(We’re counting down the best 20 Bucks since 1991 over the next few weeks. It’s something to do with the lockout sucking the life out of NBA fans. We continue with number 14. Richard Jefferson. Another in a long line of players with one successful season (though many other had a few crappy ones too), RJ initially had some Bucks hesitation, but turned around and gave Milwaukee all he had during his one year stay. – Jeremy)
Spoiler Alert: Richard Jefferson is the only one-year Buck on this list. That doesn’t really matter. His biggest contribution to the Bucks had nothing to do with his play on the court. This isn’t to say that he didn’t play well. He played damn well. Even if he never would have played a minute for the Bucks, he probably would still have made the list.
He was the guy traded for Yi Jianlian and Bobby Simmons. That’s the only reason he needs to be on this list. So, thanks to Jefferson, John Hammond, Nets General Manger Kiki Vandeweghe, and the entire New Jersey Nets organization for getting two presumably good human beings, but terrible basketball players out of Milwaukee. For fun, let’s look at some stats:
2008-09 Richard Jefferson: 82 GS/ 1607 PTS/ 374 REB/199 AST/.439 FG%/ .397 3P%/ $13,200,000
2008-09 Bobby Simmons and Yi Jianlian: 96 GS/ 1081 PTS/ 603 REB/ 152 AST/ .413 FG%/ .410 FG%/ $13,588,747
I love advanced stats. I love giving the counterargument to common sense. Sometimes you have to look at the ol’ regular stats and common sense (Jianlian is one of the worst Bucks draft picks ever and Simmons’s agent is a con man) and nod your head accordingly.
The acquisition of Jefferson was an example of some Bucks traditions. It was John Hammond’s first trade for a second-tier swingman. Something he’s done every year since he became Bucks GM. After the trade, rumors swirled about Jefferson being disgruntled; another proud Milwaukee tradition. He immediately went to the media and denied those rumors by stating he was very excited to play with Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd. That triggered the final tradition where Bogut and Redd blow some ligament whenever someone thinks optimistically of them.
The tragedy of Jefferson’s short tenure as a Buck is that the 2008-09 campaign could have been successful. Redd had spent all summer with the US men’s team and Bogut was with the Australian team. An in-shape Bogut and Redd with Jefferson as the third wheel could have definitely made the playoffs in a year when a .500 record was good enough for the sixth seed. Dealing in hypotheticals is a dangerous game, but there’s no reason a full year from Bogut and Redd couldn’t have yielded a .500 record
In reality, Jefferson had to carry the scoring load with a motivated Charlie Villanueva. Being the lead scorer was never a good fit for Jefferson. He too predictably drives to the right and is an average shooter at best. Plus, he had to crash the boards and could never rest on defense because Scott Skiles was his coach. Bogut could have kept him off the boards, but instead there was Francisco Elson. Redd was supposed to be the offensive focal point, however there was Charlie Bell. Lesser men would have complained to the media, but Jefferson is a good soldier. He never complained once and always got his shot off. He led an over-achieving bunch to 34 wins.
There’s not much more to say about Jefferson, partly because he was a Buck for such a short time, but also because he’s so damn boring. He’s consistent, disciplined, a good teammate and someone your parents would like. That’s all well, fine and good, but if I had his athleticism, I’d scream, “You can’t stop me!” and try to dunk on everything (basically, JR Smith). That’s a terrible knock on a guy who did everything asked of him, but whenever I hopped over to the Bradley Center that season, I was more excited to see if Ramon Sessions would drop 15 dimes that night.
Jefferson’s one season as a Buck was so statistically good that he needs to be on this list. However his legacy as a Buck will forever be as a trade asset, not a player. He got rid of Yi and Simmons and his value brought in Carlos Delfino and Kurt Thomas. And even though Jefferson scored way more points and snagged a lot more boards, Thomas gave me one charge I’ll never forget.
Ian Segovia is a contributor to Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter, fan us up on Facebook.