Dwight Howard vs. Al Jefferson

  Games Minutes Points
Per 48 Minutes
Per 48 Minutes
Per 48 Minutes
Per 48 Minutes
Blocks Per 48 Minutes Assists Per 48 Minutes Turnovers
Per 48 Minutes
Fouls Per 48 Minutes Field Goal Percentage Free Throw Percentage
Dwight Howard 20 31.7 16.35 9.84 5.60 1.29 2.80 2.12 3.56 3.63 56.4% 58.8%
Al Jefferson 19 13.7 19.62 7.01 5.26 0.91 3.89 0.35 2.38 8.76 50.5% 55.0%

There is no doubt that Dwight Howard is a better player right now than Al Jefferson. He is playing more than twice the minutes that Al is and is a key starter for the team with one of the best records in the Eastern Conference. He ranks in the top 20, and usually well within the top 10, of all players in the league in 13 different statistical categories.

Even on a per-minute basis, Howard dominates Jefferson in most categories, from more defensive rebounds to assists to fewer fouls to a better shooting percentage.

There are, however, two notable exceptions. Jefferson seems to be a slightly better scorer, as evidenced by the fact that he would be averaging three more points per game if both players played 48 minutes, based on their per-minute averages. Also, despite Howard's reputation as a high-flying shot-blocker, it is Jefferson who is in fact the better swatter. Over a  full 48 minutes, Jefferson would average one more block on average.

It's not surprising that Howard, the first overall pick, is outperforming Jefferson, who was not even a lottery pick. However, the key for Jefferson, as with any comparison to a better player, is to see where improvement would be most beneficial.

The biggest things holding Jefferson back are his fouls and his low assists numbers. Jefferson gets more blocks but he also gets more fouls: just like Howard gets more assists but he also gets more turnovers. Fouls are, among other things, the risk of going for a block, much like a turnover is, among other things, the risk of going for a good pass.

On the defensive end, Jefferson needs to minimize the fouls as much as he can. On the offensive end, he needs to look to involve his teammates. He had a terrific pass to a cutting Tony Allen in the Seattle game this weekend. More of those, as well as kick-outs back to the wings, would make him the kind of player head coach Doc Rivers would want to have on the floor.

In terms of rebounding, Jefferson should consider that his bread and butter. If he gets in the game and can grab some boards, it helps the team immediately. An offensive rebound is usually more flashy, and can result either in a high-quality put-back shot or a trip to the free throw line, but a defensive rebound is in many ways more important, especially in the Celtic system. Here's why.

An offensive board successfully grabbed is worth nearly two points, maybe a little less considering Jefferson is only hitting about half his free throws. An offensive board not successfully grabbed means the other team got its defensive rebound and is now starting to attack. That's typically worth about one point. So the trade-off on an offensive board is +2 if successful or -1 if unsuccessful. The success of an offensive rebound therefore can explain a swing of about three points: two for the put-back plus one that the opposition did not score.

A missed defensive board, meanwhile, means that the opposition gets an easy two points. But, a successful defensive rebound for Boston's uptempo game means a fast break ensues. It's not worth as much as an offensive put-back, which is nearly two points, but for the sake of argument let's call it 1.5 points. The Celtics are running at every opportunity and though it's fine to run after made baskets, the odds are even more in your favor when you can start the break off of a rebound. So the trade-off on a defensive board is +1.5 if successful or -2 if unsuccessful. The success of a defensive rebound therefore can explain a swing of about 3.5 points: 1.5 for the resulting fast break plus two that the opposition did not score.

Therefore a successful defensive rebound is even more important to the Celtics than an offensive one, though of course both are positives.

Indeed, Big Al is right on pace with Howard in terms of offensive rebounds, but he lags a bit on the defensive end.

So here are four tips for Al Jefferson to keep himself on the floor:

1) On defense: Box out and rebound on the defensive end.
2) On defense: Trigger the fast break immediately.
3) On defense: Minimize fouls.
4) On offense: Look to make the pass to cutting teammates.