It has been widely reported that swingman Marquis Daniels has committed to the Celtics for this upcoming season. Zach Lowe had a great breakdown on the newest piece of Danny Ainge’s bench last week. In the meantime however, there remains plenty of loose ends to be tied up before a deal is finalized for the former Pacer.
First and foremost is Ainge figuring out how exactly he will be getting Daniels to Boston. The C’s are limited to offering only the 1.9 million dollar biannual exception to the unrestricted free agent. That figure would be a major paycut from Daniels’ salary last season of nearly 7 million dollars.
While Daniels’ agent likely knew a big pay cut would be in order in free agency, there is no doubt he would expect to do better than 2 million/year for Daniels if he could help it. The Celtics for a change are on the same page with the swingman about trying to give him a bit more money.
This isn’t necessarily because they want to, or because they think he deserves it, but more so because they want to save the option of using the biannual exception for later this year or next year if possible.
In addition to saving the exception for a later date, the C’s ownership would likely be thrilled if Danny Ainge free up some money and clear out some dead weight (Tony Allen), or an overpaid backup (Brian Scalabrine) in a deal for Daniels.
If a deal were to be worked out, the Pacers would likely sign Daniels to a deal at around 2.5 million-4 million a year and turn around and ship him to Boston for a combination of TA, Scalabrine, Bill Walker, Gabe Pruitt, or J.R. Giddens. ESPN’s Chad Ford also tweeted last week that Walker, Pruitt and TA were names being floated in trade talks.
I list these guys only because I believe these are the only pieces I believe Ainge would be willing to deal for Daniels since they would not be essential parts of the team’s rotation plans next year. In addition, Allen and Scal’s salaries would match up quite nicely with Daniels, making a swap convenient for the C’s.
With that said, it seems simple enough: Deal either TA or Scal with a combination of the young guys to Indy for Daniels and we have a done deal. Problem solved right? Not so fast if you are the Pacers.
While either of those deals would make all the sense in the world for the Celtics, I’m not so sure it would make sense from an Indiana perspective. Thus I started asking some questions. If Indy made a deal for TA or Scal, could those guys be helpful contributors or would they be essentially dealing for an expiring contract? And would it make sense for them to do that and take on that additional salary, even if it’s only for one year? I decided to take a closer look at the team’s roster and salary situation to try to answer those questions after the jump.
According to Hoopsworld, Indiana is all ready on the hook for around 59 million dollars for next year. That number is an estimate at this point since the exact salary numbers from the Dhantay Jones 4 year 11 million dollar deal are not available. That figure however is still likely to go up as it is is, since it does not include PG Earl Watson’s salary who just signed with the team over the weekend.
Given that information, the team is likely looking at a cap figure in the low to mid 60 million dollar range once they finish their offseason moves, which is short of the 69 million dollar luxury tax figure but well over the soft cap of 57 million. Therefore if the Pacers were going to sign and trade Daniels, they would have to take back a cap figure within 25% of the salary he signed for. Therefore Brian Scalabrine or Tony Allen would have to be in any supposed deal.
Now why would Indiana take on an additional 2-3 million dollars in salary to add to their all ready bloated payroll, unless they got back meaningful contributors in a deal? Knowing this, I took an indepth look at the team’s roster to see if the Celtics players I listed earlier could fill any of their needs.
Point Guard: The team is fairly set here with T.J. Ford, Travis Deiner, a useless Jamal Tinsley and potentially Jarrett Jack (more on him below). The team has over 15 million dollars tied up in Ford to deal one of these guys to free up some salary. Despite the C’s need for a backup PG, those high salaries would make any deal including them with Daniels very tough to complete. Thus as it stands, the Pacers would have little use for Gabe Pruitt.
Shooting Guard: Things get a little more interesting here for the Pacers. Daniels played a good amount at the 2 last year, as did Jarrett Jack who is on the verge of signing with the Raptors unless the team decides to match the 4 year/20 million offer sheet. Brandon Rush started some at the end of last season at the spot and Mike Dunleavy has played the 2 for short spurts in the past, but the team will need someone to replace Daniels/Jack if they both skip town. Could Tony Allen be that guy? And would Indiana want him to be?
Need: Strong unless Jack resigns
Small Forward: The up and coming star Danny Granger logs most of the minutes at the three spot, but again a versatile Daniels played a lot of minutes at the 3, so a void will be created in his absence. A returning Mike Dunleavy who missed most of last season due to bone spurs could be the guy that fills that void off the bench. Dunleavy has also played some SG and PF in Indy so he could solve a lot of the team’s depth problems if he’s back and effective. That being said, the team is short on bodies at the position so Bill Walker or J.R. Giddens could be of interest to them.
Power Forward: With the drafting of Tyler Hansborough, to go along with Troy Murphy, Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger who also plays some four, the team is in a good spot at the position. This hurts the C’s given that the most productive player from last year they likely will be willing to offer (Brian Scalabrine) also plays power forward. Even though Scal would fit in quite well with the whitewash of players Indy has at the position, I can’t see them justifying paying 3.5 million to a guy who would be third string at best at the power forward spot in Indy.
Center: Not really applicable here since the C’s have no centers to offer the Pacers. With Roy Hibbert and Jeff Foster, the team is pretty set anyway.
Conclusion: Putting it all together, it’s clear that the Pacers most pressing need is at the 2/3 spot, a position where the C’s do have some players to offer. That’s the good news. The bad news however is that the C’s options at the position will cost the Pacers more than 3 million collectively since Tony Allen would have to be included in any deal to make the numbers work.
The question is whether Danny can convince Larry Bird that Tony Allen can be an effective contributor off the bench for Indy next year. That is a tough prospect since the main reason we are signing Daniels is because the team has given up on TA.
Would the potential of Bill Walker be enough to convince Indy to take on Allen’s 2.5 million dollar salary? I talked indepthly about attempting to pull off this feat last month but I stand by the stance that Allen and Scal aren’t considered useful assets for most teams in this league, even with their expiring contracts. They are both overpaid and limited in what they can do on the floor.
Now many Celtics fans would argue including Bill Walker in a deal with TA or Scal would tip the scales but at this point I don’t think Bill Walker has enough upside to make taking on either of those guys a worthwhile move for most teams. The guy is a nice prospect, but we as Celtics fans tend to overvalue him. He showed flashes but didn’t do much as a whole last year, certainly not enough for Doc to trust him regularly off the bench. He certainly could be a useful NBA player one day, but I wouldn’t be willing take back a 3 million dollar contract to find out if I was Larry Bird.
The whole scenario becomes even more challenging for Ainge, if the Pacers feel they can find someone else on the open market for cheaper than Allen’s salary of 2.5 million at the position. That is a likely scenario given the down market this year. Zach Lowe ran down some potential options at this spot last week, and there are some role players out there on the market that could be had at bargain basement prices.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, I don’t really see how Danny will be able to talk his former teammate into helping the C’s out and making a deal here. Who knows, maybe Larry will show some love to his former team like Kevin McHale did and help us out. I just don’t see it happening, unless a third team gets involved. If not, Ainge will likely have to pursue other avenues to clear some salary and roster space if Daniels has to sign for the 1.9 million.