After reports surfaced that Rajon Rondo wanted a five-year, $100 million deal, it was widely assumed that the Celtics would decline to re-sign him if he wanted the mega-max contract he would be eligible for. At first glance, Rondo’s prime doesn’t seem to mesh very well with Boston’s rebuilding window. Why sign a max-contract player if you won’t be able to field a competitive team?
I gave it some consideration over at MassLive, where I’ve been filling in for the vacationing Jay King:
“It’s unlikely the Celtics will have to give Rondo the super-max five-year, $100 million deal he reportedly asked for earlier this year. But for the sake of argument, let’s examine what would happen if they did. How capped out would they be long-term?
It’s actually not as bad as one might think. Giving Rondo the super-max would essentially end Boston’s summer of 2015, but Rondo is a top free agent in that class. As mouth-watering as Marc Gasol’s two-way scoring and rim-protecting talents would be on Boston’s center-deprived roster, he’s not coming to Boston anyway.
Per Shamsports.com, Boston could pay Rondo his $100 million deal and get itself down to $66.694 million (before signing its 2015 rookies). That’s assuming Rondo’s deal isn’t back-loaded, which it very well might be — Boston would much rather pay him $23 million in the first year before the cap rises, as it’s projected to do wildly over the next few years.
Keith Bogans’ $5.5 million deal is extremely unlikely to last the length of this year, and by waiving Vitor Faverani’s non-guaranteed contract, the Celtics could get themselves down to roughly $41.7 million before signing Rondo. Jeff Green can opt out of his contract next summer ($9.2 million), but it’s not wise to bank on that possibility. The projected cap is $66.5 million for 2015-16, with a tax level of $81.0 million. Since the Celtics would be re-signing Rondo with Bird rights, and since they would be under the $81 million tax level even if Jeff Green didn’t opt out, they would be able to avoid paying the luxury tax. That’s important — when Boston gets good again, it would rather avoid paying the hefty repeater tax.
In this scenario, Boston would be taking a calculated gamble that its young players will develop going forward. Rondo by himself isn’t going to convince anyone to sign in Boston, but if Marcus Smart can become a borderline All-Star, or if Jared Sullinger and/or Kelly Olynyk can take a big step forward, Boston will be a big piece or two away from being a tough out in the playoffs.
Being a tough out is important: That’s how free agents are signed. In 2007, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen would have been a tough out in the playoffs, which was enough to convince Kevin Garnett to sign on. Mega-top-level free agents like Kevin Durant probably aren’t going to be convinced by a Rondo/Smart/Sullinger core. But Boston could put itself in a good position going forward simply by developing its young talent. Meanwhile, the smorgasbord of picks and prospects will be available if any potential suitors come calling.”
You can read the full piece over on MassLive. I’ll be back to full-time Celtics Hubbing after this week.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.