Over the span of the last two NBA seasons, the Boston Celtics have gone from fighting for a lottery spot to competing as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Their recent success can be accredited to Danny Ainge and his GM wizardry. Ainge sold high on his Pierce and Garnett duo, potentially landing multiple top-three draft picks.
He then managed to steal All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas from the Phoenix Suns and convince Jae Crowder to sign a five-year deal worth only $35 million. Keep in mind that Evan Turner will be making $17 million a year for the next four years. With all this momentum the Celtics are riding, what is to stop this franchise from getting banner No. 18?
As we know, all good things must come to an end, and so is the case for the Celtics and their salary cap friendly contracts. Both Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley will become free agents in the summer of 2018. Thomas is currently set to make just over $6 million for each of the next two seasons, while Bradley will be finishing his contract making over $8 million per year.
This leaves Danny Ainge and the Celtics with no real options but to offer max contracts to each player if they want to retain both of their guards. Via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE, Thomas has even vocalized his financial plans for when he hits the free agent market
They better bring out the Brinks truck. They're paying everybody else, I gotta get something.
At first glance it should seem pretty obvious that both players are due their max money given their recent play last season. However, it should be noted that maxing out a player like Thomas would be a bit risky for the Celtics, especially if the team fails to bring in a necessary proven third option on the team to put alongside IT and Al Horford (32 years old in 2018).
Who knows, maybe one of the young guys like Marcus Smart or Jaylen Brown develop into that star role for the Celtics and signing Thomas and Bradley then becomes a no-brainer. Yet if that does not turn out to be the case, will the Celtics fully invest five years in an undersized twenty-nine year old that heavily relies on athleticism and quickness?
Being 5'9" is not easy in the NBA. It feels like every game Thomas goes up for a contested layup versus a seven footer and ends up landing awkwardly. Leaving fans to hold their breath and pray that he will get up uninjured. Luckily this was not a problem last season since Thomas played in all 82 games.
Unfortunately, with age comes the wear and tear of being in the NBA. And because of this harsh reality, being the "little guy" of the NBA could end up negatively affecting someone like Thomas more so than others. Though planning for the decline of a talented player is never fun, Danny Ainge is not one to make long term commitments unless he is certain it is the organization's best option.
Without the addition of another proven talent, the Celtics will have a tough time getting through LeBron James and his star-studded Cleveland Cavaliers. The search for that final piece continues and with every passing day, the title window for this current Boston roster that we love so much gets a little bit smaller.
Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
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