Charlotte Bobcats hit jackpot signing Jefferson
Adding Al Jefferson through free agency has the potential to be the best move the Charlotte Bobcats have ever made.
Jefferson signed a three-year deal with Charlotte worth roughly $41 million on Wednesday, according to multiple reports.
The 6-foot-10, 290-pound power forward will fill a huge void in the middle, and instantly becomes the centerpiece of the offense.
Based on losing percentage, Charlotte had the worst team in NBA history two years ago (7-59), and were mildly improved last season (21-61).
But in the salary cap era, the tide can turn quickly. Small-market franchises like San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Memphis are prospering.
Even second-tier programs in major markets — like the Clippers in L.A. and the Nets in New York — have put together teams talented enough to make noise in the playoffs.
How soon can the Bobcats make the playoffs?
Probably not this upcoming season, unless Zeller is rookie of the year. The 2014-15 is more realistic.
Two years from now, if the Bobcats aren't significantly better, Jefferson can opt out of his deal with Charlotte.
The Bobcats added another piece in the post by drafting Cody Zeller out of Indiana last month.
Zeller is a skilled 7-footer with great speed and jumping ability (35.5-inch vertical leap). Zeller can also shoot from outside, which is a big reason Charlotte selected him.
Because Zeller's shooting ability will force his defender to closely guard him outside, it will create operating room for Jefferson down low and driving lanes for the guards.
Charlotte has a solid backcourt in Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson (assuming they re-sign him), and good depth with Ramon Sessions and Ben Gordon. Those were the top four scorers on the team last year.
Jefferson, 28, led the Utah Jazz in scoring (17.8 ppg) and rebounding (9.2 rpg) last season, and he will do the same in Charlotte.
Jefferson's a gem in the post. He's throw-back post player in the mold of Hall of Famer Moses Malone.
Charlotte has been bullied in the post since Tyson Chandler left in 2010, but now the Bobcats have one of the most physical low-block players in the game.
Charlotte shot 42.5 percent from the field as a team last year — worst in the NBA — mainly because the guards had to settle for a lot of contested jump shots.
Utah has been rich in the post, and Jefferson's departure actually clears playing time for up-and-comers Derrick Favors and Enes Kantor.
Jefferson will get plenty of shots in Charlotte, and should be a 20-10 guy.
He averaged a career-high 23.1 points and 11.0 rebounds for Minnesota in 2008-09, and 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds for the T-wolves the year before.
The Bobcats might have had the worst inside game in the NBA last season.
Jefferson and Zeller are a major upgrade, so fans can expect at least 10 more wins next season — and dreams of making the playoffs no longer have to be piped into Charlotte.