Today’s premise (and Danny’s proclaimed course) is reloading for another run with our aging core. In my opinion this is really a 2-year plan culminating in the expiration of Garnett’s contract. Charting this course to another successful run deep into the postseason depends upon a series of critical steps. The first two is 2 swingmen for 2 years, but first Doc Rivers must return. No Doc, and I think the likelihood of Ray Allen returning and Pierce staying drop considerably. Resign Ray to 2 years at 7 to 10 million. No Ray and I think it much more likely that Pierce jumps ship. Resign Pierce to 2 years at $15M/yr. This is maybe the least likely since he will be giving up money and may not recoup it if 2012 is a lockout. Finally the other thing I believe absolutely critical, if the Celtics are to return stronger than last year, is for Danny to be successful in turning Sheed’s retirement into a trade for something positive. This allows the C’s to use the Sheed trade and the MLE to add two primary rotation players. If any of these steps fail then I think all bets are off and Ainge will begin wholesale changes.
I think Perkins will miss most if not all the season. That means that closest thing to a legitimate center left upright is Kevin Garnett. His lanky build is ill suited to withstand the rigors of bumping and grinding with the behemoths manning the center position across the league. Another legitimate center is absolutely necessary, actually two (there’s that 2 again). Pierce and Ray will need to play less, probably much less, if they are to produce at a high level on a per-minute basis. I also think that every roster slot 11-15 needs to be filled with a young developing player and that TWO or more of them must make a valid contribution for the season to be successful. Even if we get lucky with the MLE and Sheed’s-immediately-expiring-contract, we will still need to convince two contributors to come aboard for the minimum veteran salary. These four acquisitions will be difficult because there will be several teams, some with new “star-cluster” trying to solidify a nearly empty roster to make a charge to the playoffs.
One of the flaws in writing about current sports is that today’s current is history tomorrow. Two paragraphs into this and already there are updates that negate some of the points. So far—reports are that Doc is coming back, Pierce is opting out, and Perkins will be out until at least the end of the year (and if and when he returns, at what strength?). So good for step one, Doc will be back at the helm. The retention of the 2 aging star swingmen is still on track with Pierce opting out although it is a good bet that he will want four years. Danny will want two. Can they compromise on three? If Pierce leaves it is hard to see Ray Allen staying so I expect these 2 chips to fall or flee in tandem. The crux of the overall problem is that until these questions are answered it will be hard to chart a course on which additions to make. Once again the premise is that we are gearing up for another run so let’s assume that the swingmen are on board (only in need of significantly more support).
Next criticality is Sheed’s willingness to oblige by allowing his retirement to be preceded by a trade. This is especially important since the best (by salary cost anyway) of the 2 primary rotation additions would be through his contract that would allow the Celtics to take back up to $7.9M in salary(ies) and closer to $10M if you toss in the two NBDL non-guaranteed contracts.. That not only opens the selection up to players under contract but places in a better competitive stance compared to the newly loaded teams who will be limited to the MLE (likely slightly lower than the 09-10 season’s $5.854). It is my contention that it is absolutely necessary that the Celtics make substantial improvements through these eight and five and a half million dollar additions.
One assumes these will be a center and a swingman. Although a center and a lively big man would also be a possibility if you subscribe to the theory that Bradley and Tony Allen will bring enough backup to the one, two, and three if supplemented by min vet or rookie additions. Let’s look at some possibilities for Sheed’s windfall. Charlotte is adamant about staying under the Luxury Cap. They have 9 players under contract and a qualifying offer out to Tyrus Thomas bringing their current commitment to around $65M. They have centers Chandler ($12.7M), Nazr Mohammed ($6.9M), and DeSagana Diop ($6.5M) as well as Thomas ($6.3M) and Diaw ($9M). Who would they give up, who would you want? Golden State is vigorously shedding salary in preparation for an impending sale and still has $53M committed to 9 players plus a lottery pick to sign plus qualifying offers (4 totaling 4.3M) to consider. They have shopped Beidrins and Brandan Wright and have Wright, Randolph, Turiaf, and #6 pick Udoh all stacked at PF. We probably could get Wright and swingmen Azubuike and maybe Morrow (saving GS about $7.7M), would we want to? If the Warriors would deal Randolph in this that might be a real winner (maybe Wright, Randolph, and Charlie Bell?). There is the Michael Beasley option from Miami. There was talk of Derrick Favors being available in order to move Yi (or Yi and Humphreys) from NJ but that ship has sailed with the dump of Yi to Washington—too bad that was my personal favorite. New Orleans is another team dumping salary (or going broke, or is that redundant?) but Okafor’s contract is far too long (like Biedrens and Diop) and too expensive. The Oklahoma Thunder have 14 players under contract and picked up four more in the draft—something’s gotta give. At center they have #11 pick Cole Aldrich, Kristic, BJ Mullens, and Nick Collison along with #31 pick Tibor Pleiss who I assume will stay abroad. Collison or Kristic would fit the salary but the Thunder GM has skinned other management so regularly I’m loath to recommend dealing with him.
We’ve seen some of the desperate salary dumps already occur—the Wiz have absorbed Yi and Hinrich, draft picks traded for a song, finally players waived just to clear their salary. The timing of all this will be a dicey proposition. The big name FA hunt will be over in the wee hours of July 8 if not before. Only the poor trying to avoid poorer will still be in the dump mode. Danny needs to pull the trigger on both the Sheed trade and the MLE commitment as quickly as possible since competition will be keen. With so many rosters stripped so bare there will be a rush on as soon as the big names sign—the winners fill out contenders and the losers realize they are left holding an empty bag.
Before I opine which of the trades I prefer Danny to maneuver, consider the MLE possibilities. It is already rumored that Ainge has interest in the Miller boys, Mike and Brad. These both directly address areas of need, swingman and center. Neither is likely to take the vet min (although if I were Danny I would ask that question just after midnight tonight). Would either or both settle for half the MLE? I don’t think so but it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Bear in mind that last year they pulled about ten and twelve million respectively. Then again neither has played for the NBA Championship, both are staring at the final stages of their career, and while neither fit into a long range plan, both look good for the 2-year window. Unless they will split the MLE it is either or.
I really had a negative feeling about Brad Miller. I think his feisty nature would fit right in but I have serious concerns about his diminishing abilities. Maybe the Sheed experience soured me. After I poured over the lists of NBA centers, much less those that might be available for Sheed’s contract or the MLE, I found Brad may be the cleanest dirty shirt. Brad and pray for Perkins return to full strength, even though that seems unrealistic for this season. My fallback at center is to trade Sheed for Nazr Mohammed who might be best described as serviceable.
If the full MLE is spent on Brad Miller, I then try to trade Sheed for Brandan Wright, Kelenna Azubuike, and Anthony Morrow (although this gives Morrow only 200K above his qualifying offer). Even better try for Randolph, Wright, and Bell.
Odd thoughts: I think the Celtics need to go into the season with 4 centers. If that includes Garnett, then a starting PF is also a need. I hope Parakhouski makes a case and Erden returns to Europe for more seasoning. I would invite Patrick O’Bryant to camp on a make good contract. Maybe playing himself out of the league will have ignited a fire. I would offer Earl Barron a vet min contract. He turned down such an offer from the Knicks but that was the Knicks! I would offer the vet min to Ryan Gomes. [Discuss on CG Forums!]
As always, excellent points. I also am looking for Parakhouski to make a case for himself in summer league. In the videos I have seen of him the guy has swagger and looks like a good prospect. I expect Perk back by January at the latest and that gives him 3-4 months to get his conditioning and game ready for the playoffs when he will be most needed. Hopefully Sheed's contract brings someone good back. Should be an interesting next few weeks.