Now that we've had some time to think about it, I think most of us have come around on Al Jefferson's signing. Most people still don't like it, but it doesn't inspire the fury it once did.
That said, I've loved this deal since the beginning and I'll tell you why.
One, the Bobcats' starting frontcourt of Byron Mullens and Josh McRoberts was good for 19.3 points per game on 41.6% shooting last season. Jefferson, coincidentally, has a career average of 19.3 points per game. Difference is, he scored those points on 50% shooting. Throw in whatever other big you want to play with him; the Bobcats' frontcourt is going to be much better than last season.
Two, Jefferson's deal is only two guaranteed years at $13.5 million. The third year is a player option (or an Early Termination Option, we're not sure yet). So, if Jefferson opts out after year two like most expect him to, Jefferson's essentially an expiring contract after next season. A legitimate star player with an expiring deal. Sounds pretty valuable to me.
Three, while Jefferson undoubtedly makes the Bobcats better on offense, his defense is so poor that it will negate his offensive contributions quite often. Despite being the Jazz's best player last season, Jefferson's net rating was a team-low -3.0. Yup, their best player was also their worst player. Funny how that works. In other words, don't expect the Bobcats to get much better. Sure, Jefferson's a very good player, but he's not going to carry this team to the playoffs, so calm down. Wiggins is still in sight.
Four, Jefferson is one of the nicest guys in the entire NBA. He takes his role as a leader very seriously, and takes great pride in developing young talent. He had the benefit of working on his post game with Kevin McHale in both Boston and Minnesota. He and McHale also mentored a young player by the name of Kevin Love. In Utah, he took Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors under his wing. Both developed an assortment of effective moves that they attributed to Al Jefferson's work with them. Check out this quote from the Salt Lake Tribune:
They worked in earnest in the offseason. While Kanter was shaping his body into something resembling a Renaissance sculpture, he also was working with Jefferson in Santa Barbara, Calif. They would wake up and lift weights, then go to the gym and work one-on-one. They practiced footwork and jump shots.
I see no reason Jefferson won't do the same in Charlotte with Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller. Expect both to be much improved post players, especially with the Bobcats' recently hired assistant coach -- Patrick Ewing. He's not bad in the post either.
Finally, Jefferson is a veteran. It's easy to forget just how much impact veterans have on young teams. Remember the Indiana Pacers in 2011? They were a young team with a bit of potential, but few took them seriously. They brought in David West, and everything changed. They became disciplined and confident. Jefferson should have the same effect on the Bobcats' young players. He comes off as brutish and introverted, but that's a huge misconception. Jefferson is an unbelievably humble and loyal player. When Steve Clifford implements his systems this training camp, expect Jefferson to coach the Bobcats' youngsters in real time. He's that kind of player.
If you put all of these things together, the Jefferson signing doesn't look bad at all. In fact, it looks pretty darn good. It was the perfect move at the perfect time.
The addition of Al Jefferson to the Bobcats will immediately help a Bobcats front-court that struggled mightily to produce last season. Jefferson is one of the best and more intelligent low-post players in the NBA, which would fit nicely on a relatively young team. But there are still issues that come with this signing, which revolve around the development of Bismack Biyombo. From day 1, Charlotte has thrown the young prospect out there as a starting player and the results have been worse than expected. Bringing in Jefferson along with rookie Cody Zeller should decrease Biyombo's expectations and let him develop in a small role on the bench while also having the possibility on his offensive arsenal with Al Jefferson.
When I first heard the rumors of Al Jefferson possibly headed to Charlotte I was excited. Big name free agents being linked to the Bobcats is a rarity and my initial joy was due to the team reportedly going after someone who could potentially help change the losing culture. After a few days of reading about Jefferson and looking at the overall picture that joy switched to dread. The Bobcats have been patient in rebuilding through the draft and with one of the deepest drafts in recent memory a year away it seemed like signing Jefferson would be a mistake.
Is Big Al capable of being a franchise changer? No. Is he capable of taking this team out of a top 10 pick? Yes. This is why I was not fond of the idea of signing Jefferson. The Bobcats have not been fortunate in the draft lottery in years past, but with a deep crop of potentially franchise changing players coming out a top 5 pick is worth more than the extra wins Jefferson would provide. As we now know the 'Cats opted to give Jefferson a two-year deal with a player option for the third year, essentially taking them out of the running for a high pick with so many teams opting to gut their roster.
Having had a few days to think on the addition of Jefferson and how he will fit on the team I have warmed up to the idea of having him. I still think the best move going forward would have been to be patient for one more year, but it appears MJ and co. have grown tired of the ping pong balls landing unfavorably for them and felt adding a veteran player who can score the ball on the block was worth draft position. Now the question becomes whether or not this team could compete for a playoff spot next year. There is a distinct possibility this team could sneak in if we see Michael Kidd-Gilchrist make a similar leap from year one to year two as Kemba Walker did.
The addition of Jefferson will improve a franchise that has been dismal for far too long. As a fan of the team it will be nice to see a competent big man on the roster. As someone who wants to see this team compete for a championship one day I would have been fine with seeing Byron Mullens huck 3-pointers for another year if it meant a top 5 pick.