I didn’t see this one coming. It doesn’t really fit with the vision of a faster team that Larry Bird has supposedly been preaching — but yet I welcome the move because my memories of Al Jefferson are all of him tormenting the Pacers with dominant post moves.
Jefferson is 31 years old and has a history of injuries. That’s one of the reasons why he played from the bench for the Hornets last season and will likely do the same for the Pacers next season. His averages in 47 games last season were modest: 12 points, 6.4 rebounds, 0.9 blocks on 48.5% shooting from the field and 65% from the foul line in 23.3 minutes of play. But it was just two seasons ago when a healthy Jefferson put at 21.8 and 10.8 rebounds on 51% shooting.
Even when you take last year’s production, Jefferson offers the Pacers with a reliable post threat already better than anyone on the roster. With reduced minutes, chances are he will be able to stay healthier for longer. And who knows? maybe he can regain some form.
The question is his fit in an up-tempo team. He’s a plodding center who is not exactly a rim defender though in half-court sets his solid ability to hit mid-range shots can help space the floor. My feel is that the Pacers aren’t just looking to play faster — they are looking to be more versatile. Against smaller teams and second units, Jefferson can be an absolute beast. There’s no reason why he can’t be a double-digit scoring reserve, which is the kind of production I’m sure the Pacers are expecting from him.
Above all, Jefferson comes extremely cheap at 30m for 3 years. He’s by far the best-value signing of the free agency period thus far. I mean, I love Mike Conley, but 30m+ a year? Chandler Parsons getting a max contract worth nearly 95m? Jeff Green getting 15m for a one-year deal? Solomon Hill getting 48m for 4 years? Jeremy Lin getting 36m for 3 years? Evan Turner getting 70m for 4 years? Come on! Jefferson is an absolute steal, especially when you consider that Indiana is not exactly a choice destination for free agents.
It does mean, sadly, that Ian Mahinmi is definitely gone. Reports are that the Pacers moved quickly to Jefferson once Ian’s asking price proved too high. Still, I like the Pacers’ offseason a lot. We’re just a couple of days in and we’ve already got Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson — I can’t wait to see who’s coming next.