After a breakout junior season, Baylor senior Cory Jefferson hoped to build on that success and establish himself as an NBA prospect. Jefferson had a good season individually, seeing marginal improvements in his scoring (19.0 points per 40 minutes, pace adjusted, up slightly from 18.3 his junior season) and rebounding (11.4 per 40 minutes pace adjusted, from 10.7). The Bears also had a good season as a team, finishing the season on a 12-3 run, including two wins in the NCAA tournament, returning to the dance after winning the NIT tournament the previous year.
Still, many of the positive developments in Jefferson's game that we noted in our last write-up have seen significant regression, which along with Baylor playing at a much slower pace than they played at during his junior season combined to cause Jefferson's overall efficiency fall, with his true shooting percentage dipping to 55% (from 65%) and his 2 point field goal percentage falling from a superb 62% to a mediocre 50.8%.
The first area of regression for Jefferson this past season was as a jump shooter. After taking virtually no jump shots during his first two seasons at Baylor, Jefferson was able to connect on 48.8% of his attempts during his junior season, ranking in a very impressive 83rd percentile, although on a very low sample size. As Jefferson made the jump shot a more pronounced part of his game during his senior season, he was not able to maintain that excellent efficiency, as he took over twice as many attempts, but connected on a 33% clip, according to Synergy Sports Technology.
Despite this regression, which does give one considerable concern about whether that can be a reliable part of his game at the next level, his jump shot is still significantly improved from where it was when arrived at Baylor. He gets nice elevation on it and has a good follow through, although he can get a little wide in his base and at times needlessly fall away, two areas that if improved could potentially yield more consistent results.
Should Jefferson shore up his jump shot it could open up the pick and pop game for him going forward. With his athleticism, explosiveness around the basket, and his ability to set good screens, Jefferson has always had potential as a pick and roll threat, something he began to exploit with Pierre Jackson during his junior season. This past season he tried to diversify that a bit, as he began to settle for more pick and pop jump shots than he had in years past. He saw mixed results in these sets, but if he can make this a reliable part of his game it could open up driving lanes to the basket as defenders close out aggressively on him. Despite his quickness and overall athleticism, Jefferson's ball-handling is fairly rudimentary, with a high dribble and not much in terms of a weak hand or misdirection moves, so forcing a defender to close out could give him the space he needs to take advantage of his athleticism.
The other major area that he made progress in during his junior season that he didn't see quite the same success in during this past year was in his post-up game. Despite not having the most advanced post game, Jefferson was extremely efficient during his junior season at 1.031 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports Technology. That fell as a junior, to 0.841 points per possession, but it was still a solid efficiency which would put him at around the 57th percentile, as Jefferson continued to make that an even bigger part of his game.
Jefferson's post game is primarily based around his incredible athleticism and ability to elevate in the paint, which he primarily uses to get clean looks for a jump hook shot over his left shoulder. He has also added a quick turnaround jump shot over his left shoulder, which he seems to have some comfort with, although the sample size is still relatively small and is something to watch going forward. While Jefferson has worked hard to add muscle mass during his time at Baylor, he could still stand to add a little bit of lower body strength, as he can be dislodged a too easily when trying to set up his post moves. He also doesn't have much in the way of counter moves, and can become a bit predictable down low.
The rest of Jefferson's game is mostly built around his ability to move without the ball and convert around the hoop. When diving to the hoop he does a good job of presenting the passer with a target and has solid hands. Upon receiving the ball, he's incredibly quick and powerful off his feet, and because of this does a good job converting around the rim despite average touch and not being the most comfortable with his off hand.
The other main area that Jefferson contributes is on the glass, as he is a very good rebounder both off of the offensive and defensive glass, puling down 3.9 offensive rebounds and 7.5 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes, pace adjusted. He shows good anticipation, technique, and effort level on both sides of the court, something which should translate to the next level.
On the defensive side of the floor, Jefferson's impact is not quite at the level that his physical tools would suggest. While he could still benefit from adding some lower body strength, he has improved considerably as a post defender over the years, doing a much better job of engaging his man early, keeping him away from the hoop, and using his length to disrupt the shot. Off the ball and on the perimeter is where Jefferson can get burned. He will frequently drift off his man and over help his teammates, putting him out of position, either as his man is open for a spot-up jump shot or rolling to the hoop and forcing his teammates to rotate and help out. He can also struggle at times defending the pick and roll, as he tends to have an upright stance and give generous amounts of room to the ballhandler. Still, his improvement defending the post combined with his physical profile gives Jefferson a fair amount of intrigue into what he can develop into at this end of the court.
Cory Jefferson presents an interesting dilemma come draft night. With an terrific physical profile and having shown serious progress during his junior season, there was a fair amount of interest in his development during his senior season at Baylor. While Jefferson had a solid season individually, and Baylor had a fair amount of team success despite the loss of Pierre Jackson, much of the improvement Jefferson showed in key areas of his game he failed to build upon. Despite this, and the fact that he turned 23 years old earlier this season, as he red-shirted after his freshman year, if a team thinks that they can develop some of the holes in Jefferson's game, he has the physical profile, athleticism, and effort level to be a contributor at the next level.