(Sorry if this is in the wrong forum. It's pure thought fun, but it is about the celtics.)
Alright, I enjoy thinking about the future of the Celtics.
Obviously, I’m enjoying this season immensely. But KG, Pierce, and Ray won’t last forever. Pierce is 32, KG is 33, and Allen is 34. Historically speaking, the odds of all three retaining optimum effectiveness for the next few years is quite small. Obviously the league has been sprinkled with examples of players staying good late in their careers, but by and large the odds of that happening to three players on the same team is fairly small.
This is why I’d like to see the Celtics offer fair, even generous (for the length) contracts to Allen and Pierce that will expire in the 2011/2012. Additionally, I’d prefer to see no MLE or other contracts past that offseason either, with one exception. This is the offseason in which KG’s contract ends, as well as Sheed’s (assuming he doesn’t turn down the 6.7 million at the age of 37). It’s also the first offseason for any realistic shot at cap space. This, combined with the fact that during said offseason Pierce will be 34, KG will be 36 (with straightoutofhighschool wear and tear), and Ray will be 37, make this an optimal Rebuild point.
For Ray, this means a 2 year, 18 million dollar deal (9per) or so, essentially meaning that Ray and Rondo make the same percentage of cap space this year(18/2), next year, and the year after(9/11).
For Perk, I’d try to extend him for a maximum of 9 mil/year. A little less than Rondo money. Try to get him for less, but lock down your defensive anchor. Incidently, Perk will be 27 and Rondo will be 26 this offseason, just entering their primes.
For Pierce, it’s a little trickier, more sentimentality to balance with basketball moves. He’ll be 34; let’s say he wants to retire a Celtic a 3 year, 25 million dollar deal. Well, I’d say “Paul, we’ve got one more chance with the Usual 5 plus Sheed. Then we’ve really got to retool. So you want 25 million over the next three years, but we want cap space when KG’s off the books. So how about we give you a one year 22 million dollar deal (Bird Rights!), and you handshake agree to sign for the Vet min (or part of MLE) for the two seasons after. That’s 25 mill over 3 years, just with most of it up front and you retire a Celtic at 37 years old or so.”
Hard to see KG staying on at the age of 37 with his mileage. Although if he wants to hang out for the min with the young guys, great (he’s already banked what, 275 mil pre-endorsements?)
So if you notice, we have Pierce, KG, Ray, and Sheed all coming off the books and only Rondo and Perk under contract. We then renounce our bird rights on Sheed, Pierce, KG, and whomever else we’d signed (but not passed 2012!) meaning we’d have about 20 million (Or less if Perk takes less or has a more backloaded contract) in contracts with 35 million in cap room, or close to enough for 2 max free agents!
Now, you can use cap space in three ways: facilitate a sign and trade with another team’s free agent (Players want this because they can get an extra year and bigger dollars), take on a contract for a token (or not so token) draft pick if another team wants to go in a different direction, or sign a free agent outright.
For the purposes of this post, I’m not going to consider trades for players under contract, because then literally every NBA player would be in play. I don’t have the time. But I will consider some free agent sign and trades.
So: who are the free agents that offseason? Let’s break down the possible free agents by type (not a fully comprehensive list; I didn’t go through the second rounders, for example, but pretty substantial):
Class 1: Classic, unavoidable free agents:
Notes: as you can see, most young players seem to have options attached to their contracts while these older players are the ones with normal contracts. However, one name does pop out: Blatche. He’s still young (23 now, so 25/26 in our target offseason) and is a super athletic and ‘long’ PF really starting to come into his own with more PT (as his per minute production has always been good).
Class 2: If they want to wait
(These guys could become free agents in the 2010/2011 offseason, or they could play a year at high salary and enter free agency then. The upside to NOT playing out that last year is that you get locked into a long term contract sooner because you force a team to extend you/bid on you sooner. You don’t actually make much more in that first year, but your security is increased. Thus most often it’s the very good players that opt out early, while the older, overpaid players (players who’d get less on the open market) tend to play out that final optional year and then hit the market. Regardless, these are the players that could come out earlier, or they could wait a year and come out in 2011/2012)
Notes: I could see Wallace, Nene, Williams, and possibly Pietrus, Turiaf, Barbosa and Bell waiting to come out. The rest (Melo and West specifically) would probably hit Free Agency ASAP (at least without some outside influence…more to come). And Duncan will never play for anyone but San Antone.
Class 3: Let’s jump out early!
(Opposite of the above class. These guys could get paid through 2012/2013, or they could opt out and hit free agency sooner, in our target year. Same general rules apply as above, so the better, younger players are more likely to become free agents in 2011/2012):
Mo Williams* (he’s here twice because he has two options/ETOs. He could come out as early as 10/11 or as late as 12/13)
Notes: Big names there. As above, I see Mo Williams staying under contract (would he make 9 million a year on the open market still?). Brand, Arenas, and Nocioni too. I could easily see Dwight opting out (Nelson too possibly), but to restructure with their current team as Orlando will probably still be good and have less income tax. But who knows. Gomes, Maxiell, and Sessions are question marks. I could easily see Paul, Deron, and Louis Williams opting out and hitting free agency though.
Class 4: Restricted Free Agents (aka Will someone please overbid?)
(Basically the entire first round 2008 draft class. Again, as a refresher, these guys are free agents so can be offered full contracts, but if the original team matches, the player has to stay. The player can ask the team not to match (some teams may not want to sign a player who doesn’t want to be there for fear of tanking and sulking), OR can tell the team to work out a sign and trade by threatening the original team that he’ll play out his qualifying option year and hit unrestricted free agency, giving the player a no trade clause and allowing the player to leave after one additional year with the team getting nothing in return; that’s the route Ben Gordon/Chicago took. Or you can overpay so that the original team doesn’t want to match).
Essentially the 2008 draft class (though some will sign extensions before RFA, a la Rondo):
Class 5: Thanks, but I really didn’t want to stay here!
(These guys take the Ben Gordon route. Either they and management couldn’t ever agree to an extension for whatever reason (like how teams are afraid of bidding for RFAs as opposed to UFAs because it ties up your money for a week of prime free agency and the player is getting lowballed by his team) or the player really didn’t want to stay with that original team and knew the team would match an RFA offer forcing him to stay, so he’s forcing his way out of town. In this case the player plays for the Qualifying Offer of his rookie contract (a decent raise over the previous season), gains a no trade clause, and enters UFA the following offseason. So this situation applies to any member of the 2007 draft class that decides their getting lowballed by their teams or really want to move to a larger market/better team):
Notes: Again, some good players here. But rarely do rookies hit UFA. Most sign extensions or RFA contracts. I could see Oden’s situation dragging out due to injury, and same for Brandon Wright. Julian Wright as well because N.O. is a who knows management. Noah and Horford both play on young teams with good players (expecially Horford), so it’s hard to see them opting out. But the prize of this group is Durant. I think Danny should be constantly in his ear (without leaving a paper or electronic trail) about the crowds and fans in Boston, what the small forward tradition in Boston is all about (hey Durant, how do you like the sound of this list: Havlicek, Bird, Pierce, Durant?). That he deserves to be on a stage steeped in the tradition of winning, not stuck in the middle of nowhere. Basically convincing him to take that QO year and control his own destiny. (As an aside, though specifically landing in Boston is a stretch, I really could see Durant wanting out from OKC. I do believe that, though young, that his teammates are not quite going to reach the ceiling some predict. I think Westbrook is overrated and his type frequently fails to live up to the hype. I think Jeff Green gets more credit than he deserves. And Harden’s really looked not that great this year and may lack the requisite athleticism to really be something. They’re having a good year, but I think it’s mostly due to Durant himself. What if he’s finding himself in a Lebron type situation?)
So there we go. Naturally, thinking about the above scenarios leads to some fantasy situations:
Situation 1: Turns out Westbrook is a tweener and Green maxes out at 6th man; Harden turns out to be too slow to be a real top 3 pick. Durant gets tired of playing in little OKC and decides he wants ot shape his destiny. Plus he knows Ainge likes him and Ainge has a few off the record conversations which get in his head; he realizes that he can form a core with Perk behind him and getting feeds from Rondo while still allowing Boston room for another Max free agent with Pierce coming back for the min. So he takes the QO and signs a max contract in Boston. With the rest of the money, Boston snags either Nene or Blatche at PF and someone like Sessions, Bell, Barbosa, Louis Williams at SG. Pierce steps back into 6th man/crunchtime SG role; future is bridged.
Situation 2: Deron Williams wants out of Utah. He’s got the size to defend 2 guards and the shooting touch to pair with Rondo in an ultimate ballhandling backcourt. He opts out to come to Boston, Pierce stays at SF and the rest of the cap is for a Blatche/Nene/David West type and 6th man role.
Situation 3: Everyone knows that the most recent team usa team really bonded at the last Olympics. So Ainge has some off the record conversations with Carmelo and Chris Paul; gets them talking. They see Boston has Rondo and Perk nailed down and Pierce sticking around. They get to talking, and Melo tells Chris he’ll play out his contract and Chris decides to hit free agency a year early (which he most certainly will do anyway). Anyway, they both hit free agency at the same time and unite in Boston. Who cares if CP3 or Rondo has to defend shooting guards? They’d get enough steals to make up for it, CP3 can space the floor on the offensive end with ease, and a core of Rondo, CP3, Melo and Perk with Pierce in there is pretty awesome. I’m sure Rondo could be dealt (3 years at 35 mil remaining) if they need a true shooting guard.
Situation 4: CP3 (Or Deron, but preferably CP3) opt out as expected. Because they duplicate our player, and Utah/NO know they’re losing their best player, they agree to sign CP3/Deron to a max deal and trade him and another goodie for Rondo (since they were going to lose him anyway, why not give up a first rounder for Rondo? That’s a steal, right?). So now we have a core of Perk and either Deron or CP3, with 26 million in space remaining. Enough to round out the roster with another Max agent and another, very good free agent.
Situation 5: What if Orlando starts to stink? Similar to the above situation, but Orlando opts to take back Perk in a Dwight S&T while NO does the same for Rondo; meanwhile either KD or Melo has been sweet talked by Ainge/CP in the handshake deal to play together. So then we’d have traded for Dwight and CP3 and still have enough for Melo/KD. Who cares who the rest of the roster is when the new big three is CP3/Melo/Dwight or CP3/KD/Dwight?
Obviously these situations are pretty far-fetched. I realize that. However, I also think there’s been some shift in the currents, and all the above players mentioned (Dwight, CP3, Deron, Melo, Durant) are all very tight with each other. If given the chance, I honestly could see them wanting to join together and take the league by storm right when they’re entering their primes. And here’s the thing: Simply by not having any contracts go past 2011/2012, we’d be in a position to allow at least two of those guys to play together for great fans on a team steeped in history, really cementing their legacies. Who’d resist that? Sure, depending on the specific situation there may be some roster duplication, but who cares? Great players can play together (I’m less worried about the backcourt than making Perk play the bench so Howard can start because they can’t play together). Additionally, they could always get traded. I think Rondo could play with either CP3 or Deron in the same backcourt, they’re fast and active enough to make up for one of them giving up some height on defense; offensively, it’s not like too much ability to handle the ball at an elite level is a bad thing.