Al Jefferson is visiting Charlotte.
You have no idea how conflicted I am on this matter.
As a large, slow man who plays most of his basketball in the post, I love Al Jefferson. I have a unrequited basketball man crush on him. Big Al is without a doubt the best offensive post player in the game right now. He may not have the ridiculous size of a Roy Hibbert nor dizzying athleticism of a Dwight Howard or Blake Griffin, but from a purely technical standpoint, Al Jefferson is the current offensive post master general of the NBA.
If you recall the Utah’s visit to Charlotte back in January, you will remember Al Jefferson taking Bismack Biyombo, putting him over his knee, and spanking the youngster. Metaphorically, of course. Jefferson put on a remarkable display of old man basketball, exploiting Biz’s puppy-dog like urge to block everything near him and dissecting the the second year man like a heart surgeon with a God complex. As much as I love Biz, the basketball student in me absolutely loved watching the masters course Big Al taught that night.
Over their history, the one thing the Bobcats have never had was a guy in the post you had to double team. In the NBA, you need double teams. Getting defenses to double a player or shift their defense creates easy shots for your team. Unfortunately, as indicated by the ~42% field goal shooting over the last couple years, the Bobcats don’t get easy shots. The one time they did get somebody to double team a guy in the post, it resulted in an open Ramon Sessions 3 and a victory.
Al Jefferson is the kind of player who demands a double team. On the offensive end, Al Jefferson would make the Bobcats a better team. Without a doubt. Kemba and Henderson would magically get more open looks, MKG would get free runs at the rim, Biz would… ok it probably wouldn’t help Biz that much.
However, my almost unique love of watching large men do things with a basketball while facing away from the basket is not the only thing that needs to be considered here.
One problem is that Jefferson’s defense comes from the evil mirror universe of his offense. He simply either does not care for defense or doesn’t have the ability to play it. When you consider that the Bobcats are coming off back to back bottom 5 defenses, adding defensive sieves cannot be the best decision.
But more importantly, you have to consider the future. When Charlotte traded The Best Player In Franchise History Gerald ‘Crash’ Wallace (this is his full title, look it up) to Portland, the rebuilding show has been front and center in Charlotte. They got a future pick for Crash, turned Stephen Jackson into two picks (Cho is a magician) and has relocated itself into Top Four Picks Of The Lottery Land. Ostensibly the target has been the 2014 draft, one that is generally considered to be the best since the 2003 draft (LeBron, Bosh, Wade, Anthony, Milicic, no wait scratch that last one).
If the ping pong balls are kind, the Charlotte Hornets (née Bobcats) will end up with 3 picks – their own (likely) top 5 pick, the top 8 protected pick from Detroit and the top 12 protected pick from Portland. In one fell swoop, the team could be completely made over – with 3 lottery picks, you just start picking the BPA and throw them out on the court.
To end up in this glorious position, the Bobcats need 1) some luck and 2) to be really bad. Terrible. Having the worst or second worst record guarantees you a pick in the top 5. The concern is that adding a competent offensive piece like Jefferson would push Charlotte out of the realm of terrible and into the realm of merely kinda bad.
Jefferson will also demand a lot of money. The Spurs just gave Tiago Splitter $9M a year to get blocked into the Not Top 10 list, so god only knows what Big Al will get. You can’t throw huge sums of money at a guy who isn’t going to make you a contender or put you over the top. The current Bobcats squad + Al Jefferson is an 8th seed at best. The bottom half of the playoffs is pretty much the worst place you can be. Not good enough to contend, not bad enough to get better in a hurry.
If we were sitting with the rights to an Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker and Big Al was on the market, I would say sign him faster than you could say “STOP SHOOTING 3s, MULLENS!”. Jefferson is a good piece, a very good piece. He is not, however, what this team needs right at this particular moment.
This could be the right place for Jefferson; but it is not the right time.