CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Charlotte Bobcats agreed on Thursday to a three-year, $40.5 million contract with free agent center Al Jefferson from the Utah Jazz, said people familiar with the situation.
Jefferson will make $13.5 million in each year of the deal, with the third season being a player option.
The people spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn’t become official. The contract cannot be signed until July 10 when the NBA’s moratorium on signing new deals is lifted.
Jefferson, 28, gives the Bobcats a much-needed scoring threat in the low post, where they struggled last season. He should also help on the boards, where the Bobcats were repeatedly outrebounded the last two seasons.
The 6-foot-10, 289-pound Jefferson has averaged 18.8 points and 10 rebounds per game over the last seven seasons. Last season, his third with the Jazz, he averaged 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
The Boston Celtics selected Jefferson out of high school in Mississippi with the No. 15 pick in the 2004 draft. During a nine-year NBA career, Jefferson also played two seasons for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
He has career averages of 16.4 points, 9 rebounds and 1.5 assists.
Jefferson was among four high-profile free agents who played last season with the Jazz, along with Paul Millsap, Mo Williams and Randy Foye. Utah went 43-39 and missed the playoffs for the second time in three years.
Acquired by the Jazz in a July 2010 trade, Jefferson earned $15 million last season and led the team in both scoring and rebounding. After the 2012-13 season ended, Jefferson told reporters he believed he improved his overall game while in Utah.
“I have showed I’m not just the black hole reputation I had years ago,” Jefferson said in April of never passing the ball back out of the post. “I showed people that I can do other things.”
In April, Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin praised Jefferson for his contributions in Utah.
“I think he’s done a great job, coming in, being known as an offensive player, getting numbers,” Corbin said. “And he’s gotten numbers here, but they’ve helped us win a lot of games. He’s been healthy. He’s always ready and willing to play and likes to be on the floor and I think he’s been a great guy with this team of guys.”
Jefferson, who was given credit for helping develop young players Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, said then that it was emotional to say goodbye to his Jazz teammates at the abrupt end of the season. The Jazz finished just out of the playoffs in ninth place in the Western Conference.
“There’s no way in the world every one of these guys will be here next year, all together,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson becomes the best low post scoring threat the Bobcats have had in nine years in the NBA.
Last year, the Bobcats started a combination of Brendan Haywood, Byron Mullens, Bismack Biyombo and Josh McRoberts at center. Gana Diop, their other big man, rarely played.
Jefferson was ranked as the third-best center on the free agent market by CBSSports.com behind Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum.
He joins a Bobcats team in dire need of star players.
The Bobcats are just 28-120 over the past two seasons, and their biggest high-profile player is second-year point guard Kemba Walker.