Archive for June, 2012

What Kevin Garnett’s return means for Celtics

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Kevin Garnett arrived in Boston five years ago with the promise of rebirth for a franchise that had grown stale. He was a savior then — plucked from Minnesota for almost half a roster’€™s worth of young players and draft picks ‘€“ and he was treated as such.

On a team of prideful individuals, Garnett’€™s persona stood out as the defining one. Dedicated to the point of insanity and private to the point of aloofness, Garnett kept close watch over his basketball family and kept everyone else at bay. Something changed over the course of those five years, culminating last season in a Garnett that was slightly more accessible and endearingly human.

No one could have predicted five years ago that Garnett would ultimately become an institution, but here we are. He’€™s become one of us: a Bostonian in more than just an address and a Celtic in more than just a uniform. When his contract expired, there was never a question of going anywhere else, it was only a matter of whether he’€™d come back for more.

We have our answer, as Garnett will sign a new deal, reportedly for three years and $34 million, roughly half the monetary value of his last contract, and assuring he will be in a Celtics uniform for almost a decade.

Garnett’€™s new deal sets in motion an offseason that now takes on a defined shape. The Celtics are still contenders, and team president Danny Ainge has flexibility to build the rest of the roster. Salary cap economics being what they are, Ainge is limited to a degree, but he has a host of options at his disposal that weren’€™t as obvious 24 hours ago. (more…)

Grizzlies to make O.J. Mayo an unrestricted free agent

Friday, June 29th, 2012

The Grizzlies seem to be undergoing a little bit of a transition as the reality for the contracts due to Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay are beginning to come into focus. Between them, that’s about $48 million tied up in three players for each of the next two years.

Add in Mike Conley‘s more modest but still long-term deal, and the Grizzlies are bumping up against the salary cap before they even get started, and that’s also getting into luxury tax territory.

In that context, their decision to not extend a $7.3 million qualifying offer to O.J. Mayo makes sense. The decision means that on July 1, Mayo will be an unrestricted free agent and able to sign with any team without the Grizzlies being able to match.

Mayo immediately becomes a target for the Celtics, who are looking to add some scoring punch to a bench that was one of the worst offensive units in the league. The C’s expressed their interest in Mayo at the trade deadline in a deal involving Ray Allen, but they weren’t able to complete the trade.

He will be among a group of five unrestricted free agent scoring guards that includes Ray Allen Jason Terry, Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford.

Mayo will turn 25 in November and is the youngest player in the group. Terry, Allen and Crawford are all defined players, but even after four years in the league, Mayo still appears to have untapped potential.

A starter his first two years in Memphis, Mayo averaged 18 points a game and shot 45 percent from the floor and 38 percent from 3-point range. He moved to a reserve role in his third year and his numbers dropped to 40 percent from the floor and 36 percent from 3-point range. He’s settled into a perimeter-oriented role that may have been a function of Memphis’ offensive design as much as anything.

Mayo also is intriguing to the Celtics because he offers a dimension they’ve lacked over the years: the ability to create his own shot. He ranked seventh among shooting guards who played more than 25 minutes in Usage Rate, per Hoop Data, while remaining a decent playmaker. He’s also a good defensive rebounder for his position.

As it stands, Mayo is a solid NBA player who can help a team. But what if there’s more?

Here’s the tough part for the Celtics. If Kevin Garnett comes back, they will be looking to re-sign their other free agents using their Bird rights. That will take them over the cap and into interesting territory.

One of the main provisions of the new collective bargaining agreement is a stiffer penalty for teams that go over the luxury tax, estimated to be around $70 million. Not only will teams be charged more money (See Larry Coon’s invaluable Salary Cap FAQ for a chart), they also are subject to lesser exceptions than teams that are over the cap but under the tax line.

In plainer language, teams that are under the tax line can offer the full mid-level exception: a four-year deal worth starting at $5 million annually. Teams that are over the tax line can only offer a three-year deal starting at $3 million. The difference in total is around $11 million.

There’s no guarantee that the mid-level would even be enough for Mayo or that he’d want to come to Boston, where he’d likely come off the bench behind Avery Bradley. (It would, however, be an interesting combination, and the starter designation may not ultimately matter if it ever happened.)

Regardless, if the C’s are going to get into the running for players like Mayo they’ll have to be creative. First, by making sure the price tag on their free agents keeps them under the tax, and second, with the possibility of a sign-and-trade. Unless, of course, Garnett doesn’t come back, and that’s a whole other story.

Either way, the free agent class just got a little more interesting.

Danny Ainge on Kevin Garnett: ‘Don’t really have any conclusions’

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said that, with free agency set to commence on Sunday, the Celtics remain uncertain about the future of Kevin Garnett. The Celtics have an exclusive negotiating window with Garnett through the end of June; free agents can start negotiating with other teams on July 1, with a moratorium on signings from July 1-10.

“I’ve been talking with Kevin and his people and don’t really have any conclusions yet,” Ainge said after Thursday night’s NBA draft. “That’s our No. 1 option. One reason is because he’s such a valuable player, and one reason is because he’s the only guy we can talk to.”

The 36-year-old averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game in 60 games during the 2011-12 season.

2012-13 Celtics free agent options at small forward

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Two-thirds of the Celtics roster that came within a game of reaching a third NBA finals in five years joins NBA free agency on July 1. Anyone from Kevin Garnett to Keyon Dooling can leave Boston on July 11 once the league’s audit determines the salary cap (an estimated $58 million). We’re examining the C’s free agent options at each position. Now starting: Small forwards (Also see: Centers, shooting guards and power forwards).

Believe it or not, Paul Pierce‘s ailing foot and Jeff Green‘s season-ending heart problem meant the Celtics began last season with Sasha Pavlovic as the starting three and Marquis Daniels as his backup. Of course, Pierce returned, and the signing of Mickael Pietrus helped solidify the position in Green’s absence. The C’s first order of business after convincing Garnett to return should be re-signing Green. Pietrus seems intent on coming back, but Pavlovic and Daniels will likely be shown the door, so the they may still need one more player for depth.

The Celtics have four players under guaranteed contracts in 2012-13 for a combined $34.5 million (Pierce, $16.8M; Rajon Rondo, $11.0M; Avery Bradley, $1.6M; JaJuan Johnson, $1.1M). Pending decisions on or by Garnett, Ray Allen, Brandon Bass, Greg Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins, Chris Wilcox, Green, Pietrus and Dooling, C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will have anywhere from $0-33 million to spend in free agency.

As a result, expect the Celtics to be linked to just about any and every free agent on the market. Nobody is out of their league. Without further ado, let’€™s take a look at the options that should be available to the Celtics at small forward, separating the current free agent players into three categories.

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Five worst Celtics draft day moves of Danny Ainge era

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

When Danny Ainge was hired as Celtics president of operations in 2003, he inherited a team on the upswing that had just come off of a pair of playoff exits following six straight seasons missing the playoffs.

Nine years later, Ainge has become known across the league for his bold decision-making, something that has helped the Celtics rise back to the elite of the NBA over the last five seasons. But despite the success, it hasn’€™t gone without some controversy and questionable moves.

As Ainge enters his 10th NBA draft in the Celtics front office, here’€™s a look at the top five worst draft day moves Ainge has made and how they’€™ve panned out.

5. J.R. Giddens, 30th pick, 2008 ‘€“ Heralded as one of the best scorers in the 2008 draft class, Giddens simply just never panned out in the NBA. Considered to be a potential replacement for Tony Allen, who eventually left the Celtics in free agency, Giddens couldn’€™t live up to the defensive standards that Doc Rivers stresses and never received much playing time.

It didn’€™t begin well for Giddens, who declined to participate in minicamp after being drafted because he hadn’€™t agreed to a contract. After finally signing, the 6-foot-5 guard was put on assignment with the Utah Flash of the NBA D-League before getting called up to the Celtics in February 2009. He saw very limited action and saw eight minutes during the season.

In 2009-10, Giddens saw an increased role but still didn’€™t see much playing time. He played 4.7 minutes per game in 21 appearances, which even included a start on Jan. 2, 2010. He scored a career-high 10 points and posted nine rebounds against the 76ers on March 19, 2010, as a member of the Knicks after being traded by the Celtics. For his career, Giddens averaged 1.9 points, 1.4 rebounds and 6.5 minutes per game.

Where is he now?: On Feb. 18, 2010, Giddens was traded by the Celtics as part of a deal that sent him, Bill Walker and Eddie House to the Knicks in exchange for Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry. He saw an increased role with the Knicks but chose to leave the NBA after the season to pursue a career overseas. He spent 2010-11 in Poland before signing with PAOK Thessaloniki,  in Greece, where he currently plays.

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Five best Celtics draft day moves of Danny Ainge era

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

When he was hired as Celtics president of basketball operations in 2003, Danny Ainge was asked to bring the team back to its glory days from when he was a player on the team in the 1980s.

It may have taken a few years to fit the right pieces together, but it’s hard to argue Ainge’s success in his nine-year tenure as president. He’s made some questionable decisions, but he’s also responsible for bringing the Celtics their first championship in over two decades. With the NBA draft taking place Thursday night, here’s a look at five of Ainge’s best draft day moves.

5. Kendrick Perkins, 27th pick, 2003 ‘€“ In the same deal that brought Boston one of its most disappointing acquisitions of the Ainge era in Marcus Banks, the Celtics also acquired Perkins, who proved to be one of the Celtics’€™ most valuable additions of the Ainge era. After barely getting playing time during his rookie season, he slowly moved into the rotation and developed into a dominant defensive center who repeatedly shut down the league’€™s best big men.

After Mark Blount was traded in 2006, Perkins became the regular starting center for the Celtics. He went on to start 78 games in 2007-08 and was a big contributor to the championship team that season. He was such a key contributor that in 2010, when the Celtics reached the NBA finals again, his inactivity in Game 7 after tearing his MCL and PCL in Game 6 has been argued to be the reason why the Celtics didn’€™t win their second championship in three seasons.

Where is he now?: Perkins was traded to the Thunder in 2011 in what is considered to be a questionable move by Ainge. Perkins signed a multi-year extension with Oklahoma City and this month made an NBA finals appearance against the Heat.

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2012-13 Celtics free agent options at power forward

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Two-thirds of the Celtics roster that came within a game of reaching a third NBA finals in five years joins NBA free agency on July 1. Anyone from Kevin Garnett to Keyon Dooling can leave Boston on July 11 once the league’s audit determines the salary cap, expected to approach the 2011-12 number of $58 million. We’re examining the C’s free agent options at each position. Now starting: Power forwards (Also see: Centers and shooting guards).

The Celtics began last season with Kevin Garnett as the starting four, but his move to center bumped backup Brandon Bass into the starting position and transformed the team. Both Chris Wilcox (heart surgery) and rookie JaJuan Johnson showed flashes of athletic brilliance as running mates to Rajon Rondo off the bench.

Given his effectiveness down the stretch, Garnett seems the logical solution to the C’s center position, and barring an Avery Bradley-esque leap Johnson appears locked into the back end of the depth chart. That means the Celtics will need two players capable of playing power forward, ideally one who can defend both bigs and another athletic option who can provide an energy boost for the reserve unit. Perhaps Bass and Wilcox are the answers.

The Celtics have four players under guaranteed contracts in 2012-13 for a combined $34.5 million (Paul Pierce, $16.8M; Rondo, $11.0M; Bradley, $1.6M; Johnson, $1.1M). Pending decisions on or by Garnett, Bass, Wilcox, Ray Allen, Jeff Green, Mickael Pietrus, Greg Stiemsma, Ryan Hollins and Dooling, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will have anywhere from $0-33 million to spend in free agency.

As a result, expect the C’s to be linked to just about any and every free agent on the market. Nobody is out of their league. Without further ado, let’€™s take a look at the options that should be available to the Celtics at power forward, separating the current free agent players into four categories.

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