Al Jefferson Reportedly to Sign with Pacers: Latest Contract Details, Reaction

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2016

FILE - In this April 10, 2016, file photo, Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson pauses on the court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards in Washington. The last time the Hornets met the Heat in the playoffs two years ago, Jefferson was the focal point of the team's offense. Now he's in a different role coming off the bench.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Associated Press

The Charlotte Hornets reached the playoffs in two of the past three seasons with big man Al Jefferson at center, but he is no longer in the fold after signing with the Indiana Pacers on Friday.  

ESPN.com's Marc Stein was the first to report Jefferson inked a three-year, $30 million contract with the Pacers, and it was confirmed by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical shortly thereafter.

Wojnarowski also reported it isn't yet known if the third year of Jefferson's new contract is fully guaranteed. Ken Berger of CBS Sports reported the two sides are discussing a "partial guarantee" for the third season and that the deal will have no options.

The move is somewhat surprising considering Jefferson indicated to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer at the beginning of May that he wanted to stay with the Hornets: “There’s nowhere that I’d rather be. The things that this franchise did over the last three years have been amazing, and I’ve been part of it. I know there’s a whole other business side to this, but I really want to be here. I’d like to end my career here.”

Bonnell noted Jefferson made $13.5 million in 2015-16 but was willing to consider a pay cut for 2016-17 to stay in Charlotte. Jefferson even decided not to opt into free agency before the 2015-16 season and to remain with the Hornets, per Stein.

Alas, he will no longer suit up for Charlotte as he joins a new team in search of an elusive championship ring.

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Jefferson came into the league in 2004 when the Boston Celtics drafted him in the first round. The Celtics traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves after three seasons as part of the deal that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston, and the Timberwolves then traded him to the Utah Jazz after three seasons in Minnesota.

He ultimately joined the Hornets before the 2013-14 campaign and helped lead them to the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-10 season. Jefferson earned All-NBA third-team recognition in his first year with Charlotte and posted 21.8 points and 10.8 boards per night.

At his best, he is a formidable low-post scorer who has averaged double figures every year since his second in the league. He scored at least 21.0 points a night three different times in his career and is also a rebounding force who averaged a double-double for three straight seasons from 2006 to 2009:

Al Jefferson's Per-Game Career Stats
SeasonTeamGamesPointsReboundsBlocksField-Goal Percentage
2004-05Boston Celtics716.74.40.852.8
2005-06Boston Celtics597.95.10.849.9
2006-07Boston Celtics6916.011.01.551.4
2007-08Minnesota Timberwolves8221.011.11.550.0
2008-09Minnesota Timberwolves5023.111.01.749.7
2009-10Minnesota Timberwolves7617.19.31.349.8
2010-11Utah Jazz8218.69.71.949.6
2011-12Utah Jazz6119.29.61.749.2
2012-13Utah Jazz7817.
2013-14Charlotte Hornets7321.810.81.150.9
2014-15Charlotte Hornets6516.68.41.348.1
2015-16Charlotte Hornets4712.06.40.948.5
Source: ESPN.com

Despite an impressive resume, Jefferson is 31 years old and only played 47 games last year because of injuries.

There are fair concerns about his athleticism moving forward after an injury-plagued campaign, especially since the game has become perimeter-oriented in recent years, with teams such as the Golden State Warriors going with small-ball approaches that emphasize ball movement, back screens and outside shooting. 

Jefferson is still a proven scorer and rebounder who will provide valuable minutes for the Pacers. They just can’t expect him to be the unstoppable player he was during his prime.

Indiana already had a strong core in place with Paul George and Monta Ellis, and they have since added Jefferson, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young this offseason.

The Pacers pushed the Toronto Raptors to Game 7 in the playoffs, and based on the acquisitions they have made, they may be close to establishing themselves as the Cleveland Cavaliers' top competition in the Eastern Conference.

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