After being waived by the Phoenix Suns and then later leaving the team after not being offered a contract following two ten-day contracts with the them, Cory Jefferson chose to head to the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA D-League to show teams that he was ready for a consistent role at the next level.
Throughout his nearly two months with the team, Jefferson has managed to do just that. Currently averaging 17.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, he has helped lead the team to a 10-6 record after they were just 12-19 before he joined them.
Over the past couple of months, he has shown that he has added a bit more variety to his offensive game, a trait which was sorely lacking during his days in college. In his five years at Baylor he attempted a total of 50 three pointers, but he's seen that number jump to 41 through just 16 games this season and he's hitting them at 41.5% clip.
While he was reluctant to expand his range throughout college, his game became a bit too jump shot-reliant during his final two years with the program and with that he saw his field goal percentage drop by more than 10% from his junior to senior year.
With the benefit of D-League and NBA coaches, Jefferson has managed to put together a workable jump shot while also getting back to his roots as a scorer in the post. He's shooting nearly 63% at the rim, which is around 7% higher than league average and he's also knocked down 44.4% of his jumpers which has caused teams to stay close to him even if he moves towards the perimeter.
Given his size (6'9, 220 pounds) it was unlikely that he'd ever be able to have a substantial NBA career as a bruiser down low, so this addition of a consistent jump shot has the potential to do wonders for his career. His lack of size can allow him to be pushed around a bit down low, but his shooting and 7' wingspan can go a long way in making up for any deficiencies that may arise.
That wingspan has helped him average one block per game during his time with the Jam and it's also helped him become one of the better rebounders in the entire D-League. That length, paired with his excellent anticipation skills and superb athleticism, allow him to compete on the glass with players that may weight 40-50 pounds more than him.
His wingspan is not able to completely make up for his lack of size, however, and it can lead to situations where players can back him down rather easily or it can cause him to get into foul trouble. While going up against Houston Rockets-assignee Montrezl Harrell recently, Jefferson was often unable to hold his ground in the post and it led to Harrell shooting 10-14 from the field.
In eight of his 16 games with the Jam, Jefferson has tallied four or more fouls, a statistic which is concerning for those that question the ability of his defense to transition to the next level. While some of these fouls can be attributed to the perimeter defense breaking down in front of him, he needs to develop his ability to defend without fouling, much of which will come from increased strength.
Although there are some issues defensively that he will need to work through, his offensive game more than makes up for any possible downsides that he has on the defensive end. He can offer a team versatility and floor spacing on the offensive end and he is capable of playing small-ball defensively due to his athleticism.
With the D-League regular season coming to a close and many NBA teams in the midst of a push towards the playoffs, Cory Jefferson could be an ideal fit for a team in need of front court depth throughout the remainder of the season. At 25 years old, any team that takes a chance on him will be rewarded with a versatile player that could help them for years to come.