Jeff Clark at CelticsBlog got this ball rolling a couple of days ago by linking to Tom Ziller’s must-read list of the top 50 free agents this coming summer.
As you undoubtedly know, the Celtics are going to be excluded from the maximum contract LeBron-Wade-Bosh derby. There are, however, some interesting questions Ziller and Clark bring up:
1) Does Paul Pierce opt out of his $21 million option? If he does—and if the C’s renounce salary cap holds (and, thus, Bird Rights) on their remaining free agents—the C’s will find themselves under the cap with a total committed salary in the mid-$40 millions, with a projected cap in the $50-$55 million range, according to ShamSports.com. I’ve been adamant that Pierce won’t leave this kind of money on the table, but the possibility of a strict new collective bargaining agreement unfavorable to players does raise the possibility (as Ziller notes) that Pierce might opt out now and sign a three- or four-year deal just to create some stability for himself.
2) What do to with Ray Allen?
Ray’s an unrestricted free agent, but the C’s will have his full Bird Rights, meaning they can go over the cap to keep him. Should they? For how much?
3) The mid-level. The C’s will have the full mid-level exception to use, and they’ll definitely use it. Here is a random list of intriguing names that could be available for the mid-level:
• Marcus Camby. Do you want another aging big? Well, this one tries hard and is in shape…
• Brendan Haywood. Drooling contenders always interested in size will likely bid Haywood above the mid-level. Right?
• Ronnie Brewer. A 6’7” swing man who can defend both the two and three but has never emerged as a scorer. Still just 24, but a restricted free agent, meaning the Grizzlies control his rights.
• Travis Outlaw. He’s young (25), a willing clutch shooter, a small forward, and has the tools to be a solid defender. All of that might push him above the mid-level, though he’s coming off an injury-plagued season.
• Kelenna Azubukie. A bad ass. I love him.
• Josh Howard. Maybe the wildest of the wild cards in this free agent class. This season was a total wash out, and it ended with a torn ACL. At 29, he’s also older than you think.
• Amir Johnson. Works his ass off on both ends, a solid athlete who understands his offensive limits. And boy is his offense limited. Toronto may have the most awkward front court finishing combo in the league in Amir and Reggie Evans.
• Grant Hill. It’s the summer of 2009 all over again! Hill loves Phoenix, so I’m not sure it’s a lock he declines his $3.2 million player option.
Am I missing any good mid-level candidates, guys? Check out the list and let me know. Please keep in mind that a) you can split the mid-level up among multiple players; and b) the C’s do not have the biannual exception (valued at around $2 million) because they used it last off-season on Marquis Daniels.