|Celtics free agent options at power forward redux||12.02.11 at 5:32 pm ET|
Welcome to the fifth and final part of this week’s daily post-NBA lockout position-by-position breakdown of free agent options available to the Celtics. We’ve profiled the C’s biggest needs – at center and shooting guard — as well as two other critical positions (backup point guards and small forwards), so we move to the final piece of Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge‘s puzzle: Backup Power Forwards.
The Celtics started this past season with a surefire Hall of Fame four in Kevin Garnett, and backed him up with a Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Glen Davis. The C’s version of assistant to the assistant regional manager rotated from Luke Harangody to ‘We Hardly Knew Ye’ Chris Johnson to Troy Murphy, with a dabble of Jeff Green, who played the four for the Thunder but is more suited to the three on the Celtics. Got all that? Good.
As we’ve noted before, the Celtics have six players under contract in 2011-12 for a combined $64.3 million (Garnett, $21.2 million; Paul Pierce, $15.33 million; Ray Allen, $10 million; Rajon Rondo, $10 million; Jermaine O’Neal, $6.23 million; Avery Bradley, $1.53 million), and should match any offer Green receives — unless another team far exceeds his qualifying offer of $5.9 million.
Davis and Murphy are free agents, and while they might sound like a buddy cop duo from Dublin, they’re actually both pretty darn good for second and third options at the four. The addition of first-round pick JaJuan Johnson — a 6-foot-10 senior power forward out of Purdue — likely makes a Murphy-type expendable. But even with Garnett, Green and Johnson expected to be on the 2011-12 roster, the Celtics should seek one more power forward option, in case Johnson isn’t ready and to leave Green on the wing.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the options available to the Celtics at backup power forward, separating the current free agent players into four categories and forgetting about David West, because that ain’t happening.
|Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo rumors, fact and fiction||11.30.11 at 9:14 am ET|
When rumors started flying that team president Danny Ainge has included Rondo in trade discussions, there was always only one player who could possibly be on the other end of that conversation: Chris Paul.
With nobody to take over the reins in Rondo’s absence, the Celtics would have to land another point guard in return for the two-time All-Star. And considering the attractiveness of Rondo’s contract (4 years, $44 million remaining), that floor general would have to be decidedly better than Rajon Rondo.
In my mind, that list includes two names: Derrick Rose and Paul. There is no way in hell the Bulls are trading the reigning NBA MVP, so that leaves Paul, whose impending free agency puts him on the bargaining table.
Sports Illustrated’s Sam Amick confirmed that notion on Tuesday, citing numerous sources in claiming Ainge “is highly motivated” to land the 2005-06 NBA Rookie of the Year. Colleague Paul Flannery explained why the exchange makes painstaking sense but may require a third team to get done. And Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported the C’s have made calls to the Pacers for just that reason.
The 26-year-old Paul has averaged 18.7 points (47.1 FG%, 35.9 3P%, 85.3 FT%), 9.9 assists and 2.4 steals in six NBA seasons, decidedly better numbers than the 25-year-old Rondo (10.7 points, 48.6 FG%, 24.2 3P%, 62.2 FT%, 7.6 assists, 1.9 steals) on a decidedly worse team.
While Rondo is one of the five best point guards in the NBA, Paul is one of the five best players in the league. That’s why Ainge is exploring the trade. And if it falls through, as ESPN.com’s Ric Bucher suggested it would, there’s nobody more stubborn than Rondo to prove Ainge, me and everybody else wrong.
|Report: Celtics offered Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green to Thunder for Kendrick Perkins, Russell Westbrook||at 7:14 am ET|
Broussard credits sources with the information that the Celtics were looking for another scorer who can create his own offense and thought Westbrook might be available after his erratic postseason play. But Oklahoma City apparently was not interested.
Westbrook averaged 21.9 points and 8.2 assists per game last season. Rondo averaged 10.6 points and 11.2 assists.
|Jackie MacMullan on M&M: Veteran teams play well in shortened seasons||11.29.11 at 1:30 pm ET|
ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan joined Mut & Merloni to give her thoughts on the Celtics and how they will fare now that the union and the owners have come to a tentative agreement to end the NBA lockout. Boston is set to face the Knicks on Christmas day in the first game of a shortened 66-game season.
MacMullan pointed to the 1999 NBA season, which was shortened to 50 games due to another lockout, and how older teams like the Spurs, the Magic and the Knicks were among the best in the league.
“You look at who came out of that shortened ’99 season, it was all veteran teams,” MacMullan said. “The Orlando Magic had one of the oldest teams in the league, the New York Knicks were dragging Patrick Ewing along and of course the San Antonio Spurs, who ended up winning the whole thing. They didn’t do well in those back-to-back-to-back games, in fact they did somewhat poorly, the older teams.
“But over the long haul, you had a bunch of veterans. Do you think anyone needs to tell Kevin Garnett how to stay in shape during the lockout? Do you think anyone needs to tell Ray Allen? And I would daresay even Paul Pierce has figured it out at this point. So the veteran teams tend to do well in these shortened seasons because they know what it takes not just to get into shape, but to stay in shape as the lockout goes along.”
While many think that the Celtics’ window to win another championship has closed, MacMullan said that the team has the ingredients to still be a contender.
“These guys know how to do it, they play the kind of defense that can get it done,” MacMullan said. “The question of course we always have with them is, can they score enough points? Because they really do get bogged down offensively.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.
On what moves the Celtics will make before the start of the season: “I think it will be small moves. They have a core that they can try to go out a win. Don’t laugh, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried going after Grant Hill one more time, another old guy, a veteran that Doc loves and I think would be great in their locker room. They need a big body. My guess is they’ll go for a defensive type of center, like Kendrick Perkins, who’s going to cost them less money. Maybe a Joel Przybilla, his name has been out there. Do they go after a young, athletic guy like Al Thornton? They might.
“I was intrigued with one thing. Greg Oden is a restricted free agent in Portland. We know about his terrible, terrible foot problems. Do you take a flyer on him, one that doesn’t cost you a ton of money? My guess is whatever you did Portland would match it. But I just go all the way back to when we thought the Celtics might have a No. 1 pick, they were in the Greg Oden camp. Not the Kevin Durant pick, and by the way, that’s true of 99 percent of the people in the NBA at that time. So do you take a shot at Greg Oden? I don’t know. I doubt you overpay for him. You maybe overplay a little, but I doubt you throw big, big bucks at him and my guess is Portland would match no matter what. But he’s just a guy to throw out there because if he could at all be healthy, he’d really help you.”
|How the proposed CBA affects the Celtics: Free agency||11.28.11 at 12:01 am ET|
While we wait for the players and owners to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement, we’ll be taking a look at how various parts of the proposal could affect the Celtics. If you’d like to check out the full proposal, SI’s Sam Amick obtained a copy and posted it here.
First up: Free agency
I. CAP EXCEPTIONS
Let’s establish a couple of realities for the Celtics this season. 1. They will be over the cap. 2. They will be at or near the luxury tax.
This is important because there are new realities for tax teams in the proposed CBA, the biggest being the use of the mid-level exception. Under the old agreement any team could use the full MLE amount on one or more players. That’s how the Celtics were able to sign James Posey and Eddie House in 2007 and Rasheed Wallace (2009) and Jermaine O’Neal (2010) even though they were over the cap. They also used what’s known as the bi-annual exception to sign Marquis Daniels in 2009.
Here’s what’s different (quoted directly from the proposal).
- Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception: Set at $5M in years 1 and 2, growing 3% annually thereafter; maximum contract length of 4 years; can be used every year.
- Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception: Set at $3M in year 1, growing 3% annually thereafter; maximum contract length of 3 years; can be used every year.
- Bi-Annual Exception can only be used by non-taxpayers. Amount set at $1.9M in year 1, growing 3% annually thereafter. Exception cannot be used in 2 consecutive years and has maximum contract length of 2 years (same as under 2005 CBA).
Assuming the Celtics will be a tax team, they would have to use the smaller MLE and would lose the ability to use the bi-annual exception. There’s another wrinkle here as reported by SI’s Zach Lowe:
“Every team can use the full mid-level exception, provided doing so does not take the team more than $4 million over the tax line. If you use the full mid-level to get to or approach that barrier looming $4 million over the tax line, you cannot cross it by re-signing your own free agents via Larry Bird Rights.”
So, it seems likely that team president Danny Ainge will be looking for free agent help armed with only the $3 million exception and the veterans minimum to attract free agents. That’s not the worst thing in the world because Ainge would like to keep the books clean for next summer and the last thing he needs is a $5 million contract hanging out on their balance sheet. There will also be lots of veteran players looking for contracts on Dec. 9 who might be willing to sign on for one year with a contender.
II. CONTRACT LENGTHS AND BIRD RIGHTS
- Maximum contract length of 5 years for Bird players and 4 years for other free agents.
- Maximum annual increases of 7.5% for Bird and Early Bird players, and 4.5% for other players.
- Period for a player’s prior team to match an Offer Sheet that a Restricted Free Agent receives from a new team shortened from 7 to 3 days. (NOTE: The last bullet point affects Green as a restricted free agent.)
As before, players can get the best return by re-signing with their teams when they hit free agency. Of the Celtics’ free agents, three have the most value: Green, Davis and Delonte West.
The question for Ainge is how much value do they represent to the Celtics, not just for this year but beyond? One of the late tweaks to the proposal was keeping the sign-and-trade option. Beyond that, teams can use the sign-and-trade mechanism for the next two years regardless of their cap and tax situation. Here’s the language:
- Except during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, teams are prohibited from acquiring a free agent in a sign-and-trade if their team salary post-transaction would exceed the tax level by more than $4 million. The maximum contract length for a sign-and-trade is 4 years, and maximum annual increases are 4.5%.
Davis, in particular, could have value in a sign-and-trade.
III. AMNESTY CUTS
This is a big one to watch because there could be a handful of players hitting the open market who might be willing to go to a team like the Celtics — or the Lakers, Heat, etc.
Here’s the rule:
- Each team permitted to waive 1 player prior to any season of the CBA (only for contracts in place at the inception of the CBA) and have 100% of the player’s salary removed from team salary for Cap and Tax purposes.
The only Celtic who could potentially fit in this scenario would be Jermaine O’Neal who has one year and $6.2 million left on his deal. That could potentially allow them to use the full MLE, but seems unlikely considering the short time he has left under contract and the reality that cutting the only legitimate center on a team that needs at least one, if not two more centers would be a major risk.
Here’s the potentially crazy part:
- A modified waiver process will be utilized for players waived pursuant to the Amnesty rule, under which teams with Room under the Cap can submit competing offers to assume some but not all of the player’s remaining contract. If a player’s contract is claimed in this manner, the remaining portion of the player’s salary will continue to be paid by the team that waived him.
In other words, teams that are under the cap would get first crack at Amnesty players via waivers. That adds a whole other layer of intrigue to the process, but if the player passes through waivers he’d become an unrestricted free agent and you can bet the Celtics will be watching this list intently for unexpected bargains.
Free agency is tentatively scheduled to begin on Dec. 9, the same date as training camps will open. It will make for a hectic period of player movement and with so many roster spots available, the Celtics will be scrambling to fill those vacancies. If form holds, it seems likely Ainge will be looking to fill the roster gaps with a mix of veterans on short-term contracts.
|Irish Coffee: Six Celtics actually play basketball||10.24.11 at 1:02 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
Celtics restricted free agent Jeff Green played with the big boys, and won.
A fixture in exhibition games hosted by NBA stars during the lockout, Green helped former Thunder teammate Kevin Durant as well as LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jamal Crawford and former Boston College standout Reggie Jackson win the U.S. Fleet Tracking Basketball Invitational in Oklahoma City on Sunday night.
Green totaled 21 points, eight rebounds and five assists in 48 minutes of a 176-171 overtime victory against the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Michael Beasley, Damien Wilkins, James Harden and Jonny Flynn. Beasley (51), Anthony (43), Durant (42) and James (40) all eclipsed 40 points.
‘You put guys like that on the court, you are going to do whatever it takes,’ Green told reporters after the game. ‘It was fun at the beginning, then it got serious at the end. It’s great to play these type of games, but we do want to get the season started.’
Green was one of six current or recent Celtics who actually played competitive basketball over the weekend. Here’s a rundown of the other five … Read the rest of this entry »
|Irish Coffee: Top 5 plays by Celtics during NBA lockout||10.21.11 at 2:49 pm ET|
Wake up with the Celtics and your daily dose of Irish Coffee ‘¦
The latest news from collective bargaining negotiations between NBA owners and players isn’t good. Media members can’t decide whether Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck is among owners who actually want a season or ones sustaining the lockout. Either way, the biggest losers in all of this are NBA fans. This list of top of Top 5 plays by Celtics during the NBA lockout goes out to us losers (wait, what?):
5. Glen “Big Baby” Davis seemingly losing to a fourth-grader at the IMG Basketball Academy