One-time Jazzman Richard Jefferson intends to come out of retirement to play one more year in the NBA. Should the Utah Jazz give him a look?
It would be tempting to say that the Utah Jazz are done adding highly recognizable players to their roster after inking deals with two more solid free agents in Jeff Green and Emmanuel Mudiay. After all, the Jazz have already added more key talents than we’ve ever seen in an offseason between those two, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic and Ed Davis.
Nevertheless, if this offseason has taught us anything, it’s that the Jazz aren’t fooling around when they said they would be aggressive. They’re truly going all in to do everything they can to shore up their roster and compete for a championship. As such, it’s totally within realistic expectations to suppose that they may not be done yet.
Of course, at this point all they can add aside from their own draft selections (who obviously wouldn’t count as highly recognizable as I’ve categorized here) are minimum contracts, such as what they used to sign Green and Mudiay. But there are still plenty of options out there that could be intriguing to include in their mix.
In fact, one option surfaced just barely on Tuesday as an unforeseen but perhaps tantalizing choice. Former NBA standout Richard Jefferson took to Twitter to announce that he intends to come out of retirement and suit up for one more year.
RJ had a prolific NBA career. He’s known most for his time with the New Jersey Nets where he averaged as many as 22.6 points per game in a season and helped lead the team to some exciting playoff runs in the early to mid-2000s. He also found success with the San Antonio Spurs and later with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016 where he helped LeBron James and Co. win a championship over the Golden State Warriors.
He played for a handful of other teams as well, including, for one brief stint, the Utah Jazz. Jefferson suited up in Salt Lake City for the dreadful 2013-14 season which saw the Jazz win just 25 games.
However, he was one of the most consistent contributors on that squad as he appeared in all 82 games while putting up 10.1 points per contest on great shooting splits of 45 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from three. Despite how things panned out for that young, undermanned and questionably-coached Jazz squad, everywhere RJ has gone he’s been known as a winner, a high-IQ talent, a prolific shooter and a great teammate.
Now, at 39 years old, he’s undoubtedly not the same athlete or threat that he once was. But even after taking a season off (he last played for the Denver Nuggets in 2017-18), I’m confident he still has the same brilliant basketball mind, shooting touch and the right winning presence to where he could help a team.
And it just so happens that the Jazz are seeking more proven winners who can shoot and are willing to play for a minimum salary. It’s reasonable to assume that RJ, even at his more advanced age than his prime playing days, checks all those boxes.
Now, there’s no evidence as of yet to suggest a connection between Jefferson and the Jazz, but perhaps there should be. Aside from him having a lot of the traits Utah might be looking for, he has also long been very highly complimentary of the Jazz organization and their fanbase. In the infamous episode of his podcast that featured Trey Lyles complaining about Quin Snyder’s now legendary 3-hour practices, Jefferson raved about how great Jazz fans were and how much he enjoyed his time there despite the team’s struggles.
Perhaps he’d now consider running it back there on a team that could potentially win more games than that 2013-14 group lost?
I, for one, would love to see it. I’ve always been a fan of RJ and loved how he gave his all even on a hopeless cause of a Jazz team like the one he played for back in the day. He could have easily quit on that team or given up and instead he played all 82 games and conducted himself like a total pro. If he would give the Jazz another shot, I like what he brings enough that I’d love for Utah to sign him.
But my guess is that he’ll likely aim to end his career in a somewhat more glamorous destination. If the Los Angeles Lakers add Kawhi Leonard, that would be my first prediction as he could have a great shot at one more ring alongside former teammate LeBron James. Going back to his former Nets team, who are now in Brooklyn and are working towards championship aspirations, could be an attractive and logical fit as well.
Still, Utah should at least be on his short list, if Jazz brass has any interest. He’d be welcomed back with open arms, would be in a great spot to both play a mentor role and compete for a championship, and he could check a lot of the boxes the organization is looking for.
We likely won’t know his plans until at least after the Kawhi Leonard debacle is settled, but Richard Jefferson is certainly a guy to keep an eye on as free agency rolls on and the Utah Jazz aim to round out their final roster. Whether he joins the Jazz or not, his return out of retirement is exciting for him and will add an extra intriguing wrinkle to the 2019-20 season wherever he ends up.