Much to the delight of many Celtics fans, Rajon Rondo is still on Boston's roster.
There had been a few rumblings that the Celtics might ship out the All-Star point guard on draft night, but two days later, he's still here.
Whether or not you want to build around Rondo is irrelevant at this point. He says he wants to stay and that sounds great, but until he signs a new contract in Boston, the fact remains Rondo will be a free agent in 2015. He would have his pick of new destinations with more proven talent than what the Celtics can offer right now. It's still June and many moves could take place between now and next year that would make the Celtics a more appealing option, but nothing is guaranteed.
You can bet Celtics GM Danny Ainge will be working the phones over the next several months trying to bring in another All-Star or two in order to speed up the rebuild. Problem is, you need a dance partner. The Kevin Love boat is looking like it will either stay in port or sail over to the Golden State Warriors, not making a bearing over to the East Coast. Carmelo Anthony may just end up staying with the New York Knicks or head to Houston or Chicago. After that, the All-Star pickings are pretty slim. What about LeBron James? No.
Plan B involves trading Rondo to get the most bang for your buck. While a deal this summer would help the Celtics out the most, as they'd have a full training camp and season with the new players, odds are Boston would have to show that Rondo is completely over the torn ACL and back to his normal self in order to get the best package. He has to play games for that to happen. If Ainge still doesn't care for any of the offers he gets for Rondo, there may be a Plan C.
From Steve Bulpett at the Boston Herald:
Assuming again they are unable to bring in a major player to pair with Rondo, one source confirmed the Celtics would sooner let him walk away than accept a deal that bogs down their salary sheet just to “get something for him.” If they decide trading Rondo is the best course of action, they will dig in and either get what they need to enhance their rebuilding, or they will let him go and take the cap space benefit.
Many of you might be thinking, "Inconceivable! You never let your best player and captain walk away for nothing! Fire and brimstone!" But hold on, this move would actually make some basketball sense.
Here's ESPN's Chris Forsberg breaking down Boston's cap situation after next season, if they can move Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace, no easy task at the moment, before next season's trade deadline:
For the sake of this exercise, let's assume Keith Bogans and his nonguaranteed deal is moved this summer (and Chris Babb doesn't make the roster, either). Next summer, if the Celtics did not carry Wallace or Green, their current salary projection for the 2015-16 season would look something like this:
Marcus Smart - $3.4 million
Jared Sullinger - $2.3 million
Kelly Olynyk - $2.2 million
Vitor Faverani - $2.2 million (nonguaranteed)
James Young - $1.8 million
Chris Johnson - $981,000 (nonguaranteed)
Phil Pressey - $947,000 (nonguaranteed)
Even if you add roster hopeful Colton Iverson to that mix, it's still an eight-man group at a commitment of approximately $14 million. Early projections put the salary cap for the 2015-16 season at $66.5 million. Now, with salary-cap holds, it's not as simple as suggesting the Celtics would have $52.5 million to play with. That said, the team would likely have a sizable amount to work with on the free-agent market, all while figuring out what Rajon Rondo's future is here.
Boston is on the precipice of having some serious cap space to work with. Cap space is never a bad thing to have. Besides free agents, it can help you in trades by taking on a talented player's contract that his former team doesn't want to pay anymore. This will be key as the new luxury tax provisions of the CBA kick in. Those provisions seriously hammer teams for being luxury tax players for multiple years.
To illustrate the point of not taking whatever the best offer is just to get something for Rondo as well as why cap space is so important, let's use the example of David Lee. Well, maybe not Lee exactly, but a player in his circumstances making his salary. Lee is a double-double machine, averaging 18.2 ppg and 9.3 rpg last season. He's also 31 and owed $30 million over the next two seasons, ouch.
In terms of taking the best offer for Rondo, much like what Minnesota will likely do with Love, some package built around this Lee-type player and a good young player or two or draft picks could be the best deal laid at Ainge's feet. As nice as the picks and young players could turn out to be, you just dedicated $15 million per year for two years to a guy over 30 on a team that is clearly starting from scratch. Not good.
In terms of cap space, let's say Smart develops into a real stud, Sullinger gets his stats into the 17 ppg, 10 rpg region he's totally capable of reaching and all the other players show marked improvement under coach Brad Stevens. Add in whoever Boston drafts in a very nice 2015 draft with a few relatively cheap vets here and there and you have a great young nucleus moving forward. As that core develops, they'll climb their way up the standings, hopefully, and be only a piece or two away from contending. The cap space also helps you hold onto the Sullingers of the world as their rookie deals expire. Now this Lee-type player has serious value for Boston and they have the cap space to bring him in by trade. (Again, this isn't David Lee specifically, so there is no need to point out Lee and Sully being redundant. It's a player over 30 putting up great numbers, but might be getting paid too much by his current team that doesn't want to pay out the nose in luxury tax dollars.)
Would it be nice for the Celtics to bring in a haul for Rondo if they look into trading him? Of course, but this just shows that even the worst case scenario, Rondo walking away next summer, isn't the worst thing in the world. The team would still have options.
@ericblaisdell13 Eric Blaisdell 6/28/2014 06:38:00 PM Tweet Edit