Evan Turner‘s free agency activity just took an unexpected turn when it was revealed that the New York Knicks are interested in the soon to be unrestricted free agent (According to Alex Kennedy via Mass Live). When Brad Stevens publicly announced how he wanted to bring back Turner, followed by Turner talking about a potential home town discount, it appeared as though re-signing Turner would be an easy process. Now, the Boston Celtics may be forced to decide between spending some of their valuable cap space on a replaceable player, and letting one of their most valuable pieces from a season ago walk.
When it appeared as though the Celtics would get Turner on a bargain, then re-signing him was a no brainer. Even if they have younger guards that are waiting in line to take over, he has a great level of comfort with Brad Stevens and has established a level of trust on both ends that is the result of multiple years with the coach and multiple years figuring out exactly how to use his talents best.
Turner can play with the ball in his hands and can be trusted a finisher in the midrange game and at the rim. Most importantly, Turner’s defensive ability and size was vital to the Celtics’ defensive success last year, and it is still uncertain as to whether or not Terry Rozier can maintain that kind of defense in a bigger role.
The amount of money the Celtics would be willing to pay Turner is further complicated given the upcoming cap increase. What would be considered over paying today will be drastically different once the cap increases. The problem is that the cap increase alone will not be enough to get the Celtics to overpay Turner, simply because he is getting more interest from other teams than expected. The Celtics certainly had a price in mind for Turner, and that should not change because of interest from other teams.
If the Knicks are looking to pay Turner to be one of the key guards on their team for the foreseeable future, then that will put him out of the Celtics’ price range. Turner would likely be one of the most important players off the bench next season, but the more Rozier develops the more Turner will be pushed out the door with a reduced role, particularly on the offensive end.
The Celtics have much better guard depth than the Knicks and if the Knicks have serious interest in him then there is a good chance they will be willing to pay him starter money. On top of the fact that Turner is incredibly unlikely to be brought back to the Celtics’ starting lineup, the fact that his role on the bench is not guaranteed for the long term future makes him less valuable to the Celtics.
The abundance of cap space is not a justification for giving Turner more money than the Celtics feel he is worth to the team. Even if they do not get their max contract free agents this offseason, they need to make sure they do not waste away the cap space that they need to be saving to improve their top end talent.
Brad Stevens did a great job of finding exactly how Turner can impact the Celtics in a positive way. The problem is that his long term potential is not enough for the Celtics to give him the kind of contract that the Knicks may now be willing to send his way. Maybe the Celtics would be willing to give Turner the same kind of money as the Knicks, but that would only be on a short term deal. Turner may want to sign a short term deal to get even more money after the cap increases. Problem is that, after the season he just had, it’s hard to imagine Turner’s value going anywhere but down.
Stevens found a way to make Turner an important and productive player but he does not have the game changing potential that they are searching for. The Celtics have an abundance of offensively limited defensive stand out guards and Turner is the oldest with the least amount of upside.
Losing Turner would likely hurt the Celtics on the defensive end, but it would also give them an opportunity to address one of their biggest needs, three point shooting. Turner’s effectiveness and efficiency is a great tool in Stevens’ system but their offense will not reach its potential without drastically improving their three point shooting.
There is no doubting that Turner has proven his value to the Celtics and his personality has given him somewhat of a cult following with Celtics fans. There may be no better coach for turner than Stevens and the more time they spend together, the better off they will be in the system. The Celtics will certainly try to bring back Turner but the reality of the situation is that he is replaceable, particularly on a team that needs to get Rozier and Hunter more of an opportunity to be a main contributors.
Stevens’ support of Turner may be enough for them to pay out more than was initially expected but if they are as active this offseason as Danny Ainge has indicated, then they may be looking to add better potential and better high end talent this offseason.