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Al Jefferson opts in for final season of contract

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Al Jefferson will return to the Hornets for the final year of his contract.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

In a move that should surprise nobody, Al Jefferson will be returning to the Charlotte Hornets. According to Marc Stein of ESPN, Jefferson will opt in to the final year of his three year contract.

Back in the summer of 2013, Jefferson surprised many by joining the lowly Bobcats on a three year deal. The deal included a player option in his final season that, at the time, seemed like a way for Jefferson to escape Charlotte after putting up numbers for two years on a losing team. However, with new head coach Steve Clifford, Big Al led the Bobcats to their second playoff appearance in franchise history behind a top 10 defense, and an All-NBA season from Jefferson. It no longer looked as if he went to Charlotte with the sole purpose of putting up numbers for only himself.

Entering the second year of his contract, Jefferson was the face that many got behind as they picked Charlotte to be a possibly conference finals contender in the East. He just had a dominant season, the team was coming off a big off-season with a name change, and a laundry list of free agent signings. Jefferson was supposed to lead Charlotte to bigger and better things.

Unfortunately for him, that wasn't the case for Jefferson, or the Hornets, as the team sputtered out of the gates, were plagued by injuries, and featured one of the worst offenses in the entire NBA. That season of dominance was a distant memory, replaced by a Jefferson that looked like every worst fear imaginable from when he was signed. The chances of Jefferson opting out of his final year were slim to none due to just how awful a season everybody related to the Hornets had been involved in.

Now that we know Jefferson will be back one more year it only makes us wonder what's next for the player that was once considered a cornerstone to the short future. Even if he does have a fantastic final season, will the Hornets risk bringing him back, or will they choose to part ways and take the franchise towards a more long term plan?

As for Jefferson himself, this decision was a no brainer. He was coming off a down season, and his value was nowhere near as high as the season before. Not only that, but the NBA is coming into some big money soon with a new TV deal approaching. A rise in cap room, and player salaries, is likely on the way and Jefferson will want in on that money. Biding his time, and hoping to play his way into one more pay day was the smart decision.