UPDATE: I wrote this yesterday, and today, it seems as though the Charlotte Bobcats needed a guard and defense, as they called up RU's favorite point guard, Dontell Jefferson. Currently, Jefferson is averaging 18.6 points, 5.5 assists, 4.9 rebounds, widely known as the best defender in the D-League. I had him ranked as the fourth best player in my D-League call-up rankings, behind current NBAer's Pops Menshah-Bonsu and James White, along with Jawad Williams. This couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
Need Defense? Need A Guard? NEED Dontell Jefferson!
With so many teams needing defense or a guard, I decided to help them out. Here is everything you need to know about the man in the D-League best suited to do both!
Dontell Jefferson, a 25 year old 6'5", 195 pound point guard out of Arkansas, has, over the past three seasons, shown why the D-League is such a wonderful opportunity for players to develop their skills. Jefferson played alongside Ronnie Brewer, Steven Hill, and Darian Townes, all with much higher NBA prospects than himself coming out of college. Jefferson however might be the next one to join the NBA, joining former teammates Ronnie Brewer and Steven Hill on the list of teammates with big league experience.
Jefferson came out of Arkansas with sub-par numbers, but a great body for a point guard and the athletic ability to match. As a Razorback, Jefferson averaged under four points in 62 career games, nothing to write home about. However, after being a fifth round draft pick of the Dakota Wizards, he has improved immensely during his three seasons.
During Jefferson's first season, he played behind Maurice Baker, a former NBA call-up himself, and Corey Williams, the AND1 street baller who is better known by the name "Homicide". Still Jefferson was able to average nine points, four assists, and over three rebounds in just 23 minutes per game. With Coach Dave Joerger kind of using a backcourt by committee with both guards handling the ball, Jeffeson was able to get himself in the flow of the game while learning from veteran point guards. "I learned a lot from them. I think one of the big things I learned at first was how to rub my defender off of screens using the pick and roll to get a little bit of separation," Jefferson said. "I also picked up some veteran pointers... Some things defensively that have helped me to improve."
The Wizards won the D-League Championship, and Jefferson was on his way to the NBA Summer League, ready to show the NBA just what they were missing. Unfortunately, after getting an invite from the Miami Heat, he was released before getting into a game. His former Wizards Coach, Dave Joerger, saw ridiculous upside in him though, as he was added to the training camp roster of Joerger's new team, the Memphis Grizzlies, though was once released before seeing any minutes.
Last season, his second in the D-League, Jefferson came in as a starter in Coach Duane Ticknor's system, playing the two-guard alongside Mo Baker. Again, even though Baker started at point guard, both got plenty of action handling the ball. Jefferson averaged 17 points, five rebounds, and five assists, before heading overseas in March to sign with a team in Latvia. "I don't think as many people were talking about me like they are this year, so it came to a point where I had to make a choice for what I thought would put me in a better situation far as life goes not just basketball," Jefferson says. "I enjoyed my Time in Riga, Latvia. The city was beautiful, I had great teammates and I was able to help the team win its first Latvian League Championship, so it was a very good experience."
After returning stateside from his stint overseas, he was headed to Summer League with the LA Clippers, but once again was released before any games were played. The Clippers apparently saw something in him during the short time he was with them though, as they invited him to vets camp this fall. They already had 14 guaranteed contracts and seven other guards on the roster though. Jefferson only played in one game before being released, but he was grateful for the opportunity. "Being able to go against an all-star point guard like Baron Davis, I had no choice but to get better and learn," Jefferson remembered. "There were also other veteran guys like Cuttino Mobley and Jason Hart who would push me in practice and want to see me get better."
Once he was released by the Clippers, he signed on to come back to the D-League. With the Wizards returning three starting-caliber point guards (Jefferson, Baker, and Blake Ahearn), Jefferson was traded to the Utah Flash for Denham Brown. Even though he had spent his first two seasons with the same D-League team, it seems that he took the trade in stride. "Actually, I was surprised when I first heard bout it. But after really thinking about it, I realized that it was the best thing for me. I was just ready to get the season started."
One thing that may have helped was being closer to college teammate Ronnie Brewer. "Ronnie and I are like brothers that come from different famlies, so to speak. We are roomates in the summer time where we both workout back in Arkansas," Jefferson says. "I think he is a big factor in the success I'm having now. To have somebody with his character and support in my corner is a great feeling."
So Ronnie helped, but I bet the weather didn't hurt. "Haha, I haven't had to wear a coat all winter!"
This season, Jefferson is putting up all-star numbers, averaging 18.8 points, 5.7 assists, and 4.9 rebounds along with over a steal per game. When looking at the talent around him, it's surprising he's been able to put up those numbers. Jefferson's teammates this season have included Bill Walker, J.R. Giddens, Kyrylo Fesenko, Ronald Dupree, and James Lang, all of which are either playing in the NBA or have played in the NBA for a considerable amount of time. "I've just been trying to pick their brains to see how the vet's on their teams have played the point in the past, trying to pick up some pointers from them whenever I can."
Yes, I did say All-Star numbers, but for some reason, Jefferson was left off of the D-League All-Star roster. Since I'm clueless as to why this was, I asked Jefferson, but he didn't really know why either: "That is one question I really have no answer for. I thought with my team winning and me having the season I've had so far, that would have helped me be picked, but it didn't work out that way."
I'm assuming between guys currently on NBA rosters and the season-ending injury to Chris Richard, justice will prevail and Jefferson will make it to Phoenix. That is, if he doesn't get a call-up himself before. When I asked one D-League coach who the best defensive point guard was in the D-League, he quickly texted back, "DJ (Jefferson) no question." With Jefferson improving his all around play this season, along with the hard nosed defense, I don't think it'll be long before he gets to the NBA.
Since I don't see why an NBA GM hasn't given him a chance, I asked him to see what he's been hearing. Jefferson told me, "I think, originally, it was a lack of being seen playing the point. I had a good year at the two during my stint with the Wizards, so it was said that i need to be seen playing the point more."
Well, DJ, it seems like you've got that part down. What's next? "Now that I have done that, I think it's just a matter of me being a consistent point guard, making good decisions, playing good defense, and being a leader out there." In the games I've watched, he's got that covered as well. Has the NBA at least been calling? "I let my agent handle that stuff, I just go out and play ball."
Jefferson just goes out and plays ball, but is there a certain team that he might want to play for more than the others? "Well, I think being a basketball player I have to adapt to the situations that I'm put in. I think with any system I'm put in, I will be able to take advantage of it. Once I learn a system and become comfortable with the guys I'm playing with, it becomes a lot easier."
Jefferson is a great guy off the court, a great player on the court, and sounds like he's ready to help any team interested the rest of the season. Now, NBA GM's, you've got the easy job. If you have a spot on your team for a big, athletic, defensive minded, pass first point guard who can play at the off-guard if needed, CALL HIM UP!