Dwight Howard is the unquestioned jewel of this year’s free agent crop of big men, but there are a couple of acceptable consolation prizes for any teams that lose the Howard sweepstakes. Josh Smith is unlikely to be offered a contract by the Hawks, Kevin Garnett could be on the market and Al Jefferson is a free agent.
Despite posting respectable averages of 17.9 points and 9.2 rebounds last season, Jefferson is without an obvious suitor. The Jazz, who employed him for the last three seasons, seem content to let the 28-year-old center go without even offering him a new deal.[tweet https://twitter.com/ESPNSteinLine/status/349185600739479552 align=’center’]
This is not exactly a surprise. Jefferson’s value has been a subject of disagreement for years, as the game has moved from the post to the perimeter and his one-dimensional offensive game has become more of a liability. Still, there is a shortage of useful 6-foot-10 players who can be counted on for a double-double virtually every game, so some team should be interested in Jefferson’s services — just not Utah.
In case you are wondering (and you know you are), the Celtics would be hard-pressed to sign Jefferson outright. They are about $6 million over the luxury tax, and even if they buy out Paul Pierce’s $15.3 million salary for $5 million and Garnett gets traded or retires, it is unlikely they would be able to add Jefferson for something close to the $15 million he made this season without making other moves as well.
The Jazz presumably could sign Jefferson for something similar to his current salary and immediately trade him for Pierce, then buy out Pierce to free up cap space, but then Jefferson would only be able to sign for four seasons maximum. Also, the Celtics must be less than $4 million over the luxury tax after the deal is completed, so they would have to do further salary-shaving to make the deal work.