Each NBA team’s greatest free agent signing in franchise history

Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors, Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder. (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors, Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder. (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats
Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats. (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets: Al Jefferson, Center (2013-16)

After the franchise’s first-ever appearance in the NBA playoffs, the Charlotte Hornets — then the Charlotte Bobcats — rattled off one of the worst three-year stretches in league history. They won an average of just 20.6 games a year, punctuated by the worst single-season winning percentage at .106 in 2011-12 and were in desperate need of talent.

Luckily for them, a savior came aboard and helped to breathe new life into the franchise, if only for a bit. Al Jefferson had dominated the low block for years as a traditional post-up center on a number of teams. The league had yet to fully downsize by the time he arrived in Charlotte, but his back-to-the-basket arsenal was one that had come to be forgotten over the years.

“Big Al” wound up starting his tenure with his new team about as well as one could hope for. The 21.1 points and 10.8 rebounds per game he averaged were not the best of his career, but they were enough to help the Bobcats see a 22-win improvement from the previous season.

Charlotte would qualify for the postseason for just the second time ever, where they were matched up against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat. An early foot injury suffered in Game 1 compromised Jefferson. Miami was going to win the series, but the big guy’s absence allowed them to do so with little resistance in a four-game sweep.

Strangely enough, Jefferson’s efforts weren’t enough to land him on the NBA All-Star Team that season. However, that snub was somewhat rectified later with a spot on the All-NBA Third Team.

The following two seasons saw the rise of both 3-pointers and small-ball lineups which then led to the demise of Jefferson’s minutes, points and rebounds per game each year.

Hornets fans would’ve loved to see him continue to torture opposing bigs, but they will always hold a special place in their hearts for this seemingly prehistoric player who came to their team and reinvigorated it, if only for just one year.