One of the diabolically genius moves Danny Ainge pulled last season was signing three players — Phil Pressey, Chris Johnson and Chris Babb — to four-year non-guaranteed contracts. All three are paid less than a million dollars a year until 2016-17, all three have potential uses to a team, and all three can be traded to help match salaries or cut to make room for other players on the roster.
Obviously, these deals are very unfriendly to the players, who live in constant fear of being replaced without any compensation the next season. The good news, however, is that after a certain date, the non-guaranteed contracts become guaranteed for the rest of the season, and as of midnight tonight — barring at trade that Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald said was “not in the works” — Phil Pressey’s contract will be safe for another season.
This is a fairly safe gamble for the Celtics. Pressey is either as good as or better than any of the bottom-tier players remaining on Boston’s roster, and the organization loves his work ethic. Already a stellar ball-handler and passer, Pressey has spent the summer to this point working on his shooting touch — much-needed work, since he shot an abysmal 30 percent from the field, 26 percent from 3-point range last season.
Pressey didn’t demonstrate much improvement on his jumper in Summer League, but he did appear more comfortable finishing around the rim on a variety of floaters and layups with both hands. That will be big for his production going forward: Roughly 30 percent of his shots last season were in the restricted area where he shot 44 percent, well below league average.
If Pressey could bump his offensive game up a little (like, “make a couple of layups” a little), he could become a very serviceable long-term back-up point guard in the NBA. He’s very flashy, a rare young point guard who is creative enough to take risks but rarely makes mistakes. He runs pick-and-rolls effectively, knows what he’s doing in transition and sees plays developing nicely, compiling a 7.7-to-2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio is a top-10 mark in the NBA.
For the Celtics, Pressey fills a need: A third point guard who can play anywhere from 5-to-15 minutes per game for an extremely acceptable price ($816,482 according to ShamSports). Meanwhile, the Celtics can reward a young point guard whose attitude they love and who put in 15 minutes of work per game without complaining last season. If Pressey can improve his jumper, his deal will be an unbelievable bargain until 2017. If he doesn’t, extremely little harm is done.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.