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Money talk: Breaking down Boston’s roster

 

If Jeff Green can pick up where he left off last year, his deal will look friendly.

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).

The Good

Rajon Rondo: $12 million in 2013/’14

Breakdown:

  • $10 million to run an offense and be a deadly force in big games.
  • $2 million for his sometimes-gambling defense.

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

Breakdown:

  • $0.8 million for rebounding, especially offensive.
  • $0.5 million for his scoring.

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

Breakdown:

  • $2 million for on-ball defense.
  • $0.5 million for corner 3-pointers and off-ball cuts.

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

Breakdown:

  • $1.2 million for the ability to create offense.
  • $0.0 million for defense, which is appropriate.

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

Breakdown:

  • $1.1 million to generally hustle and rebound.
Good contract? Sure. Impactful on a lottery team? Not especially. But given the friendly price tag and all the work Shav did for Boston last year, it might be nice to give him a guaranteed season since winning immediately isn’t really a priority any more.

The Inbetween

Jeff Green: $8.7 million

Breakdown:

  • $6 million for largely efficient offense, including 3-pointers and highlight-reel dunks.
  • $2.7 million for on-ball defense, with the hope that off-ball defense improves.

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

Breakdown:

  • $2 million to rebound and set picks.
  • $10 million to go away after 2013/’14.

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

Breakdown:

  • $4 million for mid-range jumpers
  • $2.75 million for solid on-ball defense without much rebounding or help defense

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

Breakdown:

  • $1.3 million to be very, very tall.
There is a solid chance Fab Melo never plays more than garbage minutes for the Celtics, unless they are way more serious than we anticipated about tanking. And although Fab’s contract is a rookie contract, he’s essentially making the same money as Jarod Sullinger. But since Sully is so underpaid, we’ll consider it even.

The Bad

Keith Bogans: $5.1 million

Breakdown:

  • $5 million for somewhat-solid-but-deteriorating defense.
  • $0.1 million for offense and rebounding.

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

Breakdown:

  • $2.2 million for scoring and 3-point shooting.
  • $1.0 million for defense.
  • $2.0 million in the hopes that he improves this year.

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

Breakdown:

  • $1.5 million for shot creation and 42% shooting.
  • $0.6 million for surprising court vision.
Crawford’s deal isn’t indefensible since it’s not expensive by any means, but it isn’t particularly good. His assist to turnover ratio was fineish (2.5/1.6), but his shot selection was predictably mediocre, and his 3-point shooting was painfully bad.

The Indefensible

Gerald Wallace: $10 million

Breakdown:

  • $10 million for trying really REALLY incredibly hard and rarely succeeding.

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.

  • Wes

    Nice Post! I really hope we can dump KB's 5 mill. I think Wallace will be better than most think. That Nets system was not good for him. I'm not saying he is worth 10mill, just saying he will be a lot better than last year.

    • thehumburger

      Seeing as his game was always predicated on his athleticism–good defense, rebounding, slashing to the rim–and he's at an age where players' athleticism seriously declines, I doubt he will be A LOT better. But hopefully with Rondo dishing him the ball he can at least get his FG% back above 40%.

  • Banner18

    Off topic but I never found an answer as to why Reggie Evans was swapped with Brooks in this deal?

    • Ray

      My guess would be because Evans is more valuable to a contending team (veteran bench player with one incredible skill) while Brooks is more valuable to a rebuilding team (young with potential).

  • Sam-I-Was
    • hax

      I'm sure the Warriors would love to give up the best shooter of all time for some random benchies.

      • Sam-I-Was

        I can dream, and I can post. I am hoping both are visions of a warped future.

  • Phil

    This is an interesting idea, but looking at a team of players individually misses the entire point of the salary cap. It's kind of irrelevant how defensible each deal is. If you put together a team of 'defensible' contracts, you're looking at an early exit to the playoffs. You have to factor in how each person's skills and salary relate to their position on the team. That complicates things exponentially, but value isn't exactly a one paragraph topic.

    Bass' contract may match his value (a jump shooting big man has value in today's NBA,) but if you do have him, you also have to pay an average of 10m+ for a starting PF since he can't do that if he can't defend or rebound. 6.75m for Bass is defensible, but it's really bad when it's that 6.75m + another good big man. It's not that Bass is a bad value in a vacuum, it's paying a PF 6.75m (almost 10% of the luxury tax,) to do one thing of mid-tier importance is a stop on the path to cap hell.

    It also seems wrong to ignore age and potential in these breakdowns. Guys like Bass look worse when you factor in that they're not gonna get better. Ideally you pay more for guys in their early twenties and less for guys 30+. That's the step that most teams miss though, which is how you end up with Gerald Wallace. It's amazing how much better teams' track records would be if they obeyed one simple rule; no 8-12m dollar contracts to guys over 28.

  • hax

    I like every contract here, except Bass-Wallace-Lee. I believe there are teams interested in Lee & Bass. If we can get an expiring contract for them, then Wallace will be the only contractual issue going into 2014-2015 season. Hopefully Wallace shows he can play good 6th man basketball, and a 4th seed contender gives us a 2nd round pick for him. Still don't believe it's a tanking season. We've been stuck with a very bad offensive coach leaving the team around 500 for the last few years, before the 'superstars' made long play-off runs. Brad Stevens knows how to win with lesser talent, and we have plenty of talent & one of the best benches in the league.

  • hax

    I don't believe in the 'contract breakdown' stuff btw. We don't pay Rondo money to get assists, we give him money to be the best PG in the league and lead our team to the 2nd round of the play-offs on his back.

  • Ray

    A couple of quibbles. Your Pierce vs Humphries comparison ignores that the Cs could have chosen to pay Pierce $15M to do the same thing (come off the books next year).

    Second, you do realize that Fab and Sullinger were taken back to back in the same draft and are therefore on nearly identical rookie contracts? So I'm not really sure what you are getting at when analyzing Melo's contract.

  • Tos

    Ray,

    He is saying that since, in his analysis Sully is underpaid, the money due to Fab is essentially a wash.

    The thing is, that way of thinking suggests that the C’s wasted their second 1st round pick, which so far looks like they did.

  • Jorde

    I wouldn't categorize Bass as even a solid on-ball defender. It's true that when Bass guarded Carmelo initially in the playoffs, Carmelo missed some shots. I thought most of them was Carmelo doing it to himself by choosing to pull up for jumpers even after he had beaten Bass off the dribble. Afterward, Carmelo adjusted and had his way with Bass, including sticking his beloved pull up jumpers. There is just no way Bass is an above average individual defender.

    At any rate, rebounding and overall team defense are prerequisites for bigs. A big whose ONLY skill is shooting mid-range jumpers is a cartoon of a player. The least important skill for a big maybe a mid-range jumper. A team wins in spite of Bass' rebounding, passing and defensive shortcomings.

  • Jorde

    Nick Collison is going to make 2.5 and 2.2 million the next two seasons. While he does have some offensive value in terms of being a very good pick and roll finisher and passer, his value is largely tied up in defense. There is no way the value of Bass' defense equates to what Collison does defensively. Admittedly Collison is very underpaid but I just want to further point out that Bass getting paid anything for defense is outrageous. He should be giving money back for all the rebounds he fails to corral and all the times he fails to step in for a charge when he's in perfect position.

    Bass is Udonis Haslam without the above-average rebounding and willingness to take charges yet Bass is going to make 2-3 million more than Haslam. A championship team has role players like Haslam. They don't have role players like Bass.

  • http://www.twitter.com electa rosana

    rondo and sully are underpaid and humphries is overpaid

  • Geo

    It seems these days that the lines between center and power forward are very blurred, there are very few PF's in the mold of KG and Duncan that truly work to master their back to the basket post game. I am intrigued by a rotating PF of Olynyk, Shavlik (if he is signed), bass and centers Sully (i know, but with size at PF the rim can be protected), Humphries, Colton if signed, and Melo. I really think the league is going to be heavy on Zone defense this year, and especially with our new coach coming from NCAA, we might see a 2-3 or 1-3-1 go into effect, and we have the youth and athleticism now to execute consistently, plus, all of our bigs besides melo can shoot.
    if lee, brooks and bradley can be consistent on hitting the three we might really have something here

  • ghoulbuns

    Hax …you claim Boston has one of the best benches in league. You can't be serious…this team has no depth.

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