Now that most of the chips of fallen and the league has estimated the 2010-11 salary cap at somewhere between $50 million and $54 million (if you believe that’s not a negotiating ploy), we can begin sorting out which teams will have enough cap space after next season to offer Rajon Rondo a realistic free agent deal. In doing this, I assumed that Rondo will have another very good season in 2010, and that he’ll be looking for approximately $10 million per season to bolt the C’s. (Remember, Boston will be able to offer him more than anyone else under the league’s collective bargaining rules, and they’ll be able to match any offer another team makes).
THE QUICK, ONE-SENTENCE CONCLUSION: The Celtics have very little competition for Rondo, as most of the small number of teams with the cap space to sign him have entrenched point guards or other priorities. Still, there are a few teams out there to worry about.
I assumed a cap on the high side of the league’s early estimates (about $54 million) and eliminated any team who was already within about $8 million or $10 million of that number. I also eliminated teams whose listed cap figures for 2011 are a bit unrealistic. Portland, for instance, has about $19 committed for 2011, but that doesn’t include extensions for Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge or Travis Outlaw‘s $8 million cap hold.
In general, I also assumed any low-level player with an option is going to exercise it, and that any team with an option on a mediocre/low-level player will renounce that player completely.
HERE ARE THE TEAMS LEFT STANDING:
• Chicago: The Bulls have about $35 million or so committed to their 2011 roster, assuming they renounce their rights to Brad Miller, Jerome James and Tim Thomas–and I think that’s a safe assumption. To stick at this figure, though, they’ll also have to renounce Ty Thomas instead of tendering him a $6.3 million qualifying offer.
Of course, the Bulls already have a young point guard, don’t they? They’ve also got ambitions of getting in on the Wade-Bosh bidding.
• Cleveland: The Cavs will have about $24 million or so committed in 2011, assuming they renounce both Z-man and the Big Second Banana and find a taker for Delonte West‘s partially unguaranteed $4.5 million deal. How likely is that combination of three things? Ask John Krolik or Brian Windhurst.
Of course, Cleveland’s focus after next season is probably not going to be on Rajon Rondo.
• Los Angeles Clippers: The Clips helped themselves immensely by getting rid of Zach Randolph ($17.3 million in 2011) in exchange for Quentin Richardson‘s expiring deal. Les Clips have about $34 million committed in 2011, assuming they renounce Marcus Camby and Richardson and exercise options on Eric Gordon and Al Thorton (all basically no-brainers).
Again, though, the Clippers have an entrenched point guard in Baron Davis. If they manage to get rid of him, they could become serious Rondo players.
• Atlanta: The Hawks are at the very edge of our salary range here, as they’ll be up to at least $42 million once you figure in the Mike Bibby and Zaza Pachulia extensions plus rookie deals for their draft picks. They’d also have to renounce Joe Johnson to get to $42 million; if they don’t, his cap hold puts them well over the limit.
• Miami: Probably the most dangerous team on this list. The Heat have literally nothing committed to 2011 beyond Dwyane Wade, who may or may not opt out of his $17 million-plus deal for that season. Other than that, it’s all team options (only two of which they are certain to pick up–Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers) and James Jones‘s unguaranteed deal. Of course, this could all change if Pat Riley caves and takes on some ill-advised long-term contract. But if the Heat don’t sign Wade, Chris Bosh or LeBron James (or perhaps even if they do sign one of them), they could come after Rondo hard.
• New York: Another strong candidate if the premier 2010 free agents spurn them. The Knicks have about $18.2 million committed to Eddy Curry and Jared Jeffries (hi, Isiah!), plus $5.5 million in team options for Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Toss in a couple of rookie deals and assume they re-sign either David Lee or Nate Robinson (but not both), and we’re approaching $35 million (especially if they choose Lee over Robinson). If they grab Robinson, too, the Knicks may price themselves out of the LeBron-Wade-Bosh derby and have to settle for someone on the next tier…like Rondo.
A few more teams, after the jump.
• New Jersey: The Nets only have about $18 million committed in 2011, assuming they decide not to exercise team options on Yi, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Sean Williams; renounce restricted free agents Josh Boone and Jarvis Hayes; and renounce a bunch of cap holds.
But the Nets already have Devin Harris set at the PG spot.
• Houston: The Rockets are creeping over $40 million for 2011 between their guaranteed deals (Yao, Shane Battier and Trevor Ariza for about $32 million total), cheap-ish team options for quality guys (about $7.3 million combined for Chuck Hayes, Aaron Brooks and Carl Landry) and whatever rookie deals remain on the books from among the three second-rounders Houston selected in the ’09 draft.
They’d also have to renounce Tracy McGrady, Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola and Brent Barry to reach this number, and, personally, I’d like at least two of those guys on my team going forward (Scola and Lowry). So the Rockets are probably out.
• Oklahoma City: The Thunder are a bit over $30 million in guaranteed deals for 2010-11, assuming Nenad Krstic elects to take his $5.8 million player option (duh). In theory, this leaves room for a run at Rondo, but: a) the Thunder appear committed to Russell Westbrook at point guard; and b) Kevin Durant and Jeff Green will be restricted free agents after the 2011 season, so it’s not like the Thunder are going to be tossing around money after the 2010 season unless they want to go well over the luxury tax later.
• Minnesota: The ultimate “in theory” team, since the Wolves will have a ton of cap space if they renounce all of their cap holds and team options (except for Kevin Love). But Minny already has a fairly well-documented logjam at point guard. Kaaaaahhhhhhnnnnnn!!!! (Sorry).
• Sacramento: The Kings have about $40 million already committed in 2011 once rookie deals are factored in, and the guys at Cowbell Kingdom have already thrown Rondo’s name out there as someone the Kings could/should pursue after next season. The Kings could be a promising team if Tyreke Evans, Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes continue to progress. But unless they can get rid of Beno Udrih‘s awful deal, they’ll have Udrih, Evans and Sergio Rodriguez at the PG spot–provided they hang onto Rodriguez, who will be a restricted free agent after next season. So it’s unclear at this point how Rondo would fit in Sacto.
So, am I missing any team out there with a realistic shot to make a run at Rondo? The only one I can think of is Phoenix, but only if the Suns let Steve Nash go (which is reportedly unlikely) and rebuild in a way that doesn’t involve taking on enormous salaries from Golden State.
If I haven’t missed an obvious suitor or two, the Celtics are in a pretty strong negotiating position, considering how many free agents will hit the market in 2010, how few teams have significant cap room and how few of those teams have a need for a point guard.
I think the odds are pretty good that Rondo signs his next deal with Boston–unless the Celtics prefer otherwise.