The Bobcats have agreed to sign unrestricted free agent center Al Jefferson to a multi-year contract, according to multiple reports.
ESPN.com reports that Jefferson's deal is worth $41 million over three years and includes a player option on the final season. NBA.com confirmed the agreement, pegging the total value at $40.5 million and further reporting that Charlotte will use its amnesty clause on Tyrus Thomas to facilitate Jefferson's addition.
The free-agent negotiating period opened on Monday. Contracts can’t officially be signed until July 10.
A big-bodied, hulking center, Jefferson, who averaged averaged 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.1 blocks last season, departs Utah after three seasons; he led the Jazz in both scoring and rebounding in each of the last two campaigns. The 2004 first-round pick has done well to erase the memory of a season-ending knee injury suffered in 2009; he missed just nine games combined during his three seasons with the Jazz.
His dependability on offense is matched only by his struggles on defense. Jefferson's net rating of -3.5 and his plus/minus of -2.9 were both team-worst marks among Jazz players who logged at least 1,000 minutes, and the Jazz's defensive efficiency plummeted from 98.4 points per 100 possessions when he was off the court to a whopping 107.6 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court.
Now, this one-way player heads to a zero-way team. The Bobcats ranked No. 28 in offensive efficiency and No. 30 in defensive efficiency in scratching out 21 wins last season and there's no reason to believe that this year, the first under new coach Steve Clifford, will be meaningfully better. The highlights of Charlotte's 2013-14 campaign will be the lottery drawing and the draft, and while Jefferson's addition will add a reliable offensive punch, he's not likely to drastically change their outlook.
The plan, it seems, is to pair Jefferson on the low block with Cody Zeller, the No. 4 pick in the 2013 draft, operating as a more perimeter-oriented power forward. Even cloning Michael Kidd-Gilchrist three times wouldn't provide sufficient defensive tenacity to make up for that duo.
Grade: C. Not to be rude, but this deal barely registers on the relevance scale. It amounts to a pure cash-out for Jefferson, who probably has one more meaningful contract coming to him after this one. You can't blame him for taking the money and running and you can't really blame the Bobcats for deciding to pony up, given that they're overpaying for a known quantity in the middle of his prime. It's hard to convince anyone worthwhile to sign as a free agent in Charlotte, given the recent history, and here they bent over backward to get a useful, professional big man to hang around for a little while.
The whole thing just seems rather meaninless: Jefferson will score a lot of points, collect a lot of rebounds and accumulate a lot of direct deposits in the middle of the forest and no one will be around to hear it. Avoiding a fourth year at this price qualifies as a minor victory for Charlotte.