About two weeks ago, Matt Moore — host of the eminently worthwhile CBS Eye On Basketball podcast — mentioned in passing an interesting way to evaluate this summer’s deals in free agency. Paraphrasing, Moore said he has been breaking things down by assigning monetary values to a player’s abilities, what they bring to the team. For example, Moore said, Andre Iguodala’s $15 million price tag is intimidating at first glance, but then when one breaks it down, the Warriors are paying Iguodala $9 million for defense and $6 million for offense and leadership. Suddenly, Iguodala’s contract starts to make a lot of sense.
As the Celtics enter a rebuilding phase, money is at a premium, and keeping reasonable contracts becomes paramount. So in part because it’s interesting and in part because the offseason doldrums are bearing down on us like a freight train, let’s break down at Boston’s contract situation at length (all contract info from HoopsHype.com).
Rajon Rondo: $12 million in 2013/’14
This doesn’t even take into account the massive strides Rondo took shooting the ball from 3-9 feet (27% in 2012/’13 to 41% last season) and from 16-23 feet (39% to 48%) per HoopData.com. Deron Williams has been in the league one more year and makes $18 million a year. Derrick Rose has been in the league two fewer years and makes $16 million. Even if we assume that a healthy Rondo is not better than either a healthy Rose or a healthy Williams, Rondo’s $12 million looks like a steal in comparison.
Jared Sullinger: $1.3 million
Rookie contracts are fun. Here’s something awesome: In 2016/’17, the Celtics will have a team option as to whether or not they want to pay Sully $3.2 million. How much would you pay Jared Sullinger to rebound like he did last year (assuming health, obviously, which most contracts do anyway)? Well over $1.3 million, certainly, meaning that any offense and defense he can contribute is just gravy.
Kelly Olynyk: $1.98 million
I would happily pay Kelly Olynyk at least $1.98 million just to look like Dirk in Summer League and get my hopes unreasonably high for the regular season.
Avery Bradley: $2.5 million
Bradley’s incredibly friendly contract puts his offensive struggles last season in some perspective. Still, with his impending return to the shooting guard position next season where he clearly feels more comfortable, Bradley has the potential to make big strides toward his next contract this year.
Marshon Brooks: $1.2 million
Next year, Brooks’ contract hops up to $2.2 million, but the Celtics have a team option they can decline if they want, making Brooks essentially an expiring deal they can re-sign for cheap if he plays well. Michael Pina broke down Brooks and all of the other Nets acquisitions really nicely, and it will suffice to say that Boston is paying Brooks $1.2 million for offense and offense only. It isn’t too much to pay for an offensive-minded player, but he will need to either be very good at scoring or show some previously lacking defensive awareness next year if Boston is going to pick up his option.
Shavlik Randolph: $1.1 million
Jeff Green: $8.7 million
Think of this less as a “C” on a report card and more as an “incomplete.” Last year, Jeff Green scored 16.6 points per 36 minutes and showed massive improvements on the offensive end as the year went on. By the end of the season, he was one of Boston’s top scorers, a supremely efficient spot-up 3-point shooter, a monster dunker and a solid individual defender. If Green can pick up where he left off last season, I would happily pay him $6 million for his offense and $3 million for his defense (taking away $0.3 million for his rebounding just because I can). But I want to hedge my bets a little bit until we see if Green can continue to produce efficiently without Pierce and with opposing defenses planning for him as more of an offensive focal point.
Kris Humphries: $12 million
Listen, I’m as disappointed as the rest of the Celtics’ fanbase that Kris Humphries is a Celtic and Paul Pierce isn’t this year, but paying him $12 million to rid the books of $12 million next year (especially when you saw higher up on this list the amount of talent one can acquire with $12 million) isn’t the worst thing in the world, I guess.
Brandon Bass: $6.75 million
Bass quietly improved throughout last season, and in the playoffs, his defense on Carmelo Anthony helped make the series respectable. That being said, paying him $2.75 million to pull down 6.8 rebounds per 36 minutes as a starting power forward is kind of cringeworthy.
Fab Melo: $1.3 million
Keith Bogans: $5.1 million
Again, the link above to Michael Pina’s article will give you what you need to know about Bogans’ game. The good news is that his massive salary is fully nonguaranteed after this year, making him the basic equivalent of an expiring deal. The bad news is that, well, Boston owes Keith Bogans $5.1 million this season.
Courtney Lee: $5.2 million
For all the talk about how badly Courtney Lee played last year, his 3-point percentages (.371 overall) were surprisingly middling. Lee’s contract is unwarranted given last year’s play, but it isn’t untradeable. If this season’s free agent market taught us anything, it’s that shooters have value in today’s NBA, and a team looking at Lee’s numbers from last season could convince themselves that he is a shooter.
Still. $5 million is too much for Courtney Lee, especially on a rebuilding team.
Jordan Crawford: $2.1 million
Gerald Wallace: $10 million
I actually really like Gerald Wallace. As a person. In a vacuum. He works incredibly hard, and he clearly cares a lot, maybe even a little too much. But paying $10 million for a guy who averaged seven points on six field goal attempts per game last year is hard to swallow, and his contract’s stretch provision really only prolongs the pain. This is an awful deal, and if Boston finds a way to rid itself of the bill, it will be an easy decision.
Obviously, this is little more than a thought exercise, but it’s an interesting way to break down the roster. It’s also interesting to note exactly how much damage one or two truly bad contracts can do to a team’s cap space. But all in all, Ainge seems to have done a nice job of limiting the team’s financial problems.
How would you all have broken things down differently?
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.