This afternoon, Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports broke the news that Jason Terry had come to terms on a deal with the Boston Celtics. Terry told Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports that he will give the Mavericks a chance to match in the coming days, but ESPN is reporting that Dallas is unlikely to do so to maintain future cap flexibility. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what this deal would mean for Boston.
Spears is reporting the deal for Terry will be for three years for the full Mid-Level exception, which starts at $5 million per year. No matter how you slice it, this is a good value signing for the Boston Celtics. Terry will turn 35 in September upon entering his 14th NBA season, but has shown very little sign of any kind of dropoff in recent years. He’s played at a high level on a very big stage (hello 2011 NBA Finals) and perhaps more importantly on an aging Celtics team, he is incredibly durable.
Terry missed only three games last year, has sat out just 16 games in his last five years combined, and perhaps most impressively has missed only 28 games in his entire regular season NBA career. Hell, that’s fewer games than Jermaine O’Neal missed last season. You can’t put a price on that kind of reliable health, something the C’s have struggled in finding in free agency over the last few years.
The potential signing of Terry, who is a top-3 shooting guard in this year’s market, is also the first time the Celtics have looked to address the offensive side of the ball with the MLE over the last four years. Here’s a look at those relatively swing-and-miss signings.
2008: Didn’t use MLE on new free agent
2009: Rasheed Wallace (3 years, retired after one year)
2010: Jermaine O’Neal (2 years)
2011: Chris Wilcox (1 year, mini MLE)
Whether it was Danny Ainge’s fault or not, those signings didn’t pan out for Boston, largely for health reasons. Thankfully, Terry is a guy you can count on to get on the floor and eat up 30 minutes a game and that’s incredibly valuable for this veteran squad. The great news is, he’ll do a lot more than just eat up minutes while he is out there.
An Offensive Upgrade
It has been a debilitating fall for the Celtics offense over the last four years of The Big Three era. Don’t take my word for it, check out the numbers.
08-09: 110.5 (6th)
09-10: 107.7 (15th)
10-11: 106.2 (18th)
11-12: 101.0 (27th)
While the decline of The Big Three offensively has been a bit of a factor in this downward spiral, the lack of support from the Boston bench on the offensive end has been an even bigger detriment to the declining numbers.
Injuries, inconsistent shooting, and just a plain lack of talent have been the biggest culprits in the C’s struggles. Boston’s offense has floundered with the likes of Sheed, Jermaine O’Neal, Glen Davis, Mickael Pietrus, Keyon Dooling, Jeff Green, Marquis Daniels, and Nate Robinson, Eddie House, Tony Allen, Brian Scalabrine, Greg Stiemsma, and Shelden Williams playing sizable roles with this squad off the bench.
None of those guys I listed could be safely categorized as above-average offensive players while they have played in a Celtics uniform and that’s an overly kind assessment. Together they made up subpar offensive units that put too much onus on The Big Three and Rajon Rondo offensively.
That’s why Terry will be so welcome here. Unlike those guys, Terry is an above-average and consistent offensive player. He can handle the ball, play off pick-and-rolls, shoot it from anywhere on the floor and thrives on taking a lot of shots, something the second unit desperately needs.
Does he have his flaws? You bet. 43 percent shooting like he had last year isn’t great. However, he’s averaged 15 points per season every year since 2004, and is a career 38 percent 3-point shooter. Not Ray Allen good, as Hayes said, but nothing to sneeze at.
Bottom line, the C’s needed help desperately on the offensive end. The C’s tried to address this problem in 2011 with the Kendrick Perkins deal and we all saw how that turned out at the time.
With the resources they had available now, this is as good of a guy they could hope get to help them put more points on the board. That should be applauded. With Terry the offense, especially the end of game offense, should be much better.
What Terry’s Potential Signing Means For Ray Allen and Rest of C’s Free Agency
Now we get to the fun part of this scenario. As Doc Rivers and multiple NBA Insiders have been adamant about all along, Jason Terry tentatively agreeing to terms with Boston does not mean the end of Ray Allen here from the C’s perspective.
As we’ve discussed here before, C’s still have full bird rights on Allen, so them using the full MLE should have no affect on their ability on them bringing back Ray financially as long as they stay under the $74 million apron this year, a very doable scenario.
So now the question has to be, does Boston potentially signing Terry next week make Ray more or less likely to come back? That’s a fair question to ask, as Allen’s role could potentially be diminished minutes-wise but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for him. Allen has been overworked here in recent years, being forced to play 35+ minutes a game, which undoubtedly helped lead to his ankles breaking down again last season.
With Terry signed, Boston could theoretically re-insert Allen back into the starting five (especially if Bradley isn’t fully healthy at the start of the season from his shoulder surgeries) and still have some scoring pop off the bench.
The signing of Terry also makes Boston an even more viable championship contender for next season if Allen returns. A backcourt of Allen/Rondo/Terry/Bradley would rival any other team in the NBA right now as far as overall talent goes at the guard position. That’s a scary deep group and pretty fun to imagine.
Boston could also go with some fun 3-guard lineups as well, to help spread the minutes around and keep everyone happy, depending on what they do in the frontcourt over the rest of free agency. Plenty of possibilities for Doc here to dream about during the rest of the summer.
If Allen chooses not to return, C’s get a capable replacement with Terry, but their bench offense looks a bit less dangerous.
Just for fun, here’s a look at how a prospective C’s depth chart could conceivably look like if Allen returns:
PG: Rondo, Terry, Dooling (veteran’s min)
SG: Bradley, Allen, (Moore/Pietrus)
SF: Pierce, Green, (Daniels/Pavlovic/Joseph)
PF/C: Garnett, Sullinger, Johnson, Melo (Pick 2 of Steimsma/Wilcox/Bass)
That, my friends, is a pretty solid core and the math should work as well if Ray signs for $6 million, and Bass and Green sign in the 6-9 million range for the first year of their prospective deals. It will be tight to squeeze them all $74 million but Ainge, cap wizard Mike Zarren and the rest of the C’s front office would make it work. Otherwise, a sign-and-trade to receive an asset for Bass is also a possibility.
Even if Chicago was healthy, that squad would push them for the second-best team in the East in my opinion. Perhaps most importantly, this team would have depth, affording guys like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to play 25-30 minutes most games while allowing Boston to remain competitive (a la the San Antonio Spurs in the regular season) before the stakes pick up in May.
That’s a luxury Boston hasn’t been afforded for three-plus years now with this core. The reported future signing of Terry is a big step in the right direction to help with that issue, but if Allen comes back as well, watch out NBA. The Celtics would be back, and perhaps better than ever.