This NBA offseason has been historic. Not because one of the best scorers in league history joined a 73-9 super team. Not because the Celtics finally signed an All-star caliber free agent for the first time. It's because a player like Timofey Mozgov will now be earning more than every Celtic player not named Al Horford. This season alone, Mozgov will make about $1 mil less than Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Marcus Smart COMBINED. Both Thomas and Crowder have chimed in their thoughts on the contracts being handed out this summer via Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com:
"I mean, it's unbelievable to see even certain guys get what they get, but at the end of the day, if it's out there, go get it." - Isaiah Thomas
"It’s an exciting time to be an NBA player. That’s all I can say. I think all the older guys I talk to, my OGs -- Elton Brand and Vince Carter -- they were like, 'Five more years could have been ideal.' It’s a great time to be in basketball." - Jae Crowder
Thomas, Crowder, Smart and Avery Bradley are not oblivious to the fact they are on team-friendly deals. Other than Smart who is still on his rookie deal, they signed these contracts in good faith that their front office could assemble quality players around them. They knew they had a better chance of winning games this way rather than seeking out the highest bidder and joining a crap team. That's a huge part of the appeal with this group. They are willing to sacrifice to win.
However, even though it doesn't appear to be their top priority heading into this season, they definitely have their sights set on bigger deals in the future. Who could forget this awesome quote from Thomas?
Isaiah Thomas on his free agency in 2 years: "They'd better bring out the Brinks truck. They paying everybody else, I gotta get something."— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) July 9, 2016
Granted, he seemed to be joking when he said this, but don't fool yourself into believing he doesn't want to get paid. He was an All-star last season and could very well continue to be. Even Crowder mentioned he would be open to renegotiating his 5 year $35 mil deal in the summer of 2018.
"I make $7 million per year," said Crowder. "I’m not going to be mad at a guy making $10 million. We’re still millionaires. I got another contract coming up soon. Four [more years on a five-year deal], I get to redo it -- three, actually [if they explore extensions]. I’m not worried. Money -- why I am mad? I make millions of dollars. That would be selfish of me. Why would I be mad about that?"
The Celtics have a window of opportunity to either trade for or sign a superstar caliber player next off-season with their available cap space. Assuming the C's don't make any blockbuster moves before the season (which seems more and more likely), here are a few possible scenarios for the upcoming year and following off-season:
1. Boston plays to its expectations and loses to Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals. The same narrative of needing another superstar caliber player resurfaces. Danny Ainge signs said superstar that gets Boston "over the hump" and launches them to championship contenders for 2017-18.
In this scenario, the "team-friendly contract crew" will be very content with their deals, knowing that they have a chance to win a championship.
2. The Celtics play beyond their expectations, beat Cleveland, and compete in the NBA Finals.
Win or lose the championship, in this scenario, Bradley, Smart, and Crowder all likely took major leaps in their game. They could feel like they don't need another superstar to join them and want to fill that cap space by renegotiating their own deals and keeping the same core for multiple years.
3. Boston plays below expectations, loses in the playoffs, and Ainge fails to land the coveted superstar that helps them reach the championship contender level.
This scenario is obviously the scariest and partly due to the unknown. Heading into 2017-18, Boston would presumably have the same young core with Thomas, Bradley and Smart heading on their last year before free agency (Smart restricted) and with Crowder hoping to renegotiate as well. The team will be about the same as it was the year before, not quite contenders, and Danny will be faced with some tough decisions. Whether he should re-sign part of the core or attempt another rebuild centering around Jaylen Brown and the next two Brooklyn picks.
In summary, the decision on whether to renegotiate contracts or not will become clear based on how the team finishes this upcoming season. For now, the team is still in a good place where just one potential move or signing puts them in a contender position. When their winning, contracts become less important. However, if they fail to make that key move and keep getting bounced in the first or second round, players will be unhappy and wonder why they are making less.
Photo Credit: Elise Amendola/AP Photo
Follow Nolan on Twitter @NolanChuck Nolan Connor 7/29/2016 11:57:00 AM Tweet Edit