Another potential big-man fallback plan in case Dwight Howard doesn’t come to Dallas is off the market.
Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that Al Jefferson has agreed to terms with the Charlotte Bobcats on a three-year, $41 million deal. Restricted free agent Tiago Splitter, another potential Dallas target if the Mavs didn’t win the Dwight derby, committed earlier this week to stay in San Antonio for $36 million over four years.
Starting centers remaining on the market: Andrew Bynum, an immense talent with a frightening injury history that could make negotiations extremely complicated; Nikola Pekovic, a restricted free agent who the Timberwolves want to keep; and J.J. Hickson, who is really a power forward who can play center.
There had been indications from Jefferson’s camp that he planned to wait until Howard made his decision before picking a team because he wanted Dallas and Atlanta to be able to get in on the bidding if they didn’t hook the biggest fish in free agency. However, it’s extremely unlikely that the Mavs would have been willing to make a bid in the ballpark of the Bobcats’ offer. And that’s putting it conservatively.
The Mavs were intrigued with the possibility of pairing an outstanding post scorer with Dirk Nowitzki, but they had major concerns about that duo defensively. There was also a fear that the 6-foot-10, 289-pound Jefferson’s physique would continue to fill out as he aged, causing a bad defender to become even worse.
Those are the same concerns, along with Jefferson’s high salary, that led the Mavs to look elsewhere instead of pulling the trigger on a 2010 summer trade with the Timberwolves that would have sent Jefferson to Dallas in exchange for Erick Dampier’s instantly vanishing contract and picks.
The Mavs ended up sending the Dampier contract to Charlotte for an injury-prone, highly paid center named Tyson Chandler, with Dallas somehow dumping the contracts of Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera in the trade. It was a terrible trade for Michael Jordan’s Bobcats because it was a salary dump that didn’t save Charlotte money over the long haul.
It was a terrific trade for the Mavs because a healthy, hungry Chandler was the final piece to their championship puzzle.
The Mavs can only hope the center they find this summer works out nearly that well, whether it’s the one they really want or one of the fallback plans.