Charlotte Bobcats Make the Right Move by Adding Al Jefferson
The Charlotte Bobcats just managed to sign a top-five free agent without holding him at gunpoint. Let that sink into your brain for a minute.
The Bobcats have gone after a ton of free agents in the past, and they've never been able to land anyone of significance. Even their own draftees tend to leave the team as soon as they can.
But here we are, with Marc Stein at ESPN reporting that the Charlotte Bobcats have agreed with Al Jefferson on a contract that will keep Big Al in Charlotte for at least two years, with a player option for a third.
Even more surprising? They did it slightly under market value for the big guy.
Big Al was said to be asking for a four-year deal around $60 million by Chris Broussard of ESPN, and it was said he wasn't going to make his decision until after Dwight Howard had chosen a team. Waiting for Dwight to pick his team would've been a smart move for Jefferson monetarily, as his value would have skyrocketed by teams looking to pick up a big talent at center with Howard off the board.
But something about Charlotte made Al Jefferson forfeit his original plan and his contractual asking price. Fewer years, less money and suddenly, the Bobcats have a very dangerous frontcourt.
Those are questions that will likely be asked when the deal can be made official on July 10th.
But my guess is that Jefferson must have seen something he liked in Charlotte.
Perhaps he enjoyed the ever-growing and beautiful city of Charlotte. Perhaps the idea of playing for a team loaded with potential made him want in. Jefferson has been praised for helping develop other big men with the Utah Jazz, so maybe he wants to be part of a team that is on the brink of tasting excellence with the core it's developed.
Jefferson is one of the best offensive post players in the game. His moves backing in and facing up are second to none.
Constant foot movement, ball faking, strength to push into the paint, and the ability to finish at the rim, take a quick hook shot or even step back to take a 14-foot jumper all make Jefferson's offensive ability a mouthwatering idea for a Bobcats team that has never had that kind of inside presence.
He'll also fight for second-chance points. A number of times, he has put up quick tip-ins in high-pressure situations. He grabs a ton of rebounds and is a double-double machine.
Even his passing has improved over the years, especially while he was in Utah, where he was regularly double-teamed. Jefferson has learned how to pass out of double-teams and how to find the open man for easier points rather than trying to force shots.
Over the course of his three seasons with the Utah Jazz, Jefferson averaged 18.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 blocks per game while shooting 49.4 percent from the field. He has never averaged less than 49.2 percent from the field in his career, and is a career 50.0 percent shooter.
He has averaged or nearly averaged a double-double every season he's been in the NBA, with the exception of his first two seasons in the NBA while playing with the Boston Celtics straight out of high school.
Jefferson's new team is going to benefit greatly from his presence on the offensive end.
With the team adding the controversial but smart pick Cody Zeller to be a stretch-4 and help spread out the floor, Jefferson's ability to bang in the paint will help open up more room for Zeller to shoot and get to the basket. It will also help Michael Kidd-Gilchrist find better lanes to slash to the rim.
Point guard Kemba Walker now has two big men to play pick-and-roll offense with, so don't be surprised to see Walker average close to eight assists per game. His ability to score will still be invaluable, but with a frontcourt that is actually functional, he won't be required to take as many shots. Adding Big Al and Zeller will enhance Walker's playmaking abilities.
The knock on Jefferson? Well, to put it bluntly, he's not a very good defender.
He's not tragically bad, but he's bad enough for it to warrant mentioning. If he had the lateral quickness to be a good, solid defender in the paint, he'd likely be a max-contract player. But his defense holds him back a bit.
Some fans are disappointed by the addition of Jefferson, not because of the player, but because his addition could very well take Charlotte out of the top five in next year's lottery, a draft completely loaded with players all the way into the second round.
While I'd love to see Andrew Wiggins on this team, the addition of Zeller alone was going to get Charlotte a few more wins as it was, while teams like the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers fall into complete rebuilding phases, with several other teams looking to be bottom feeders as well.
Simply put, Charlotte was going to be too good to be bad enough to have the worst record regardless of Jefferson.
And even with the worst record, they would still only have a 25 percent chance at getting that top pick.
The simple fact is that Charlotte has acquired the first big-name free agent in the history of the franchise, and he was a steal. Jefferson is going to impact this team in a major way right out of the gate, and he's going to make the bigs on the team better as well.
Working with legendary center Patrick Ewing could also help Jefferson's deficiencies on defense, as Ewing tries to teach him some tricks on D—specifically, working on how to efficiently guard the pick and roll.
The Charlotte Bobcats, as long as they retain Gerald Henderson, not only have a young, talented core, but now have a big man that can take games over and post 20-10 nights on a regular basis.
That's a big deal for a franchise that has never had a player capable of putting up those types of numbers.
Hate the signing or love it, one thing's for certain: With the addition of Zeller, a.k.a. The Big Handsome, at power forward and Big Al at center, the Bobcats have a dramatically improved frontcourt to go along with what was already an extremely gifted backcourt.
And of course, to make room for Jefferson's contract, Tyrus Thomas—the much-maligned, inefficient, angry, lazy and cancerous locker room presence—will be amnestied, as reported by David Aldridge. While the Bobcats will still have to pay out the rest of Thomas' roughly $18 million over the next two seasons, at least his ineptitude won't count against our cap room.
Like I said, love it or hate it, but there's no denying that Big Al Jefferson will be an astronomical improvement on and off the court for this team over Tyrus Thomas.
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