Charlotte Bobcats: Pros and Cons of Al Jefferson's Huge Deal
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With a ton of salary cap room, and plenty of holes to fill, the Charlotte Bobcats promised to make a splash in free agency this offseason.
And make a splash they did, but it didn't come cheap.
The Bobcats agreed on terms today with free-agent center Al Jefferson on a two-year deal, with a player option for a third, worth a reported $41 million. The deal immediately fortifies a Charlotte frontcourt that was amongst the worst in the NBA last season.
But there are sure to be detractors. Jefferson fills a need but comes at a high price and has his flaws. There are definite pros and cons to this deal, and here we will explore some of them.
Pro: Jefferson Adds a Huge Inside Presence
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You don’t need to look very hard to see how bad the Charlotte Bobcats frontcourt performed last season.
When your team ranks 27th in rebounding, 29th in points per game allowed and has only one forward averaging double-digits in points you have a serious problem.
Al Jefferson's presence on the inside immediately makes this team better and should help them improve on all the above problems. He's an elite scoring center (17.8 PPG last season), can rebound (9.2 rebounds per game last season) and will command double-teams that should space the floor, giving the Cats guards more room to operate. .
He’s the type of big body that Charlotte has lacked for years, and he gives the team the luxury of bringing their younger big men—Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller—along slowly.
Con: Jefferson's Defense Is Suspect
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There’s absolutely no question that Al Jefferson is an offensive force. He’s capable of taking over a game and should drastically improve the Bobcats inside.
It’s not his offensive capabilities that get him into trouble, it’s his defense. Jefferson is known as something of a defensive liability, often giving up as many points a night as he scores.
Some of that has to do with the fact that at 6’10” he’s undersized for a center. He’s something of a tweener who is forced to play out of position because he isn’t quick or athletic enough to guard the better power forwards in the league.
His defensive problems tend to be overstated to a certain extent, but there’s no denying that Jefferson isn’t the best post defender in the league and sometimes gives up on plays too early.
Pro: Jefferson Is Remarkably Consistent on Offense
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With Al Jefferson you pretty much know what you’re going to get on a night in, night out basis. One of his biggest strengths throughout his career has been his remarkable consistency. There have been very few ups and downs, and he always seems to play around the same level.
In fact, if you look at his stats for the past four seasons, they look nearly identical. You can pretty much book Jefferson for 17-18 points a night and between nine and 10 boards. For a young team struggling to find consistency, it’s a tremendous help to know you can rely on the guy in the middle to produce.
The Bobcats struggled to find any sort of stability in their frontcourt last season and hope Jefferson will anchor that unit for years to come.
Con: Does Jefferson Improve the Team Too Much?
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Will Al Jefferson make the Bobcats too good next season?
That may seem like an odd question, but before you shake your heads, think about it for a second.
Charlotte has consistently stated their desire to build through the draft, but this year didn’t produce any can’t-miss superstars. The 2014 edition of the NBA draft, however, is already shaping up to be a star-studded affair, highlighted by Kansas incoming-freshman guard Andrew Wiggins.
Teams are already salivating about the potential opportunity to draft the 6’8” guard, whose freakish athleticism creates all sorts of matchup problems on the wing. But to get him you’ll likely need to win the lottery and select first.
We all know that losing the most games doesn’t necessarily guarantee the top pick, as the Cats found out the hard way the past two seasons, but will the number of wins Al Jefferson proves worth decrease Charlotte’s draft prospects?
Pro: This Proves Charlotte Can Be an Attractice Free-Agent Destination
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With a combined 28-120 record the past two seasons, the Charlotte Bobcats wouldn’t seem to be the most attractive destination for free agents. The franchise has only made the playoffs once in its history and is at least two more years away from contention.
The Bobcats knew when free agency opened that the biggest names on the market—Dwight Howard and Chris Paul—weren’t even pipe dreams and they needed to focus their attention on lower-tier pieces that could help the team.
Al Jefferson entered free agency with a list of suitors that was expected to include virtually everyone who lost out on Dwight Howard. It’s somewhat surprising that he agreed to a deal before D-12, but he won’t be crying over the reported $41 million dollars he’ll earn over the life of the contract.
By jumping in and snagging a top-tier free agent, before the market really settled itself, the Cats proved they still have bite when it comes to attracting talent.
Con: Is Jefferson Committed to Charlotte for the Long Haul?
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Al Jefferson’s deal with the Bobcats gives him the ability to get the best of both worlds. It provides him with a level of financial security, with an option to get out in two years if he’s unhappy with his situation.
By signing a two-year deal, with a player option for a third, Jefferson minimizes the risk for both him and the Bobcats. After two seasons in Charlotte he has the option of once again testing the free-agent market. He’ll be 30 by then and should still be able to secure a good deal from a contender if his production remains consistent.
The one thing Bobcats fans need to worry about is whether he’ll stick around when the team is ready to contend. Most observers feel that Charlotte, even with Jefferson anchoring the middle, is a few years from contention.
Young talent like Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller will need some time to develop, but will Jefferson jump ship when they do? That has got to be a concern going forward.
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Overall, this deal makes a lot of sense for the Charlotte Bobcats.
Whenever you have the opportunity to add a top-tier player in a position of need, you jump at it. Al Jefferson is an elite post-up player in this league. He immediately upgrades two major areas of need on a team that has tons of young talent but lacks experience in the frontcourt.
Jefferson should immediately help the Bobcats improve on their terrible rebounding numbers from a season ago and provides a low-post presence that will command double-teams. By spacing the floor, Jefferson should give Kemba Walker more room to operate and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist a clearer path to the basket.
All things considered this is a good deal for the Bobcats and their fans. It’s only a two, and potentially three, year commitment and has the potential to improve the team in both the short and long-term.