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Why Rondo’s extension puts C’s in a tricky spot for next year

 

With the extension of Rajon Rondo yesterday, my colleague Zach Lowe and I have noticed a bit of a problem on the horizon for this 2010-11 Boston Celtic team, the elephant in the room, if you will. What’s the issue you ask? Well right now, The Celtics have over 63 million dollars committed in contracts for next year. Not a huge problem you say? Well what If I told you all that money was allotted to just six players. With this harsh reality in mind, let’s break down the numbers and see how it affects the C’s options going into next year.

First a look at the player salaries to see how the dollar figures break down. These come courtesy of Shamsports.com

Paul Pierce: 21.5 million (player option)
Kevin Garnett: 18.8 million
Rasheed Wallace: 6.3 million
Kendrick Perkins: 4.9 million
Glen Davis: 3 million
Rajon Rondo: 9.1 million*

Total salary committed: 63.6 million

A couple of disclaimers about those numbers: First, the Rondo salary is an estimate based on the numbers crunched by Kevin Pelton over at Basketball Prospectus. It’s calculated based on the 55 million dollar figure reported, with Rondo starting at a salary of 9.1 million, with his pay escalating by 10 percent every year of the contract. So while Rondo may be averaging 11 million/year for the length of the deal, he will likely only be on the books for a little over 9 during 2010-11. Good news for the C’s.

It also must be pointed out as indicated above, that the Pierce salary is a player option. Now despite the fact there has been rumblings about Pierce being willing to decline that option and instead restructure his deal in an extension, that is a scenario that Celtics fans can’t count on quite yet.

Now we get to the fun part: The salary cap situation for next year. Based on a report from ESPN.com back in July, here are the numbers the league is projecting the salary cap and luxury tax to be at for next year’s season.

Salary Cap: Somewhere between 50.4-53.6 million
Luxury Tax: Somewhere between 61.2-65 million

Those projections would be a sharp dropoff from this year’s cap and tax numbers of 57.7 and 69.9 million respectively. The Celtics total salary for this year is 84.5 million (5th highest in the league) at last count. This means Wyc Grousbeck and company are anteing up close to 100 million dollars in players salaries, once you include the luxury tax dollar for dollar penalty. Thanks guys!

So while ownership has shown the willingness to pay big for winners, Danny Ainge will be forced to get creative if he wants to make any major changes or additions to this roster in the upcoming offseason. With Pierce exercising his player option, or even if he doesn’t and instead restructures his deal to take the paycut, the team will be already be well over the projected salary cap barring Pierce taking an enormous paycut. A few million dollars seem much more likely. A look at how Danny might solve this problem, after the jump.

So despite needing to fill out these other 9 roster spots, the team will only be able to do it using the draft and various exceptions (mid level, bird rights, and veteran’s minimum). 2 for 1 sign and trades could also be a possibility. Since the team used the league level exception this year on Marquis Daniels, they will not have that 1.9 million dollars to spend next year.

With those sobering realities in mind, let’s take a look at some of the possibilities for Danny, a bit prematurely here in how he might piece together a team for the 2010 offseason:

Ray Allen

Allen is last major chip of the Celtics lineup with uncertainty going into next season as an unrestricted free agent. Ray is making a hefty 19.8 million this year, a number he will not come close to making next year. I took an in-depth look at Allen’s value in August noting how the shooting guard’s offensive performance, money made (over 135 million throughout his career) and the free agent market make the return of Ray to the C’s next year an easy fit. A quick excerpt from that piece:

Based on Chad Ford’s latest analysis of cap room for teams during the 2010 free agency period, there will only be about 9 teams with more than 10 million dollars in cap room to spend next summer. Out of those teams, there will only be a few playoff teams with any real cap room with Miami, Atlanta, Houston and Chicago likely being the potential teams in play.

Two of these teams will likely be occupied with keeping their own stars (Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson) making it doubtful they will be looking at throwing big money at a 35 year old Allen to replace them. Therefore if Ray Allen wants to play for a contender next season, the vast majority of those squads will only be able to offer Allen the mid level exception on the open market (about 6 million dollars).

Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports spoke about what it would take to bring back Ray last night on Comcast Sportsnet and seems to believe 8-10 million dollars would get the job done. I have the tendency to agree with him on that. A 2 year deal at that price would seem to be fair for both parties, as it would be difficult to see Allen leaving Boston for another a couple of extra million on a non Championship contender.

A deal like that though would still bring the C’s total salary for next year well above the projected luxury tax, with just seven players under contract. This scenario brings us to our next question about the team’s cap:

Will Pierce take the extension in exchange for a paycut?

Clearly, it’s too early to tell on this one, but a 3 year extension, at say 15 million per would ease the luxury tax burden by about 5-6 million in the interim, making it easier for the team to give Ray the money in all likelihood he will deserve. That being said, can you see someone turn down a 21 million dollar option in this economy? Paul Pierce is a true Celtic but that’s a lot of money to say thanks, but no thanks too even if he recoups it later on. Either way, this definitely will be a situation to watch as the year unfolds.

What about filling out the rest of the roster?

If Ray Allen does in fact re-sign, Ainge will have a very limited pool of money to play with, giving how far the team would all ready be over the cap, in order to fill that roster. Knowing that the team is 15 million dollars over the luxury tax this year, you can bet ownership would not want to go much further over it than that in 2010-11. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the team’s free agents entering next season to see exactly how cheaply the C’s could fill those roster spots.

First we have Lester Hudson and Bill Walker who have cheap team options at approximately $ 854,000 and $762,000 respectively. Any kind of positive production from these guys this year makes it likely both these inexpensive options will be picked up.

JR Giddens had a 1.1 million dollar team option for next year that was NOT exercised on the deadline yesterday. He will have to show some promise this year, in order to be brought at anything more than the veteran’s minimum, a possible but not a probable scenario.

TA’s 2.5 million also comes off the books next year. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out Tony.

Eddie House, Brian Scalabrine, Shelden Williams, and Marquis Daniels will all be unrestricted free agents. Daniels may even have a player option for next year at low money but I have heard conflicted reports on that. The C’s will have the right to pay all of these players up to a 20% raise of their previous salary under CBA rules with the team having bird rights on both Scal and Eddie.

Scal and Williams would likely cost no more than the veteran’s minimum if they were to return. Eddie could be due for a raise based on his performance this year, but bringing him back at 2 million clip would appear to be a efficient move for both parties.

Things could get tricky with Marquis Daniels who signed with the C’s for the LLE at 1.9 million this year. Daniels in all likelihood is vastly underpaid in this deal and will be looking for a bit of a raise this offseason as he is positioning himself to be a crucial component of this Celtics team. The good news for the C’s is that while they will not have Bird rights on Daniels, they still will have the full mid level exception (around 6 million) if they choose to retain Daniels and whomever else they might desire.

The team will also have a late 1st and 2nd round draft pick to help fill this void as well.

Ainge will have to spread around this limited pool of money wisely a la the summer of 2007 when the bench cupboard was left bare after the trades for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Ainge hit home runs during that offseason with the signings of Eddie House and James Posey for portions of the MLE. Combining those moves with some solid draft picks (Big Baby), and cheap veteran help (Cassell and PJ Brown midseason) which helped fill out the roster sufficiently for a title run. Similar sharp maneuvering will have to come into play here.

Before we go, here is a list of some potential “role type” free agent candidates Zach Lowe and myself complied for next year that could be available for a portion, if not all of the MLE:

Raja Bell
Raymond Felton
Brad Miller
Drew Gooden
Craig Smith
Rasual Butler
Bobby Simmons
Jarvis Hayes
Mike Miller

Not a terrific crop of guys, but some enticing names on there that could be hungry to play for a champion.

All in all, the signing of Rondo relegates the C’s this team to in essence remain committed to this core of players for at least the next two-three years. Lots of holes will have to be filled in this roster by holdovers and players making the veteran’s minimum. There will likely be half the 15 man roster making somewhere between 10-15 million altogether when all is said and done.

And you know what? Despite the age, money, and health concerns, that is a scenario that the vast majority of the GM’s in this league would love to have at this point. The major pieces are in place for Danny Ainge for the next few years. He just has to find the smaller ones that will fill out the rest of the puzzle. There is an elephant in the room here…..but it’s a predicament that Danny should be able to make work.

Based on these numbers, how do you see Danny handling this situation? Will he be able to piece together a productive bench with such limited maneuvering? Does the Rondo deal make it more likely Ray and Paul take paycuts? Who on the current roster would you not want to bring back? And is there anyone on that free agent list do you see being a potentially good fit for the C’s next year?

  • http://Celticsblog.com Buddy Love

    Great job on this article! Very informative…

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  • KC

    Geeze, we have our key guys locked up except for Ray Allen. And already we are over the cap.

    If you had an NBA live roster with PP, KG, RR, Perk, Wallace etc you'd think you had a stacked team. Keeping Ray Allen would be cream on top of, more cream thats already on the chocolate cake.

    So regardless of larry, curly and moe who round out our roster there are no excuses for not contending in 2011 even without signing anyone else.

    But, it will be great to see Danny Ainge find some role playing keepers late in the first round or with second round picks. I'm reminded of an article at ESPN re the likely hood of college players being keepers picked later than the lottery, and it found mostly the only players picked later than the lottery who stayed in the NBA had one NBA ready skill (shooting, rebounding, hustle, …. something). So given our stacked top 6 or 7 finding some speacialist 2nd rounders (ie cheap) to round out the squad is do-able.

  • Jim Weeks

    I really enjoyed this post. Great detail. Every time I thought it would wrap up it had new, pertinent info. Well done. I was someone who advocated for bringing back Rondo. But it's important to consider the ramifications for doing so and the looming challenges facing Ainge and company.

  • str|ps

    from the current roster:

    tony allen and…

    did i already say tony allen?

    yeah…tony allen

  • http://facebook.com James

    we needed rondo lets face it, without him we have absolutely no point guards and getting into the free agent market would've been tough to accomplish, without rondo we wouldn't b nearly as good

  • T

    Well, luckily we have bird rights on alot of our guys, because the list of players mentioned there is really unappetizing considering what we have already. There is no chance in hell that we are going to go out and get big money help for the frontcourt with KG, Perk, Sheed, and Baby all under contract. Our only true stated needs will be to fill the wings. If we can lock a player like ray up for 8-10/yr for two, that is a damn good deal. Everyone says he is getting old, but his style of offense ages like a fine wine and our superior team defense can make up for any slowing down because of aging. We should try as best we can to keep House around too, he's scrappy as hell and can shoot the lights out of the building.

    Lets see how Daniels pans out because his ball handling and defense makes him a perfect fit for the second squad alongside Sheed, Baby, and House. Perhaps a chunk of that MLE should be his. The rest of our guys that we want can come back for veteran minimums plus CBA regulated raises or rookie scales (unless some GM is seeing Williams' box score and getting stupid).

    The only guys on that list that I really like for this team are (Mike) Miller, Bell, and Felton. But if these first 5 games are any indication of how our guys play together, perhaps making any changes might not be the best course of action

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