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Welcome to Salary Cap Hell

 

Right now, the Celtics have nine players they have to pay $70 million to next season, and a tenth, Eddie House, who would be foolish to turn down a nearly $2.9 million player option and test the free agent market. 

Put it all together, and the Celtics owe the following 10 players about $72.9 million next season

Ray Allen ($19.77 million)

Paul Pierce ($19.75 million)

Kevin Garnett ($16.4 million)

Kendrick Perkins ($4.25 million)

Brian Scalabrine ($3.4 million)

Eddie House ($2.87 million)

Rajon Rondo ($2.6 million)

Tony Allen ($2.5 million)

J.R. Giddens ($1.03 million)

Bill Walker ($736,000)

That’s 10 guys, and the league (basically) demands you have 12 active players on your roster with a max of 15 between the active and inactive list. So there are some holes to fill, and we’re going to be spending a lot of time here discussing how the team should fill them. I know there are some readers out there who likely know the collective bargaining agreement better than I do, so if I’m mixing up my Early Bird Rights with Bi-Annual Exceptions, please let me know. 

As Roy Hobbs at CelticsBlog explained in an absolute must-read last week, that $73 million is already over the luxury tax line, which will likely settle somewhere between $68 and $70 million. So no matter who Boston signs and which cap exception the team uses to sign them, the C’s will be paying a dollar-for-dollar tax on anyone salary they take on before next season. 

Yes, they have several contracts that expire after next season (Scal, House, Ray Allen, Tony Allen, J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker), but a) they have to resign Rondo, likely at about $10 million per year, maybe more; and b) I expect Ray Allen to sign a reasonable deal to finish his career in Boston. So it’s not like the Celtics are going to be swimming in cash after the ’09-10 season. 

Since it’s late at night, let’s keep this post simple and start with three easy assumptions:

1) Mikki Moore is gone

2) At least one of Marbury and Pruitt is gone

3) The Celtics have, maximum, about $10 million to spend to fill all of the remaining holes–and maybe a bit less. So they are going to have to find good players willing to play for cheap, and they’re going to have to sign all of them using the various exceptions in the CBA that allow teams to sign players even if they are over the cap. 

To me, the Celtics have three glaring needs on their roster:

1) They must sign two quality back-up big men;

2) One of those big men must be a forward capable of playing some minutes at the three spot;

3) They must find a capable back-up for Rajon Rondo. 

There are dozens of ways to accomplish these three goals, which is what makes writing about the off-season sort of intimidating. The possibilities are endless, and it can feel overwhelming (and exciting) to try and cover everything. You’re always going to feel like you’re missing an obvious angle. Off the top of my head, any of the following scenarios are possible. Again, this is me just thinking for two minutes: 

• If Glen Davis signs for something less than the mid-level exception (which will be set at about $5.5 million), do the Celtics use the full mid-level on one highly-valued player (Antonio McDyess? Trevor Ariza?) or split it up among two supposedly lesser forwards (Matt Barnes and Brandon Bass?)?

• If Marbury demands the full bi-annual exception (about $2.2 million, give or take), do they dump him and search the Point Guard Scrap Heap for a possible vet’s minimum guy, such as Anthony Carter? 

• Does Ainge get creative and trade into a draft spot at which one of the mid-first round point guard prospects (Johnny Flynn, Eric Maynor, Ty Lawson) might be available? For instance, Detroit has been rumored to be shopping the 15th pick to a team will to take on Amir Johnson’s contract ($3.67 million per year over the next two seasons Johnson’s deal actually expires after next season, so this deal is a non-starter, obviously). How about Scalabrine’s expiring deal, the 58th pick and some other goodie (a future second-rounder) for Johnson and the 15th pick

Over the next few days, I’m going to be tackling one or two of these questions per day, and my colleagues here will be talking about all of this stuff and more. (Check for a Leon Powe-themed post later today). 

I’d love to hear any and all ideas from the Trade Machine Picassos and CBA gurus out there. You have an idea for a good trade, an overlooked free agent or a fair offer for Big Baby, drop us a line or let us know in the comments.

  • Jeff

    The C’s need to sign big baby, leon powe, and get a backup point guard and small foward, also make some traes for some good veterans.

  • Charles

    The C’s just need depth everywhere. The first part of that would be a Big Baby resign, but not a Leon Powe resign. They need to use there money elsewhere.

    Great article today about the NBA if they had an All Junior Team, see where Rondo ranks:

    http://therookiecontract.com/

  • Petr

    I know I’m in the minority, but I’d really like to see Marbury back. I think he was just starting to catch his stride again, and I think he made solid solid efforts to be the passer I always knew he could be. I can’t think of anybody who’d be a better backup for Rondo. Depends, I guess, on what he wants… but I’m certain that if he stays, we’re that much closer to banner #18.

    Scals, as much as I love him, can go…

  • http://PistonPowered.com Dan Feldman

    The Pistons would give an emphatic no to that trade.

    Detroit isn’t trying to dump Johnson’s contract. He’s still young, athletic and has size. $3.7 million isn’t that much for a filler player with his upside — even if the odds are shrinking he’ll pan out.

    And Johnson has just one year left, so taking Scalabrine would provide just a $200k cut in payroll.

    So, Johnson isn’t a guy the Pistons will dump, let alone give up a first-rounder to do so.

  • JM

    It seems to me that the Celtics don’t have many valuable trade chips, unless they considered the heretical move of trading Ray Allen. His contract is probably too massive, but if a team wanted to get under the cap for the 2010 free agent market, Ray Allen’s $17.3 million contract would help. I ran this trade through the trade machine and it worked:

    Phoenix Suns Get:
    Ray Allen
    Tony Allen

    Boston Celtics Get:
    Leandro Barbosa
    Jason Richardson

    This would be a salary dump/tear down job for Phoenix, who would then only have one meaningful contract for 2010/11 (Stoudemire) and could go after any free agent they wanted, even LeBron. For Boston, the prize would be Barbosa, who is excellent and coming into his own. Jason Richardson would be a bit of a booby prize, but could be a useful sixth man.

    Barring the loss of Allen, though, the Celtics are stuck making minor adjustments, which seems fine to me. Back-up center should be a concern, but there are some solid back-ups on the market this summer: Marcin Gortat, Chris Andersen and Zaza Pachulia are all available.

  • Arvin

    Could the Celtics redo Ray Allen’s contract like they do NFL contracts to lessen the 2009-10 cap hit for an extension in years? The C’s have virtually no draft picks to trade so they would have to find a taker for Scal, Tony Allen, Giddens or Walker. They could trade a future number 1 (2010) and one of the above for Barbosa?

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  • Devin

    as a Laker fan, i hope the Celtics completely mess this up and miss the playoffs, but as a basketball fan the best thing for the celtics to due is to keep their current roster in tact (minus mikki moore and maybe marbury) and give more playing time to pruit, walker, and giddens. Walker was actually better then OJ Mayo when they were in high school, Giddens is a big time scorer, and there must be a reason why pruitt is still onthe team. Honestly the nest and cheapest solution would be to trust in what they have and pray for better health.

    But again as a Laker fan, i hope KG’s knees have actually fallen victim to the millage as you all fear, ray allen gets traded for and unproductive peices, big baby signs with memphis, marbury becomes your starting SG, and Bill Walker goes to Toronto and averages 18 a game….GO LAKERS

  • http://www.celticshub.com Zach Lowe

    The Suns trade is fascinating, JM.

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  • Haywood

    Celtics should continue their bid for Wallace, with a hard stop and pulling back the offer in 1 week.

    At that point, next up would be Drew Gooden…if you cant get him, Matt Barnes.

    Add Anthony Parker to back up Allen and Pierce, a minimum PG like Anthony Carter or Tyrone Lue – and they are well on the way back to the finals.

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