One of the signs of a 7-footer slowly losing his athleticism is when he starts to have problems finishing around the rim. Suddenly more and more chippies, bunnies, gimmies, whatever you like to call them (perhaps, dinkers and dumpers, as The Starters refer to them), inexplicably miss the target. Ones, which used to be automatic for that particular big.
Now, that isn't to say that the Charlotte Hornets' Al Jefferson is starting to slip just because of such misses. Conditioning, discomfort or any other factor following a mid-season right knee surgery due to a meniscus tear might be at work here as well.
But, for whatever reason, Big Al did miss a troubling number of chippies around the rim this past season. Some cannot be explained, some are followed by a thudding fall, some missed the rim altogether.
Jefferson's shooting stats support the notion that these aren't some random examples plucked out to support something non-existing.
The Mississippi high school product only made 61.4% of his looks in the restricted area during the 2015-16 season. Only the injury-riddled year before (61.3%) and in his first two campaigns in the league did Big Al finish at a less precise rate. The same applies for shots within 8 feet of the basket where Jefferson's two career-low seasons have been registered in 2015-16 (54.1%) and in 2014-15 (53.9%), per stats.nba.com.
To put it into perspective, The Big Classic finished in the top20 among players taller than 6-10 in FG% from less than 8 feet his first year in Charlotte. Back then he was good for 62.2% of his makes. For the 2015-16 season he was out of the top60 by only being the 63rd best out of 89 bigs with at least 100 attempts.
Nevertheless, Jefferson also soared for a few hard dunks following his return from surgery (all of the clips used in the video above also were from games following Big Al's comeback).
Some of those dunk attempts were rather unexpected as they came in situations where Big Al could have thrown up the same tiptoed layups, and, in fact, usually does so:
Furthermore, it can be statistically proven that Jefferson slammed down an uncharacteristic number of jams during this season-ending stint.
After being 1 for 2 on dunk attempts in his first 19 games of the season, Jefferson returned with 12 slams in the 28 regular season games following the knee injury. That's a more frequent dunk rate than in both of the center's first two years here. Jefferson connected on only 15 slams in 65 games in 2014-15 and on 28 in 73 games in 2013-14, per Basketball Reference.
Even though such throw-downs could point to the assumption that Jefferson is feeling physically good (his right knee reportedly is pain-free for the first time in over a year), you would still have to guess that the 31-year-old has had at least some physical decline since his first year in Charlotte. A drop in post production, despite facing more of second units, does suggest that.
Who knows which of the plays in these two videos are more random than indicative of something larger at hand. Either way, for the sake of the team which does sign Al Jefferson this off-season, one has to wish that his possible physical decline has been minimal, at worst.