There were rumours galore at the 2007 NBA draft, Portland were shopping Zach Randolph. New Jersey were desperate, it was three years later and Kenyon Martin still hadn’t been replaced. Their big three of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson weren’t getting the job done. Suddenly, Nets GM Rod Thorn was off to the races.
Jason Kidd was their franchise player, Vince Carter was their brightest star and best scorer. Richard Jefferson was disposable and the bait.
Portland was looking for one of two things from Zach Randolph: (1) A star player (2) Cap flexibility
Richard Jefferson didn’t check the boxes. He had $54 million and four years left on his contract. He had just finished his worst season in 4 years averaging only 16ppg, 4.4rpg, 2.7apg. He was not playing at a comparable level of Vince or Jason. He was not considered an all-star calibre player, nevermind a proven go-to guy. But perhaps the most important variable was his health, he only played more than 55 games once in 3 years.
But that’s nothing going for him, he was still only 27 and the small forward the Portland wanted and needed. The Blazers had just drafted Greg Oden to joing impressive rookies LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy. They were looking for either a point guard or a scoring small forward. Richard Jefferson was also the athlete and open court player that fitted their young group of athletes and brought a veteran defensive winning attitude to the table.
Portland passed on the deal. Rumours insisted that many sweetners were offered like young centre Nenad Krstic. Instead Portland sent Zach to New York for Channing Frye and a big buyout payment to Steve Francis.
Fast forward a year
Portland surprassed all expectations by playing .500, without Greg Oden, with their offense being speerheaded by Roy and Aldridge. But their needs remained …… Nobody had filled the starting small forward spot. They team still needed more veterans and another go-to scorer to platoon Roy and Aldridge. Channing Frye became their first big off the bench but wasn’t more than a decent bench player.
Meanwhile Richard Jefferson was having a renaissance, playing every game and 39 minutes a night along the way. Jefferson began the year at career pace scoring 25ppg over the first two months of the season and is currently leading the team in scoring at a career high 22.8 points a night proving his credentials as a quality go-to scorer. On the other end of the floor he was pacing their perimeter defense on a nightly basis. Despite the concerns of affects from recent injuries, his game was not affected in any way, regularly being the only fast break finishing supply for Jason to find.
So 9 months later, was it a wise move to pass on Jefferson? Could he have helped Portland?
Jefferson would have been a very good fit and big help to the team both now and in the future. But just because he was a good option doesn’t mean he was their best option ….. Portland are banking on their ability to acquire a better player through free agency or a Raef LaFrentz trade over the next 10 months. We’ll have to wait and see.