The Indiana Pacers‘ 2016 season doesn’t begin for quite some time. So, there will not be much news about the team until then. As a result, it is time to preview the Pacers’ players who will play key roles in 2016. It is Al Jefferson‘s turn today.
The Indiana Pacers signed veteran big-man Al Jefferson to a three-year, $30 million contract a couple of weeks ago at the start of the 2016 NBA Free Agency period.
As a former Charlotte Hornet, Jefferson had perhaps the best season of his career with the team in 2013-14, averaging 21.8 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks through 71 games.
After being selected with the 15th pick in the 2004 NBA Draft out of high school, Jefferson has appeared on the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah Jazz, Charlotte Hornets and now the Pacers.
With the salary cap in the NBA going up significantly this offseason, teams have been throwing money left-and-right to below-average talent. Take the Los Angeles Lakers’ signing of center Timofey Mozgov to a four-year, $64 million deal — a lot of Money for a player who averaged 6.3 points-per-game in 2015.
The Mozgov deal makes the Pacers’ signing of Jefferson a bargain. They didn’t have to overpay for a mediocre talent, and they’re getting a veteran presence on the team that can mentor some of the younger players on the team.
Jefferson didn’t enjoy a very successful 2015 campaign last year, having appeared in just 47 games due to injury. If he can stay healthy though, he could be a formidable asset to a Pacers team that will look to climb up the rankings of the Eastern Conference.
It’s been speculated that perhaps another reason team president Larry Bird brought in Jefferson was so that he could mentor and help a 20-year-old Myles Turner improve his game in the front-court. With Ian Mahinmi bolting to the Washington Wizards, it will be Jefferson’s job to try to help Turner in any way possible.
With Thaddeus Young, Jefferson and Turner on the roster, it is unclear as to who will be in the starting rotation. Turner is almost a surefire bet to start at the five for the Pacers, it’s just up to both Bird and head coach Nate McMillan to decide on who will start at the four between Jefferson and Young. If the Pacers do wish to play more fast-paced basketball, expect Young to start alongside Turner with Jefferson coming off of the bench for the second unit.
In terms of statistical production from Jefferson, expect the 31-year-old to average around 13-to-14 points-per-game and somewhere around eight rebounds. Jefferson’s numbers just depend on whether or not he’ll see a majority of his time playing either in the starting rotation, or off of the bench.
Regardless of what happens, the Pacers are already a significantly better team than what they were a few months ago when they took the 2nd-seeded Toronto Raptors to seven games in the first round of the playoffs.
Look for the Pacers to be a formidable team in the East this season with the help of Jefferson and others.
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