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Jazz may have a steal in Jefferson

By Jeremiah Jensen | Posted - Jul. 13, 2010 at 10:50 p.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- After losing Carlos Boozer to Chicago via free agency, the Utah Jazz have found a replacement.

The team announced Tuesday that they acquired center/forward Al Jefferson from the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for center Kosta Koufos, the Memphis Grizzlies protected 2011 first-round pick (obtained by the Jazz a previous trade) and an additional future protected first-round pick.

"The Miller family stepped up today," said Jazz General Manager Kevin O'Connor. "They've committed to winning and committed to putting an elite team on the floor."

O'Connor and the Jazz made a deal for one of the best low post players in the NBA and gave up very little to make it happen. The Jazz have had interest in Jefferson for some time. O'Connor admitted the team tried to acquire him at last year's trade deadline and again around the time of June's NBA Draft. Minnesota's acquisition of Michael Beasley from the Miami Heat led the Timberwolves to shop Jefferson and the Jazz had the assets necessary to get the deal done.

Minnesota General Manager David Kahn had this to say about Jefferson after sending the six-year pro to Salt Lake City.

"Al is motivated to have a career-defining season, and I recognize the Jazz will be the recipients of that, not us. I expect him to help Utah immensely,"

This trade can't help but remind Jazz fans of the one-sided deal that allowed the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire Pau Gasol in 2008. O'Connor hopes the acquisition of Jefferson turns out with similar results.

"What we feel like is that we really added a premium player to our team," he said. "If you had put him in free agency this year with that crop they had out there, I think he would be pretty highly rated and that's how we look at it."

Kevin O'Connor spoke with Jefferson by phone and he said Al is excited to play for a winning team for the first time in his career.

"If I was a player that had the size he had, the hands that he had, and the moves that he had, and I had Deron Williams I'd be pretty happy too," O'Connor said.

O'Connor also spoke to Deron Williams about the trade and said "He was excited to have a big-un to play with." Williams has been outspoken about the need for the Jazz to add a couple pieces to the roster, especially in the front-court.

Originally selected by the Boston Celtics in the first round (15th overall) of the 2004 NBA Draft, Jefferson (6-10, 275, Prentiss H.S. (Miss.)) Jefferson has averaged a double-double in four of the last five seasons and has 98 career games with 20+ points and 10+ rebounds.

In three seasons with the Timberwolves (2007-10), Jefferson appeared in 208 games (all starts) and averaged 20.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.44 blocks in 34.7 minutes while leading the team in scoring each season. His best statistical season came in 2008-09, when Jefferson registered career-high averages of 23.1 points, 1.6 assists and 1.66 blocks while grabbing 11.0 rebounds per game, becoming one of only five players in the last 10 years to average both 23+ points and 11+ rebounds for a season (Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal and Chris Webber are the others).

Jefferson is expected to meet the media at a press conference on Thursday.

E-mail: jjensen@ksl.com

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