As maybe some others have done, I've warmed up to this signing a good deal.
Beginning with the numbers of it, it's not the worst thing. They paid over market value, which is a downer, but as a consistent lottery team, that's to be expected if you want to sign talent out of your reach. But on the plus side, it's less than he was making and he's going into his prime. That is not to say he's not overpaid (he is) but he's a little less overpaid and the years of the contract are pretty friendly.
The main thing that's sold me on this is the help it gives the other young players. Without a Kevin Durant or a LeBron James to anchor a young franchise, the risk is that the youth tries to do too much and stunts their development. The funny thing is that Jefferson's presence in Utah was a major issue for fans because they felt it hindered the development of their young big men, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, but I felt that kind of situation would be beneficial for a player like Biyombo. I love the guy, and he's grown a lot more comfortable in his second year, but a season off the bench could be a good thing. There's still plenty of minutes to go around, too.
More than anything, Jefferson helps Kemba Walker. Walker had to shoulder a lot of the scoring load most nights. In his better games, he would still wear down a bit as the game went on due to fatigue and defenses narrowing their focus on him. Jefferson gives the Bobcats a major focal point on offense to share the load and balance the scoring between the frontcourt and backcourt. He also helps Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who can become a bigger threat as a cutter. As long as the Bobcats don't base their offense too much in Jefferson's skills on the block, I'm fine with this. Giving Jefferson carte blanche could be a major mistake when the young players deserve their chances to work within an offense, an not just an offense when Jefferson is off the court.
There's no changing that Al Jefferson is a terrible defender. He's slow-footed, doesn't challenge shots well, plays poor help defense and the Jazz made every attempt they could to remove possibilities of Jefferson's incredible weakness as a pick and roll defender. The Bobcats will struggle mightily to defend anything at the rim with Biyombo off the court. Best of luck to Steve Clifford on defense because that will be a tough lineup to make into a solid unit.
The timing of this is also a concern because we all know the 2014 draft could have some revolutionary talent. This could take them out of the running for a good chance at a star quality player. Jefferson's not going to vastly improve a team by himself (see every team Jefferson's been on) but he will make a positive impact. People challenge this thinking by questioning when the Bobcats should exit the rebuild through the draft and/or tanking mode. One more year isn't the worst thing, especially with the chance to get the best prospect since LeBron.
On the flip side, the Bobcats also needed to become more attractive to free agents and improving the team is the best way to do that. Jefferson's contract only lasts 3 years, so if he plays within his means as a team player, he could help the Bobcats develop then be gone before seriously damaging their cap space down the road. He's so one-dimensional but this deal doesn't make him their long term center for the future.
I'm not the biggest fan of the move, but I'm coming around to it.
Also it made the Bobcats amnesty Tyrus Thomas!
The signing of Al Jefferson elicited a host of different reactions even before it was officially unofficially announced as word spread that the Bobcats and Jefferson were meeting. Jefferson has been seen as a potential target for what seems like at least a year now. And it seems like only recently, after this most recent draft and the selection of Cody Zeller and the all-important 2014 draft being zeroed in on, has this signing been seen as such a negative thing.
Of course, as potential happenings become reality it makes more sense to examine them and take time to accurately reflect on what has transpired. So most of the negative reactions are probably as they would have been last year if you asked the same people at that time. And I still see this signing the same way I did almost a year ago: as a chance for the Bobcats to improve the team.
I understand and appreciate the concerns and those who even hate this signing, for both parties. But I think at some point this franchise was going to have to at least present itself as a viable free agent destination. And that meant being aggressive this off season, as many fans called for last offseason, and as GM Rich Cho said they would be. Honestly, I didn't think they would sign anyone of true significance this summer, so even as word leaked out the discussions were on going I didn't think they'd gain much steam. A more likely signing might have been a Carl Landry, someone the Bobcats had discussions with last year.
But July 4th came and went and the Bobcats stole all of Jay-Z's thunder. (I bet he's pissed.)
I like the length of this contract, even if the price is slightly above what a true contender would have had to pay. Jefferson gives the Bobcats their best low post scoring option ever, a legit starting talent that could actually start for most other teams in the league, and he lets the younger players (both in the post and out) develop without having to shoulder as much of the load.
I don't worry about stunting any of Bismack Biyombo's growth at this point. As a matter of fact, it might help Biyombo to see a little more from the bench and come in to make an impact. Zeller will be a rookie and if he's coming off the bench, then that shouldn't be a big issue either. There will still be plenty of frontcourt minutes to go around on this team. His presence will help Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as well by letting them develop with an actual NBA post man playing through his prime keeping things under control.
Jefferson wasn't signed for defense, which is awesome. He was signed to score and rebound, two things the Bobcats have been painfully inadequate doing pretty much since their inception.
Potentially putting the franchise in a position outside the top five or so worst teams in the league is a concern (*laughing, shaking head) but the Bobcats could have three first round picks, and will have a Ben Gordon expiring to play with as we get closer to next summer. I think the team will still be plenty bad, as the Jefferson detractors point out that none of his teams have exactly set the win column on fire. But to me, you take your shot now to improve by adding talent (the most pressing need) and then you do what you can with the assets you've acquired to get a top draft pick next summer, assuming this draft ends up being what everyone thinks it will be. There are so many things you can't predict or control. Charlotte had to spend the money somewhere (although sure, you can always find somewhere else to spend it) and being a player in he free agent market is something you can build on as well.
Cho and company could have very well gutted through one more awful season (they very well may still do that) and promoted the name change all year as a reason the fans shouldn't give up on them. But they've asked a lot of this fan base over the last two seasons and I don't think adding legit talent when the opportunity presented itself was something they could pass up.
I don't like this signing.
Signing Al Jefferson feels like a win now move being made by a team that isn't ready to win now. This roster is not prepared to make a legitimate playoff push and actually do something once they get there. I feel like signing Al Jefferson is setting the Cats on the path to being one of those mediocre teams always fighting for an 8 seed. A team like the Milwaukee Bucks, you don't want to be the Milwaukee Bucks. Jefferson is an offense-only big man who doesn't know how to defend on a team that's supposedly has a defensive-minded coach. Jefferson is a usage machine who takes the ball into the post and uses up a huge chunk of the shot clock. Yes, the Bobcats need someone who can create down low but is that really worth the sacrifice on the other end of the court?
As far as how Jefferson will fit in with the team and how much better he'll make the team, the Bobcats are a team that showed tremendous improvement in the second half of last season and I really don't see why their young players like Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson won't continue to improve. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is sure to play better with a big man like Jefferson who can pass the ball. Jefferson is known to command a double team so this will be great for players like MKG, McRoberts, and Biyombo who have shown an ability to cut and move off the ball. I really could see adding Jefferson and with the young players improvements the Bobcats winning an extra 5-10 games next season, especially with them getting better while so many other teams are blowing up everything and trying to be as bad as possible.
There are some okay things with this deal. It's two years with a player option on the third year. If things don't work out then Jefferson can opt out on his final year and both parties will go their separate ways. This is also a fairly movable contract. Jefferson immediately becomes the Bobcats best player and as a result will have very good numbers that will look good if the team decides trading him is the best option in the future. This does finally help with the lack of inside scoring the Bobcats have suffered with.
All of that said, welcome to Charlotte, Mr. Jefferson.