Welcome to Salary Cap Hell
Posted by Zach Lowe on May 27, 2009
Right now, the Celtics have nine players they have to pay $70 million to next season, and a tenth, Eddie House, who would be foolish to turn down a nearly $2.9 million player option and test the free agent market.
Put it all together, and the Celtics owe the following 10 players about $72.9 million next season
Ray Allen ($19.77 million)
Paul Pierce ($19.75 million)
Kevin Garnett ($16.4 million)
Kendrick Perkins ($4.25 million)
Brian Scalabrine ($3.4 million)
Eddie House ($2.87 million)
Rajon Rondo ($2.6 million)
Tony Allen ($2.5 million)
J.R. Giddens ($1.03 million)
Bill Walker ($736,000)
That’s 10 guys, and the league (basically) demands you have 12 active players on your roster with a max of 15 between the active and inactive list. So there are some holes to fill, and we’re going to be spending a lot of time here discussing how the team should fill them. I know there are some readers out there who likely know the collective bargaining agreement better than I do, so if I’m mixing up my Early Bird Rights with Bi-Annual Exceptions, please let me know.
As Roy Hobbs at CelticsBlog explained in an absolute must-read last week, that $73 million is already over the luxury tax line, which will likely settle somewhere between $68 and $70 million. So no matter who Boston signs and which cap exception the team uses to sign them, the C’s will be paying a dollar-for-dollar tax on anyone salary they take on before next season.
Yes, they have several contracts that expire after next season (Scal, House, Ray Allen, Tony Allen, J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker), but a) they have to resign Rondo, likely at about $10 million per year, maybe more; and b) I expect Ray Allen to sign a reasonable deal to finish his career in Boston. So it’s not like the Celtics are going to be swimming in cash after the ’09-10 season.
Since it’s late at night, let’s keep this post simple and start with three easy assumptions:
1) Mikki Moore is gone
2) At least one of Marbury and Pruitt is gone
3) The Celtics have, maximum, about $10 million to spend to fill all of the remaining holes–and maybe a bit less. So they are going to have to find good players willing to play for cheap, and they’re going to have to sign all of them using the various exceptions in the CBA that allow teams to sign players even if they are over the cap.
To me, the Celtics have three glaring needs on their roster:
1) They must sign two quality back-up big men;
2) One of those big men must be a forward capable of playing some minutes at the three spot;
3) They must find a capable back-up for Rajon Rondo.
There are dozens of ways to accomplish these three goals, which is what makes writing about the off-season sort of intimidating. The possibilities are endless, and it can feel overwhelming (and exciting) to try and cover everything. You’re always going to feel like you’re missing an obvious angle. Off the top of my head, any of the following scenarios are possible. Again, this is me just thinking for two minutes:
• If Glen Davis signs for something less than the mid-level exception (which will be set at about $5.5 million), do the Celtics use the full mid-level on one highly-valued player (Antonio McDyess? Trevor Ariza?) or split it up among two supposedly lesser forwards (Matt Barnes and Brandon Bass?)?
• If Marbury demands the full bi-annual exception (about $2.2 million, give or take), do they dump him and search the Point Guard Scrap Heap for a possible vet’s minimum guy, such as Anthony Carter?
• Does Ainge get creative and trade into a draft spot at which one of the mid-first round point guard prospects (Johnny Flynn, Eric Maynor, Ty Lawson) might be available? For instance, Detroit has been rumored to be shopping the 15th pick to a team will to take on Amir Johnson’s contract ($3.67 million per year over the next two seasons Johnson’s deal actually expires after next season, so this deal is a non-starter, obviously). How about Scalabrine’s expiring deal, the 58th pick and some other goodie (a future second-rounder) for Johnson and the 15th pick?
Over the next few days, I’m going to be tackling one or two of these questions per day, and my colleagues here will be talking about all of this stuff and more. (Check for a Leon Powe-themed post later today).
I’d love to hear any and all ideas from the Trade Machine Picassos and CBA gurus out there. You have an idea for a good trade, an overlooked free agent or a fair offer for Big Baby, drop us a line or let us know in the comments.