While opening night is looming for the Boston Celtics on October 30th, another big day is around the corner for the Celtics’ front office. October 31st is a cutoff date around the NBA, not only to agree to extensions with third-year players, but also for teams to exercise team options on players with two years of service.
Some of the decisions awaiting Danny Ainge have received plenty of attention already (Avery Bradley) but a few (Marshon Brooks, Jared Sullinger, Jordan Crawford) have flown under the radar. So let’s take a step back and look at all of the questions needing to be answered, with a few guesses about how Ainge will end up handling each player.
Salary cap situation
In order to make an accurate assessment of all of these players, it’s important first we understand what kind of position the C’s are in, in relation to the salary cap next summer. For a rebuilding team, these future decisions are crucial since making the wrong choice will further inhibit the flexibility a team may have moving forward to make a move via trade or free agency, by tying up valuable cap space on a player that may end up being unneeded.
Looking ahead to the 2014-15 season, the Celtics at the moment have 47.7 million dollars of guaranteed money committed to seven players (Rondo, Wallace, Green, Olynyk, Faverani, Lee, Bass). In addition the C’s have Keith Bogans and Phil Pressey on the books (in non-guaranteed contracts), but a portion of those two contracts may be guaranteed as well (but you can bet Bogans 5.2 million dollar unguaranteed salary for next year will be dealt or waived).
So that’s the baseline we have to start with. Even with that 47 million dollar number, it leaves the C’s with a little bit of cap room (expected cap should be around 60 million in 2014-15) but not a significant number, not enough to go after a max free agent once the salaries for C’s future draft picks are factored in the equation.
Ainge has reason to be cautious with any decision he makes on the future of these guys. For a team to have the full flexibility to make an impact on the free agent or trade market, they need some room to maneuver with, since the ability to take on additional salary with a prospective trade partner is a major weapon.
Now let’s take a look at each player awaiting a decision on a team option in the coming days.
We’ll start with the easiest decision for Ainge. Despite his back injury, Sullinger proved to be a valuable sub in his minutes last season, providing a boost off the bench with his timely offensive rebounding and offensive touch. There are improvements to be made, especially on the defensive end, but with a team option of 1.24 million dollars awaiting him for next season, there’s no doubt Ainge will pick up this option.
Decision: Option will be picked up.
This one will be a tricky one to figure out for Ainge. The 25th overall pick of the Celtics in the 2011 NBA draft has showed flashes of brilliance in his brief NBA tenure on the offensive end, but has managed to maintain a consistent rotation spot in Brooklyn the past couple seasons. His defense is iffy and his undersized frame makes him a liability on that end of the floor the majority of the time.
Boston holds a reasonable 2.2 million dollar option on the former Providence star for next year. Ideally, Ainge would have some time to see Brooks’ operate in Stevens’ system during the season before making a final call on him. However, he will only have preseason to work under and Brooks didn’t do much to improve his case there. Given how overcrowded the Boston backcourt is right now, I can’t see them committing to Brooks for next year at that number, even though it’s fairly reasonable and he could be used as a trade chip. My guess is they are more likely to try to find a taker for him this season.
Decision: Option unlikely to be picked up.
Our final two players can negotiate extensions with the C’s up to October 31st. After that, they will head into free agency next summer as restricted free agents, as long as the C’s put forth a qualifying offer on them next summer. So is there any chance of an extension with either guy?
There have been more downs than ups in Crawford’s brief Boston tenure thus far, but he showed off as being one of the few capable point guards on this roster before Rajon Rondo’s return. With that said, it’s important to keep in mind we are talking about Crawford here, a career 40 percent field goal shooter and 30 percent 3-point shooter. Would you want to commit long-term to a guy like that right now? My guess is the C’s won’t either.
Decision: No extension will be reached.
Tom and Michael have covered this at length, so I’ll be brief here, while encouraging you to check out both of those posts. Long story short on this one for me: unless Ainge can find some Kendrick Perkins type-value (back, you know, when he could move) when he inked the center for a four-year 16 million dollar deal back in 2006, I don’t think we see Avery getting his extension. Bradley has his share of question marks, but he’s an elite NBA defender right now, which is more than you could say for Perk when he signed his deal.
I can’t see Ainge willing to commit more than 5-6 million per year to Bradley right now, and Avery’s agents know that with a breakout season, he’s likely to command more than that on the open market.
Decision: Possible, but unlikely to see extension.
All in all, less is more when dealing with the C’s future right now. Role players don’t command as much money as they used to in today’s NBA and that’s what will keep Ainge from committing to all of these guys (except Sullinger) beyond this season.