Richard Jefferson is going to be the newest member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and will likely serve as the primary backup to LeBron James. Jefferson, 34, is a 15-year NBA veteran who perhaps best known for being a key member of some New Jersey Nets teams in the early 2000s. Even after a decade and half in the league, Jefferson can play. Seriously:
Last year, Jefferson was a member of the Dallas Mavericks. In Dallas, Jefferson played 74 games - 18 of which were starts - and averaged 5.8 points points per game while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 42.6 percent from deep. To help understand Jefferson and what he'll bring to the Cavaliers, Tim Cato, manager of Mavs Moneyball and an SB Nation NBA contributor, was kind enough to answer some of our questions. Make sure to follow Tim on Twitter @tim_cato.
Fear The Sword: I was sort of surprised to see that Richard Jefferson played in 74 games last year. Generally speaking, is he still a useful NBA player?
Tim Cato: Jefferson's way out of the public's eye these days, for sure, but he's definitely still a useful player. He led the Mavericks in three-point shooting and played particularly well when [Chandler] Parsons was injured and he was elevated into the starting lineup.
FTS: Offensively, what does he bring to the table? In what areas is he lacking?
TC: As mentioned, he's a good three-point shooter at this stage of his career, although his percentage is so high in part because he's picky with his attempts. The most frustrating part of his game on that end is he'll give up a decent look to aimlessly drive the lane. He'll probably surprise you guys with a few dunks this season, but in general, he overestimates exactly what he can do off the dribble these days. As long as he's taking spot up looks, though, there's no problems.
FTS: Is Jefferson is a passable defender? Can he guard players on the block and on the perimeter?
TC: Definitely passable, maybe even a bit better than that. He's not a lockdown guy (who is at 35) but he won't hurt you on the floor, at least he didn't last year.
FTS: One thing the Cavs may want out of a backup small forward is the ability to give LeBron a night off from time to time. Is Jefferson capable of doing this?
TC: Oh great, I'm glad you asked. I wanted to put his starter/bench splits in my first answer but decided it would be too much. In 18 starts, Jefferson scored 10 points, grabbed four rebounds, shot 47 percent from the floor and 46 percent behind the arc, numbers which all took a tumble when he was coming off the bench. He was a good locker room guy and accepted his mostly bench role with grace, but he definitely still has an affinity towards starting and this role might serve him well.
FTS: How do you think Jefferson fits in with the Cavs?
TC: Great! From what I saw of him in the locker room, he got along with everyone and was an enjoyable guy to be around.
FTS: On a scale of 1-10, how do you grade this deal for Cleveland?
TC: I'll give it a 6/10. I mean, it's still Richard Jefferson, so we've got to have some limits here. He'll probably annoy you guys at some point by passing up shots or just being old and slow at times, but he's still a solid veteran to have down on the bench.