All of the front court 2013 NBA free agent attention was focused upon Dwight Howard and where he will end up. However, two other major free agent front court pieces were also available summer in former Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith and former Utah Jazz forward Al Jefferson have also made up their minds in a similar time frame. Can Smith and/or Jefferson have an impact on their new teams the Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Bobcats respectively?
The first surprising fact is perhaps that neither player elected to sign with bigger contenders. Smith was the star player on an Atlanta team that finished with the fifth seed in the Eastern conference this past season, while Jefferson is widely regarded as one of the NBA’s stronger inside scorers. Either player could surely have helped any of the contenders take the next step.
Of course, it’s less likely that any contending team would be willing to pay the sort of money that the Pistons and Bobcats have reportedly forked out for these two players. Smith apparently will receive $56 million over four years from Detroit, while Jefferson apparently will get $41 million over three years.
There isn’t a tremendous amount of reason to feel especially confident that either of these players can make playoff teams out of their new destinations either, even in a fairly weak Eastern conference.
Smith has the best chance featuring on a front court that already includes talented Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. The Pistons will have size and snarl down low, while point guard Brandon Knight could be joined by recent first round draft pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Considering that the Milwaukee Bucks claimed the eighth seed in the East last season and that a couple of the playoff teams look like they might drop back a little, that’s a line-up that might just be competitive, though a lot will depend upon how Knight plays.
The Bobcats continue to be an organization in turmoil. Another new head coach and another slightly confusing high draft pick marks the start of the 2013-14 season. Cody Zeller has all the marks of a successful college player who will surely struggle in the NBA.
However, Charlotte finally has a starting line-up that looks like it belongs in the NBA. Recent high draft picks Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should feature, while Jefferson provides valuable scoring punch. That’s a player who should average more than 20 points per game.
Finding depth is still a problem and development will be absolutely vital for the likes of Kidd-Gilchrist and Walker, who will now no longer be relied upon to lead this team.
Perhaps if things fall right the Bobcats can challenge for a playoff spot. More likely they will just be significantly better than last year. Of course in the grander scheme of things, the addition of Jefferson might just prevent the Bobcats from having a genuine shot at Andrew Wiggins in the 2014 NBA draft.