The Posey Decision: One Year Later
Posted by Zach Lowe on Jul 22, 2009
We all miss James Posey. I’d guess that a majority of Celtics fans view Danny Ainge‘s decision to bow out of the Posey bidding as a bad one, possibly the worst choice Ainge has made since taking over the C’s basketball operations earlier this decade. Ainge committed to offering Posey only a three-year deal worth the mid-level exception; when New Orleans tacked on a fourth season, Ainge wouldn’t match, and we all wondered whether it was really worth losing a key cog in a championship team over one year and 6 million measly dollars.
A year later, it’s time to ask: Does the signing of Rasheed Wallace (and, to a lesser extent, Marquis Daniels) change your perception of Ainge’s decision on Posey? I think it should. Because right now, for this team, I’d rather have Rasheed Wallace than James Posey, and the C’s would not have had the mid-level free to use on Wallace had they reserved it for Posey.
(Side note for collective bargaining agreement fans: If I’m reading the CBA right, the C’s did have the right to go over the cap to sign Posey without using their mid-level, but since they did not have Bird Rights on Posey, they could only offer a 20 percent raise on Posey’s 2008 salary plus future 8 percent raises–less than other teams could offer with their mid-level. So the C’s would have had to use their mid-level to sign Posey, even though he was technically their own free agent. End side note).
Let’s put aside for a second that Posey is 32, coming off his worst statistical season since 2006 last year and fits the profile of a type of player who tends to decline quickly in this early- and mid-30s, according to a piece John Hollinger wrote last year criticizing the Hornets’s decision to sign Posey. With Kevin Garnett’s knee a potential problem for the rest of his career, the Celtics need a Wallace-type more than they need a Posey-type, and that’s even before considering that Marquis Daniels can at least approximate Posey’s unique value to the team (if not his three-point shooting).
Ainge took a one-season gamble in 2008, and it (sort of) failed. He believed, correctly, that it would be unwise to tie up the team’s mid-level exception (its only real source of financial flexibility) in an aging perimeter player, even if that stance placed a larger burden on Tony Allen. If the team couldn’t find a better wing player than Allen, then it would be up to Allen to assume the role of Paul Pierce’s main back-up and ace defensive specialist. If he couldn’t step up, perhaps increased production from Big Baby, Leon Powe, Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo could keep the team at a championship level.
It was certainly a gamble. But you know what? It might have worked had Kevin Garnett stayed healthy. He didn’t, and with a knee that is likely in the early stages of an arthritic condition, the Celtics need to be very careful with KG going forward. Yes, Wallace is older than Posey, and, yes, he also put up some of the worst numbers of his career last season. But for this team, right now, I’d rather have an aging and declining Wallace than an aging and declining Posey. Especially with Daniels on board.
Look, I love James Posey. I’ll always have an affection for him. He hit monstrous shots in the playoffs, his three-point shooting and excellent defensive rebounding make him a more valuable player than the average 41 percent shooter and he is as entertaining a role player as their is in the league–in every sense. From his ridiculous pre-game hugs, to his occasional dirty frustration foul, Posey is the classic guy that is completely irritating to fans of every team but the one he’s on.
I attended a Raptors-Hornets game in Toronto last year, and I warned the girl I was with–not a basketball fan–that I would be cheering loudly for Posey every time he did something good. He ended up knocking down six three-pointers and finishing with a 20-10 line in a New Orleans win, and some young Raptors fans behind me yelled at me to sit down at one point because I was standing and clapping after each Posey three. (I turned and applauded at them, and they had nothing further to say). He also delivered a hard foul on a Raptors player (I can’t remember which one) who was streaking down the lane for what appeared to be an open lay-in. It was clearly an intentional foul.
I applauded. My companion for the game said something like: “That was mean. And doesn’t the other team get free throws now? So how is that a good thing?” I tried to explain about protecting the rim, sending a message to his teammates, etc. I’m not sure she got it. She did not come away a Posey fan.
This is just to prove my Posey-love credentials, I guess. I love the guy, and I’d love to get him back in a trade using our expiring deals–something the Hornets are unlikely to do, I’d guess. But I think we should all consider Ainge’s decision to let him go more carefully than we did at first in light of recent signings.