It’s tough being the Chicago Bulls’ front office lately. Despite having a solid offseason by plundering the Utah Jazz for two useful players and a semi-superstar (Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, and Carlos Boozer) they now find themselves in a bit of a pickle regarding Joakim Noah. The mercurial center is undoubtedly productive. He provides energy, hustle, points, rebounds, and headaches for opposing teams. Lately, however, the Bulls’ suits are feeling the pain.
It’s been reported that the Chicago Bulls are interested in acquiring Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets. Unfortunately, the Nuggets would like a young asset in return- namely Joakim Noah. The Bulls are reluctant to give up a player with so much potential. I understand their dilemma. Carmelo Anthony is a superstar but Joakim Noah plays a role that most teams would covet. He is a defensive minded center that has an unstoppable motor. He also has the potential to be great.
What makes their decision even more difficult is that even if they decide they want to keep Noah no matter what, that “no matter what” may end up costing the Bulls 13 million dollars. Noah is currently in line for a contract extension and right now the negotiations are not close. The Bulls front office feel Noah is worth 57 million while Noah feels he’s more in the ballpark of 65-70 million dollars, according to Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld.com.
The real question becomes, “is Joakim Noah really worth 70 million dollars? Is he even worth 65 million dollars?” Noah is a productive player but to me, no hustle player/ third banana is worth 14 million dollars a year. 14 million dollars is the type of money a proven star earns. Noah may have the potential to become a dominant post presence in this league, but I would not be comfortable giving him that kind of money.
This all brings me to my larger point. Why would I spend 300 words discussing Joakim Noah’s contract negotiations?
The answer, my friends, is to remind everyone about just how awesome Danny Ainge is. Sentence-ending verbs aside, it was nearly one year ago when Ainge locked up a young, budding superstar in Rajon Rondo for a measly 55 million dollars.
Just imagine how the contract negotiations would go this year if Ainge and Rondo had not reached an agreement. The Celtics did not sign anyone this offseason that did not involve some sort of exception (Bird, Semi-Bird, Veteran’s minimum, Mid-level) so the raw numbers may not have affected the this year’s offseason signings. That said, it certainly would have affected the salary cap in 2012 when the majority of Celtics’ roster comes off the books.
Rajon Rondo is clearly worth more than Joakim Noah and should be paid as such one way or the other. Since Rondo has already signed his contract there is no way Noah should get 70 million. Luckily for the C’s, this is not something with which they have to concern themselves. They can just sit there and pat themselves on the back knowing that they signed Rajon Rondo for way less money than he is worth.
Just for fun, let’s look at the numbers that are not skewed by position. Last season, Rajon Rondo had a player efficiency rating of 20.5. Noah’s was 17.8. Rondo averaged 14 points per game while Noah chipped in 11. The only number Noah has in his favor is his long-two shooting percentage (33% for Rondo, 43% for Noah), which is admittedly pretty sad when you consider their respective positions on the court.*
There is really no contest. Next time you hear any criticism of Danny Ainge, think of the Rajon Rondo signing to put things in prospective.
* All player stats are courtesy of HoopData.com.
**As a bonus, Andray Blatche just recently agreed to a five year, 28 million dollar contract. Attitude aside, his production is worth way more than 5.6 million dollars a year. If you do not believe me, check out the numbers.