There is a reason that the Detroit Pistons had Baylor forward Cory Jefferson make his way to Detroit this week for a workout before the June 26th NBA draft.
Despite being ranked in the bottom half of most draft websites’ top 100, there is something special about how the four year senior approaches the game.
He doesn’t hide behind the fact that his path to the NBA took four years of seasoning at the collegiate level. He isn’t afraid to admit that he and his teammates fell short in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Cory Jefferson has no fear when it comes to proving he is a unique talent in this draft.
Throw away the fact that he isn’t desirable because he is already 23 years old. Worrying about if he has enough upside to warrant a selection in the 2014 NBA Draft is for the birds.
Cory Jefferson has the makings to be a potential all-star in the NBA. He brings a unique skill set at power forward offensively that could be hard to stop in this league. His experience learning behind four forwards at Baylor — all of which are currently on NBA rosters, will have him prepared for the next level.
How versatile is Jefferson’s game?
He is third all-time in blocks at Baylor, holds the sixth best field goal percentage for a season, and has the ninth most rebounds in Bears history.
You can rip a player all you want for not having any upside.
What you cant deny is that for players like Cory Jefferson, there is no better upside than what he can do for a team to help them win now.
Height: 6′ 9″
Wingspan: 7′ 0.5″
Hometown: Killeen, TX
PPG: 13.7 | FG %: 50% | FT %: 64% | 2P %: 52% | RPG: 8.2 | BPG: 1.3 | Player Efficiency Rating: 23.8
Pre Draft Workout
“Every day in practice was a lesson. I had to wait my turn behind standout frontcourt players, Ekpe Udoh, Perry Jones, Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller, all currently in the NBA. I didn’t really get regular minutes until my junior year, but that helped me mature and it showed my patience. That is something a senior can show that a freshman can not.” — Jefferson to Slam’s Leigh Klein on playing four years at Baylor.
Watch Cory Jefferson play for five minutes, and you can instantly tell that he is a game changing athlete at power forward in the molds of Amare Stoudamire and Dwight Howard. His skills aren’t near their level yet, but he has a done a good job over the last two years as a starter of developing his all around game.
For any big man to have success offensively, they’ve got to have good hands in the paint. 24% of head coach Scott Drew’s plays were drawn up for Jefferson last season. Yet the forward averaged just over one turnover a game.
Just how good are those two numbers together?
Fellow Big 12 big man Joel Embiid of Kansas was given roughly 23% of head coach Bill Self’s plays.
He turned the ball over just over two times a game.
Kentucky’s Julius Randle was a double double machine, bringing home an NCAA leading 24 last season. 25% of Kentucky’s possessions were aimed at getting him the basketball. He turned the ball over 2 and a half times per game.
Cory Jefferson finished 18th in the country and 1st in the Big 12 with 14 double doubles. More proof that he is ferocious inside.
He has an ability to get to hoop through the pick and roll as well as through his post game. His offensive game is something that he is still working ont to improve, but he is already a very good mid range shooter and has worked a lot on his face up game as well as his long range jumper. On the glass, he is a natural when it comes to positioning in the paint and getting into the air first for the carom.
He’s also one of the best dunkers in this draft class.
On defense, he does a good job of contesting shots. NBA Draft expert Ed Issaacson took a look at Jefferson in March and raved about his defense.
Jefferson has developed into a sound post defender, creating a solid, balanced base with his legs and positioning himself well between his man and the basket. His footwork is average, but has improved, but his length and athleticism allow him some leeway when dealing with some post moves. Jefferson uses his length well to try and deny post-entry passes, and he has become much better at defending players who look to face up out of the post against him.
He might be turning 24 early into next season, but there is still plenty of room to grow. He is improving his game day by day and no matter what the experts say, there is an upside to Cory Jefferson.
The first thing that any fan of the draft will point out is the drop in production at many different levels for Jefferson last year, compared to his junior season — when he landed on the map in an up tempo offense. It’s safe to say that he adjusted well to a slower possession offense, but there is still some work to be done when it comes to getting comfortable in that style of play. It’s an adjustment that many great athletic power forwards in the league have had to make.
The league has changed so much though that it’s okay to be a stretch four in this league that struggles a bit in the half court offense. Once he gets more comfortable with whatever system he lands in, he will be fine offensively.
Many wonder though if he has the size to handle the rigors and physicality of an NBA season.
One of the issues with scouts is they think that he is slow for his athletic build and they are afraid to add weight to his frame because it will affect his defensive skill. He still has decent lateral movement, so adding some weight shouldn’t be a major issue.
Jefferson does struggle with consistency at times in his game. Last year, he seemed to fall in love with his jump shot a bit too much. That played a larger part in his drop in efficiency than the slowed down pace that Scott Drew installed at Baylor. He also needs to work on going to his left side more and using his left hand to his advantage.
Fitting the Pistons Glove
We’ve seen what Brendan Malone and Stan Van Gundy have been able to do with athletic big men in the past. Jefferson has the physical tools to be successful in this league. As great as the Pistons frontline duo of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe is, there isn’t much post presence depth on this roster. At the least, Jefferson could fill the role of Charlie Villanueva or be the athletic forward that the former Pistons brass thought they found in Tony Mitchell.
If there is one thing that Van Gundy and company isn’t afraid of, it’s teaching forwards and centers how to modify their game to best succeed in the league.
Cory Jefferson would be a welcomed addition to the Pistons with the second pick of the draft, and if valued highly enough — could ultimately make the roster right out of summer league.
I love his approach to the game, attitude and work ethic that he has displayed during his four years at Baylor. It seems like it could translate to contribution at the NBA level.