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Don’t count Al Jefferson out just yet

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The 14th year big men is on the last leg of his career but it might not be over yet.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio, TX, USA; Indiana Pacers center Al Jefferson (25) goes up for a dunk as San Antonio Spurs small forward Kyle Anderson (right) defends during the second half at AT&T Center. Credit: Soobum Im
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to this season I never thought I’d say this, but Al Jefferson has earned a right to some minutes as a backup center.

He’s been thrust into the Pacers’ rotation over the last seven games after Myles Turner hurt his elbow, and Nate McMillan has done a fantastic job to flex Jefferson’s strength.

McMillan’s been having him run traditional center plays that are disappearing across the NBA, something that Jefferson admitted to after Tuesday’s practice: “I think my play style has faded out, but I think when you got a guy like me on the team you know the coaches do a great job of still running plays for me.”

Turner is questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Suns so it seems Jefferson might return to end the of the bench again. But before Jefferson is back to playing garbage time I think he deserves some praise.

If you extrapolate Jefferson’s stats onto a per-36 minutes basis, he would be averaging 17.9 points per game and 11.9 rebounds per game. For context, those per-36 numbers are better than both Domantas Sabonis (17.5 ppg and 11.9 rpg) and Myles Turner (17.1 ppg and 8 rpg).

At this point in Jefferson’s career his body can’t handle 36 minutes per game let alone 25, but his per-36 stats show how efficient he has been in limited play. He also adds another dimension to the Pacers offensive by allowing coaches to expand Indiana’s playbook to incorporate traditional post sets.

“If I’m in the game and you don’t put me on the block, there’s no point of having me in the game and guys don’t know how to defend it anymore,” Jefferson said.

Watch Cory Joseph set a screen against the Cavaliers to get Jefferson open.

Then the entire team clears out to give Jefferson an isolation on the much younger Tristin Thompson.

Setting up an easy back down floater for Jefferson.

All the isolations and easy setups have led Jefferson to the best field goal percentage of his career at 53 percent. But the best part of Jefferson’s game over the last two weeks was, by far, this dunk over Kyle Anderson:

I don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to see Big Al dunk, so enjoy it!