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Ray Allen’s developing market

07.06.10 at 9:44 am ET
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Now that Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce are back in the fold, the next logical move for Danny Ainge is to work out a contract with Ray Allen. The Celtics want him back. They can offer him the best deal, and Allen has said that he wants to return. But it’s not always that simple.

Allen is being courted by the top tier of free agents, namely LeBron James (Ken Berger of CBSsports.com had the details Monday) and until James makes a decision much of the free agent world is in limbo.

James is said to be unsure of whether he will return to the Cavaliers or take an offer from one of the other teams that is pursuing him — the Knicks, Nets, Bulls and Heat. (It’s safe to assume the Clippers took themselves out of the running, if they were ever a serious option to begin with).

If James does stay in Cleveland, the Cavs would only have the mid-level exception to offer Allen and they also need help in the center department. If James goes elsewhere, those teams would have cap money to spend on supporting players, but they are all basically building teams from scratch and it’s unclear how much of that precious cap room they would be willing to use on Allen.

Both the Knicks and Heat are in desperate need of point guards, while the Nets would have to bring along an expensive power forwards to entice James. The Bulls may be the wild card in this scenario since they have a ready-made team in place for either James or Dwyane Wade, and Allen already has an existing relationship with new coach Tom Thibodeau.

In the end, there may not be a huge deal waiting for Allen when the dust settles, but shooting is always at a premium, and Allen and Mike Miller are the two best shooters available in free agency.

So, the Celtics will wait it out. Because they have Allen’s “Bird rights,” they can go over the cap to re-sign him and don’t have to use the MLE. The key for Ainge isn’t the dollars, however, it’s the years.

Allen will turn 35 this July, and the track record for shooting guards that old is not great. The Celtics are gambling that Allen’s commitment to conditioning will carry him through the latter part of his career and he will be more Reggie Miller than Mitch Richmond, which seems like a decent probability.

A two-year deal would be ideal, but with competition for his services, they may have to go to three. Ainge showed his resolve to bringing the Celtics core back together when he went four years on Pierce’s new contract. If he did go to three for Allen it would allow him to go year-to-year with the veterans as Kevin Garnett‘s contract is up after two more years.

The Celtics won’t be able to be under the cap anytime soon when all this is over, but they may be able to reduce their luxury tax bill, which would also make it easier to continue adding veteran pieces this summer or at the trade deadline. There will also be a new collective bargaining agreement in place after next season, which could significantly alter the NBA landscape.

There is much uncertainty around the NBA these days, but the Celtics’ path is clear. It just may take a few weeks for it to come into sharper focus.

Read More: NBA Rumor Mill 2010, Ray Allen,
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