When Al Jefferson signed a three-year, $41 million contract with the (at the time) Charlotte Bobcats in the summer of 2013, it looked like a classic case of a player cashing out. The Bobcats were coming off a terrible season and didn’t exactly have a history of attracting marquee free agents, so they had to overpay to get somebody like Jefferson. The move paid off with their second playoff appearance in franchise history in 2014, but both the Hornets and Jefferson took a step back this season. Which is why this news from Thursday’s exit interviews comes as no surprise:
Al Jefferson says it’s highly unlikely he’d exercise his opt out to become a free agent in July.
— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) April 16, 2015
Jefferson’s three-year deal came with a two-year opt out. If it had been a two-year deal with a one-year out, he might have used it after a career year in his first season in Charlotte. But after a down year in which he missed 17 games and averaged his fewest rebounds per game since 2006, why wouldn’t he want to take the guaranteed money and ride out the last year of his contract with the Hornets?
Opting in also puts Jefferson in a prime position to take advantage of the huge jump in the salary cap that’s expected next summer, when the NBA starts to see its influx of money from the new television deal. Teams will have cap space ready to make a run at Kevin Durant, and when most of them miss out, Jefferson is a prime candidate to be somebody’s consolation prize.