After being silent in the opening hours of free agency, the Indiana Pacers have struck a deal with center Al Jefferson.
The Pacers and Jefferson agreed to a three-year, $30 million deal. Jefferson is currently 31 years old and spent his last three seasons with the Charlotte Hornets. Although he is getting older, Jefferson is still capable of give a playoff team (like the Pacers) solid production.
Yahoo Sports and The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the deal on Twitter Friday afternoon.
In three years with the Hornets, Jefferson averaged 17.5 points and 8.9 rebound per game. However, Jefferson has shown signs he is past his athletic prime because his production decreased every season he played for the Hornets.
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From the 2013-14 season to the 2015-16 season, Jefferson’s points per game average dipped from 21.8 to 16.6 to 12.0 and his rebounds per game average fell from 10.8 to 8.4 to 6.4.
On the bright side, Jefferson’s last season averages of 12.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game is still good production in the NBA. It is even more impressive to think he achieved this level of production coming off the bench.
Due to injuries, Jefferson only started in 18 of 47 regular season games last season. Essentially, Jefferson was a role player off the bench last season, and he still put up decent numbers. This is important because Jefferson will be asked to do the same with the Indiana Pacers.
After making pre-draft trades for Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young, the Pacers have solidified their starting lineup. As a result, the team’s focus in free agency was building bench depth. By adding Jefferson to the roster, the Pacers got that and more.
Despite not being in his athletic prime, Jefferson gives the Pacers a lot of flexibility. He scoring and rebounding ability will be very useful off the bench. Meanwhile, he can occasionally make a start or two if Young or Myles Turner need a day off or are injured.
Defensively, he will stand tall and hold his ground against every center in the NBA. He may struggle against smaller lineups because he is not much of an athletic big man anymore. However, the Indiana Pacers will probably not use him in “small ball” scenarios.
Overall, this is another good deal by team President Larry Bird. The Indiana Pacers could not afford a huge free agent so they focused on getting a good role player at a good value. Al Jefferson fits that description.
The Indiana Pacers have only added a few new faces to the roster this offseason, but they already look better (on paper) than last year’s playoff team.