The Charlotte Bobcats will sign Al Jefferson in NBA Free Agency when the moratorium is lifted on July 10. Let that sink in for a second. The Bobcats, who never seem to bring in any high-quality free agents, have agreed to a deal with Jefferson, one of the biggest names on the market this summer. This is truly a miracle.
Dialing back the hyperbole, this deal was somewhat surprising in terms of timing. It was reported that Jefferson, who met with Charlotte earlier this week, would wait until after Dwight Howard signed to make his decision. However, according to the reports from ESPN’s Marc Stein, Jefferson flipped on that decision and reached this agreement with the Bobcats.
The reported deal will pay the 28-year-old center $41 million over the next three seasons and will give Jefferson a player option in the third year.
Undoubtedly the most exciting part about this deal for Charlotte and their fans is the fact that Jefferson is arguably the biggest free agent to ever be coming to the Bobcats. Moreover, the Bobcats also are able to take care of another necessity this off-season as they will use the amnesty clause to release the remarkably unproductive Tyrus Thomas and the $18 million remaining on his salary.
The biggest thing that Jefferson will bring to the Bobcats is post scoring. Jefferson has never averaged less than 17 points per game over his past six seasons and has never shot below 49 percent from the floor in any of those seasons. He’s also a relatively productive rebounder, averaging nine boards per game for his career.
Considering that the Bobcats were the seventh worst team in the league in terms of points in the paint, averaging just 38.6 per game, and that they were the second worst team in the NBA in terms of efficiency inside of eight feet, shooting just 51 percent as a team, Jefferson and first round pick Cody Zeller will give the Bobcats a more offensive inside presence.
However, one thing that Jefferson will not improve is the Bobcats defense, which was also a major problem of theirs. Jefferson is a notoriously bad defender with a relative lack of quickness and awareness in addition to the fact that he’s a tad undersized for a center at 6’10”. With drafting Zeller and adding Jefferson, though, it’s clear that the Bobcats are gearing to be a more offensive-minded team for next season.
Realistically, the ceiling for next year’s Bobcats team, even with the addition of Jefferson, is probably the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, but that still seems like a bit of a reach. Kemba Walker is still developing as a young point guard and has to improve as a facilitator, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist still has a long way to go in his game as well, and Bismack Biyombo is still Bismack Biyombo. There’s still no denying, though, that the Jefferson signing will greatly improve this team.
Possibly the most important part of this signing, though, is that it signals that the front office of Rich Cho and Rod Higgins isn’t going to be afraid to make big moves, spend money and possibly even take some risks. For a team that’s been rebuilding and in the basement of the league for as long as the Bobcats have been, that’s a major step forward.