stashed overseas.  So guess what?  Jefferson opted out of that contract and signed a crazy contract worth $38 million.  You could take that as the Spurs wanting him.  I don’t.  That contract started with a salary of $8 million.  The Spurs then signed some other guys, made Jefferson expendable, and in the first and only time you’ll ever hear this about that organization, attached a first round pick to his contract to get rid of him as soon as they could.

So yes, the epicenter of good basketball, the home of basketball reclamation projects, the Sainted San Antonio Spurs gave up assets to get rid of Jefferson – and received only Stephen Jackson in return.  The washed up Stephen Jackson who didn’t even last the next season with their team.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Guess what happens next?  Jefferson is packaged to Utah just a year later, and Golden State bundles two picks and the corpse of Andris Biedrins with him as he goes.  Pure salary dump, my friends.

So why would anyone want us to spend 3 million on someone else’s dump?

Thabo has played on good defenses for 8 straight years.  On a team filled with long-armed athletic freaks, which player started game after game on the opposing teams best scorer?  Thabo Sefolosha did.  If we put Thabo and Jefferson on the court facing each other, does any one of you think that Thabo isn’t shutting RJ down?

And that’s the rub of this battle.  That’s where you, the reader, has to weigh in.  The Pelicans need  defense.  Desperately.  No team has ever won the championship with an offense in the bottom half of the league, and the Pelicans were 5th from the bottom.  FIFTH FROM THE BOTTOM.

Bringing the same guys back and supplementing them with a non-athletic offense-minded wing is not going to move that needle at all.  Bringing in Sefolosha will.  Is the Core Four or Finishing Five off?  In today’s world – and with Jefferson the Pelicans are flat out screwed.  There is no defense to rely on.

With Thabo and Davis at least, you have 2/5ths of a defense that could make a difference in a slug fest.  Withey-Davis-Thabo-Holiday?  That’s got potential as a serious 4/5ths of a defense.

The team has to start somewhere to fix this defense.

They should start with Thabo.


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7 responses to “New Orleans Pelicans MLE Tournament: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Richard Jefferson”

  1. Damn these options!!!!
    Save your money TBenz.
    How much is owning and operating a D-League team?  Put 3 years and $12 million to that.

  2. This was tough for me. I thought Jefferson was better last year, but I think Thabo could bounce back strong after being humbled this year. I love Thabo’s defense, but he seems to defend PG’s more than SF’s, and that isn’t a huge need for us. I guess I would prefer to go for the stop gap if it were between these two. Chose Jefferson, barely.

  3. I have to go with R.J ….older guy with
    good character that would mesh well our young guys….

  4. My Opinion
    the Pelicans need a SF very badly from this draft.
    if we are able to trade in the late 1st round for a pick
    Kyle Anderson is perfect and

    fits the pelicans needs , and 
    has played against anthony davis in elite ranked games getting recruited , they know each other very well.

    he was a Top5 coming out of high school, lead UCLA to the final four and is a very unique Player
    at 6’9 and only 20 years old
    he is also the perfect point foward for this team
    was a playmaker at UCLA

    and plays very unselfish.
    a video of Anthony Davis speaking on how good a player Kyle Anderson is
    and Kyle Anderson beating potential top3 pick Andrew Wiggins in a  face off between Top Ranked undefeated teams

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