By Cory Bernstein
Whywe want him: Jerebko is one of my favorite role players in the NBA. Unfortunately, he was not able to play last year because of an ugly injury that resulted in him tearing his Achilles. But, Jerebko showed in his rookie season during 2009 that he can play power forward.
In nearly 28 minutes of play as a rookie, Jerebko averaged 9.3 points per game and chipped in six rebounds. It is impressive for any rookie to get starts in the NBA, especially one picked in the second round like Jerebko. Jonas started in seventy-three games a rookie, a number that would be good for a lottery pick. Jerebko is a very good defender against both forward positions. He and Tayshaun Prince meshed well together, as both have arms that are longer than wings on a small airplane. Jerebko also showed a ridiculously high 18.8 PER this year when playing power forward, an amazingly high number.
Most importantly, Jerebko did something that few Nets did last season: try. Jerebko plays with aggression and ferocity, diving for balls and giving his all every night. Remember, he played for Detroit, a team that had such a bad coach that half the team formed a mutiny by the end of the season. For him to try when no one on the Pistons did shows that he is a true winner. He's tough as nails and possibly mentally insane, as he punched Jamaal Magloire in the face during a preseason game last year. The Nets need a crazy guy, and Jerebko is just that. His quick hands and tough attitude can be shown through him averaging .99 steals a game and not getting killed by someone for breaking “basketball code” after getting into a fistfight in a preseason game. Piston fans made a section at The Palace called “Jerebko Row”, where Viking hats were given out to fans to honor his hard play and Swedish heritage. This is somehow relevant.
Why we don't: Jerebko's injury is a severe issue for the Nets. The last thing the Nets need is a good player who can't play because of injury. A torn ACL is nothing to be taken lightly, and the biggest secret in sports is that a fully torn ACL takes two years to recover from, not eight months. If you want any evidence of this, see Palmer, Carson. Also, Jerebko does not have a true position, which we saw with Travis Outlaw this year can become a problem. He also is not a great shooter, but this is less of an issue if he is playing power forward next season. When he plays power forward this is not much of an issue, but he needs to cut down form 1.4 threes per game. For someone who plays so hard, Jerebko only got .4 blocks per game last, which is horrible for a power forward. He may struggle guarding power forwards like Amar’e Stoudemire because he’s very thin, but he did body up on big guys well as a rookie. Jerebko was 22 as a rookie, so he may have already reached his potential.
Final Verdict: Jonas Jerebko could be the steal of this free agent class. He is the perfect glue guy for the Nets and has the toughness that Brook Lopez so sorely lacks. As much as I love Kris Humphries, Jerebko may be even better for the Nets at half the price. Humphries certainly plays hard, but his game is based more on blocks and boards, while Jonas relies and grit and toughness to be effective. If given the option of keeping Humphries at about six to eight million dollars to year or Jerebko at three to four, I would choose Jerebko in a heartbeat. Humphries may have been a fluke, while Jerebko’s first year in the NBA was a rousing success, and he played excellent in Europe for Angelico Biella for two years.
Jonas is only 24 and he can defend both forward positions very well, and he would compliment Brook Lopez excellently. Jerebko is very athletic and is a great defender, while he cannot block a shot and has little offensive game. Lopez is probably a worse athlete than me (a truly astounding achievement), but relies on offensive skill and his size to block shots. Nets fans should get out their Ibrahimovic jerseys and Viking suits to woo this Swedish star into suiting up for the Nets next fall. (Mike’s edit: Hopefully not too many Ibra jerseys out there, as he’s made a reputation for being a journeyman player among the best teams. As a Juventus fan, I hate his guts. In no way do we want to encourage Jonas to do the same)
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