Mr. Irrelevant may not be so irrelevant after all.
Cory Jefferson, the final pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, is making his case for a final roster spot. Nothing is yet guaranteed, but Jefferson impressed during the Summer League where he averaged 11.2 ppg and 6.8 rpg in five games.
Jefferson is a very physical player who?s explosive around the rim. He has way above average athleticism, can hit from deep and is starting to develop a post game. His 37.5" max vertical at the NBA Combine was one of the highest amongst the bigs drafted, trailing only Arizona?s Aaron Gordon, the No. 4 pick overall.
Where Jefferson could help the Nets is off the glass. Jefferson averaged 11.3 rpg per 40 minutes in his senior year at Baylor ... and 10 rpg per 40 in each of his four seasons at Baylor. He was able to replicate those strong numbers during the Summer League where he impressed on both the offensive and defensive glass, particularly after the Nets decided to rest Mason Plumlee.
So could Jefferson eventually wind up in a specialist role, a Reggie Evans type of role, even if his offensive game isn't immediately NBA-caliber? Jefferson certainly has better athleticism and range than Evans. What Evans has is a "nose for the ball," as some have described it. Does Jefferson have it?
At 220 pounds, he doesn't have the bulk of an Evans and some scouts have noted his narrow frame could hinder his rebounding success in the NBA. He's described by one scout as "skinny." His chances of being a competent NBA player -- and rebounding specialist may depend on his bulking up.
No doubt Brooklyn is desperate for effective rebounding. Last season, the Nets ranked 29th in total rebounding and they were outrebounded by 4.8 rebounds per game. Only the Lakers had a worse differential.
As Mike Mazzeo reports Tuesday, the problem has not been corrected in the off-season. The low rebounding numbers could be attributed to the small lineup Brooklyn used for most of the season, but at first glance, the Nets don't seem to have anyone who can consistently rebound this season.
Brook Lopez has a history of poor rebounding numbers and an aging Kevin Garnett seemed to lack the tenacity on the offensive boards last season. Although he would have led the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage if had played enough minutes, his offensive rebounding was wanting and has been headed downhill for years. Young power forwards Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic have yet to show they can effectively rebound.
Whether Lionel Hollins could use Jefferson as a rebounding specialist is up to him but the Nets desperately need help rebounding and Jefferson has the physical tools if not the experience or bulk.
The rookie feels he can contribute to the team despite where he was taken in the Draft. "I feel my biggest strengths would be my speed for my size, my endurance, being able to run the floor and rebounding on both ends," Jefferson told NBA.com. He showed a lot of that during summer league.
If Jefferson wants to contribute, he'll have to earn his spot. Jefferson's contract is only guaranteed for $75,000 so if the Nets don't like what they see, they can cut him They have already invested $300,000 in him. That's how much they paid the 76ers for his rights on Draft Night. Even if Jefferson is not immediately ready to play, he could eventually see some playing time with Lopez coming off injury and Garnett not getting any younger.
The Nets are pushing him to add bulk. He and Markel Brown recently had their first weight room workout with team strength and conditioning coach, Dr. Jeremy Bettle.
"The way you have to work, it’s a whole lot harder," Jefferson Lenn Robbins, the Nets in-house beat writer. "You realize that on the court and in the weight room. I was introduced into the weight room side of it today. That was pretty intense."