What Al Jefferson Signing With Charlotte Bobcats Means For Both Sides
ESPN's Marc Stein had the original report here:
Al Jefferson is heading to Charlotte on three-year deal worth estimated$41 million with opt out after Year 2, sources tell ESPN— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 4, 2013
Depending on how you feel about Andrew Bynum—more specifically, his knees—and Nikola Pekovic, Jefferson was either the second, third or fourth-best center on the market this summer. Personally, I had him at No. 3, trailing Dwight Howard and Bynum.
This is undoubtedly a big move for the Bobcats, possibly the most monumental free-agent signing they've made during the short history of their franchise. But is it a positive one for both them and Jefferson?
Let's take a look at each side.
For Al Jefferson
The most obvious ramification of this move is that Al Jefferson gets money. A lot of money.
ESPN's Chris Broussard originally reported that the big man was looking for a four-year deal worth at least $15 million per year. While Jefferson didn't meet those standards, he fell only just shy of the monetary criterion and did himself a favor by not grabbing such a lengthy contract.
$14 million per year ain't shabby, and by securing an opt-out clause after the second season with the Bobcats, Jefferson guaranteed that he'll have a way to escape if the future continues to look bleak in Charlotte. It seems like the Cats are trending upward after this signing, but there's no guarantee that Michael Jordan continues to bring quality players in.
On the court, Jefferson also has the ability to become the man now.
While playing for the Utah Jazz, he shared that title with Paul Millsap and, on occasion, a tertiary player like Mo Williams. Although he was the best player, he didn't always receive proper credit for his mastery of the left block and abundance of back-to-the-basket moves.
While Kemba Walker is a skilled point guard on the rise, he won't be able to wrest the crown away from Big Al. Seeing as he's a rather diminutive player, he probably can't even reach it, in fact.
Jefferson is a defensive downgrade from Bismack Biyombo—and possibly Cody Zeller, even during the Indiana product's rookie season—but he's roughly 87,456,912 times better than the Congolese big man.
Actually, he may be negative 87,456,912 times better than Biyombo on offense, because the incumbent big's offensive value is definitely not even up to the level of a nonexistent player. Biyombo still has minus-0.5 offensive win shares during his two-year career, and a negative times a negative is always a positive.
It's all about offense for Jefferson.
Is this a good move for Al Jefferson?
After averaging 15.8 points per game during the 2012-13 campaign while surrounded by solid offensive options, Jefferson could very well break past the 20-point barrier that he hasn't reached since leaving the Minnesota Timberwolves. And if the Bobcats could add one more shooter to space the court out, he'd be even more deadly down on that left block he loves to call home.
Jefferson has reached the prime of his career, and it's time he started playing like a franchise centerpiece.
He has the skills to do so on one end of the court, and he'll now have the opportunity to do so as the featured player for the Bobcats.
For the Charlotte Bobcats
This is a two-faced move for the Bobcats, as it lends credibility to the franchise, but does so during a year where improvement wasn't necessarily the best option.
Let's analyze the negative aspect first.
If there were ever a year in which the Bobcats wanted to be as bad as possible, it would be this one.
The draft class is unbelievably stacked, and it could eventually challenge the 2003 draft for supremacy in the modern era. And since the Bobcats weren't around in 2003, this would be the first historically loaded draft they can take part in.
At the top of the big board sits Andrew Wiggins, a young man who might inspire the word "tanking" to trend on Twitter for the next calendar year. If you haven't heard of him, please go to YouTube, type in his name and enjoy yourself for the next hour. I'll give you a bit of a head start here.
It would actually be beneficial for the Bobcats to lose as many games as they could this year, a strategy that many teams are sure to employ. And if there's any strategy the Bobcats can typically dominate at, it's that one.
Charlotte just made it harder to land Wiggins, who is a bona fide franchise-changing talent. That doesn't mean it's impossible to snag him, though. Ask the Cleveland Cavaliers, who drafted Kyrie Irving and still managed to come out on the top of the drafting order with him on the roster.
This is concerning, but it's not the end of the world for a franchise hoping to earn some respectability. And that, more than anything else, is what this move does.
Who would have thought that the Bobcats could reel in one of the top-tier free agents in a pretty shallow pool? You can count me among those who laughed at the Jefferson-to-Charlotte rumors, thinking that not even a max contract could tempt the big man into joining the perennial bottom-feeders. I'm not ashamed to admit that.
Is this a good move for the Charlotte Bobcats?
The signing of Jefferson is a great way to tell the rest of the Association that this franchise is no longer content with being a laughingstock. Even if it costs them Wiggins, the Bobcats will no longer finish with the worst record in the NBA, nor will they come too close.
Kemba and Big Al will form a dynamic inside-outside offensive duo, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist showed signs of a future breakout during his rookie season. If Charlotte either brings back Gerald Henderson or adds one more quality piece, this could be a sneaky, solid team.
But more importantly, it makes them relevant. The Bobcats can't immediately be dismissed if we hear their name linked to an elite free agent.
Whether we're ready for it or not, that's now the world in which we live.
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