When it was confirmed that the Boston Celtics had agreed to terms with restricted free agent Avery Bradley on a deal worth $32 million over 4 years yesterday morning, a slew of different reactions and opinions came pouring in from different people who cover the team.
From the confident…
To the unsure…
To the FURIOUS…
24 hours later the general consensus seems to be that while the Celtics overpaid a little bit for Bradley, a lot of it had to do with the market and the fact that Bradley is just 23 years old. The injuries are a concern. As is his efficiency on offense and decision-making on defense, but this is not one of those contracts that is going to cripple the teams future. In fact, the Celtics may very well roll into next years free agency with close to the most cap space in the NBA (especially if they can somehow find a way to get Gerald Wallace off their books).
Obviously the cap space the team has next year will be determined by whether they extend Rajon Rondo or not and if Jeff Green picks up his $9.2 million player option. We’ve lamented Green for being overpaid, but given the money wings are receiving right now, he may very leave that money on the table and chase a lucrative multi-year deal elsewhere if he has a decent season.
But let’s not jump ahead. Let’s look at who the Celtics can add to their roster right now. Who can they afford after the Bradley deal? Who can help the team in the short term? Who could eventually play a key role in the rebuilding process?
The NBA, in April, projected the salary cap for ’14-’15 at $63.2 million. By my calculations, factoring in Bradley’s deal as well as the rookie contracts of Marcus Smart and James Young, the Celtics are on the books for about $60,881,726 for ’14-’15. There is additional $7.8 million in non-guaranteed contracts but out of those only Phil Pressey ($816,482) and Chris Johnson ($915,243) have a realistic chance of making the squad. The Celtics are unlikely to go anywhere near the $77 million luxury tax threshold this offseason.
Not that the franchise can’t afford it, Forbes values the Celtics at $730 million and as we saw with the Donald Sterling saga NBA teams are worth way more than these projections, there’s just no need to put yourself in that area when you’re in the middle of a rebuild.
Again, I want to make this clear, the Celtics won’t go anywhere near the luxury tax threshold. So on top of the $1.5-$2 million they’re likely going to have in cap room, they’ll have a mid-level exception of about $5 million at their disposal as well. With rookie exceptions and veteran minimum exceptions in play, the Celtics could spend close $15 million. Again, they’re not going to. The Celtics would be wise to keep as much flexibility as possible for potential in-season signings or trades (though the $10.3 million trade exception we got from Brooklyn helps in that regard).
Realistically, the Celtics shouldn’t be expected to spend more than $2-$3.5 million during the rest of free agency. And even that might be a generous assumption. Someone like Jordan Hill, who become a desired target amongst Celtics fans, is probably out of the question. But there are still a few other bigs the Celtics could afford to bring in and test out.
Ed Davis is a free agent after the Grizzlies declined to extend him a qualifying offer due to their depth up front. He didn’t get much playing time this last season, but the Grizzlies stayed effective when he was on the floor. Davis doesn’t score, but he has outstanding rebounding and defensive numbers per 36 minutes. The 6′ 10″ big man is also still just 25. The Clippers have already reach out to Ed to replace another Davis that Celtics fans may be familiar with. Davis would likely cost somewhere between $3-$4 million a year, making him a long-shot to draw much interest from Boston, but still a nice option on a team that needs interior defense desperately.
There’s nothing special about former Pelican and unrestricted free agent Jason Smith. He’s a 7-footer who struggles to rebound and defend. But he is a deadly mid-range shooter, 49.7% on 2-pointers beyond 16 feet from the hoop last year, and can be had on the cheap. $2 million a year is the likely range for him. With the uncertainty surrounding Vitor Faverani, the Celtics would be wise to consider every free agent taller than 6′ 10″.
You can make your Greg Oden jokes but bringing him in on something close to a veteran minimum would be a low-risk/high-reward move for Boston. When on the court Oden has actually been a very effective NBA center. We know Danny Ainge has expressed interest in him in the past as a free agent. There’s a possibility that Miami tries the Oden experiment for another year.
Greg Stiemsma actually gave the Celtics solid rim protection a few years back. He was waived by the Pelicans in April and wouldn’t be a terrible value if you only have to pay him $2 million or so. I understand that both Stiemsma and Smith contributed to a Pelicans front court that was embarrassing outside of Anthony Davis, but they do each have one undeniable skill.
Emeka Okafor is a polarizing player. He can’t seem to stay in shape and he’s coming off neck surgery. But he’s one of the leagues most effective rim protectors when on the court. Given the way the league values defensive-minded centers, someone is likely to overpay Okafor. I can’t even begin to guess the annual value Okafor will command, it could be anywhere from $3 million to $8 million. The Heat have expressed interest in him. But if his value turns out to be on the lower end of that spectrum, Danny Ainge should at least look up his basketball reference page.
Andris Biedrins is finally coming off the ridiculous 6-year, $54 million contract the Warriors gave him in ’08. That contract made him one of the least-desirable assets in the league over the last 2-3 years. He was waived by Utah in April. He won’t give you much. But he’s a big body that can guard either post spot, and he rebounds. Not a terrible option at the veteran’s minimum.
Yeah, the pool of players the Celtics can realistically dive into is pretty bleak. But that may be a blessing in disguise. After the top two guys this isn’t a spectacular free agent class so Boston would be wise to let other teams throw money at some of the players at the top of the class. Besides, unless they want to fall deep into tax territory the Celtics really can’t afford anyone of note after Avery Bradley’s extension.
The wise move for the Celtics is to bring in a big body or two on the cheap while still leaving at least a few dollars available for a potential in-season signing. We knew this rebuild was going to take multiple off seasons, and while it may be depressing at the moment, the Celtics could be in position to make major moves at the trade deadline and during free agency next year.