Greatest free agency signings in NBA history: 28. Al Jefferson- Charlotte Bobcats, 2013
After a couple of listless seasons as a role player with the Celtics, center Al Jefferson got a chance to refine his game with the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Utah Jazz, eventually becoming a solid second-tier star big man, as his 21.3 PER and .130 WS/48 attest.
Jefferson parlayed that success into a three-year, $40.5 million deal with the then-Charlotte Bobcats in 2013. The decision to sign with the Bobcats — a perpetual Eastern Conference jobber — was a peculiar one, but Jefferson apparently couldn’t wait to put pen to paper:
"“I can’t express how happy I am to be here,” said Jefferson, who was introduced at a press conference on Wednesday. “The Charlotte Bobcats did a great job coming at me (in free agency) and made me feel like they were a team that really respected my game and made me feel like a part of the family.”"
It took a little while — Jefferson missed the entire preseason and the first 12 games of the season with an ankle injury — but he eventually settled in as the Bobcats’ primary scoring option. Despite employing a post game that was slowly dying out, Jefferson thrived under Steve Clifford’s grind-it-out, low-risk philosophy. He averaged 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds on 53.2 percent true shooting with a 22.7 PER and .146 WS/48.
The big man’s efforts helped the Bobcats reach the playoffs for the what was the second time in franchise history (since changing their names to the Hornets, the Bobcats franchise absorbed the original Hornets’ records and history, so it was really their ninth).
There, they met the defending champion Miami Heat in the first round. Despite Jefferson’s best efforts — which included playing through a plantar fasciitis injury he suffered in Game 1 — the Heat swept Charlotte in four games.