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You may have read that the Boston Celtics' Isaiah Thomas made All-NBA this year - second team in fact - but who did not make the team could end up impacting Boston's future much more than this recognition ever will.


This is because the new Collective Bargaining Agreement coming into effect this summer will allow players who meet certain benchmarks (such as being named All-NBA, but also Defensive Player of the Year or Most Valuable Player, but is also on a team that controlled his rights under a rookie deal, among other criteria) to sign a "mega" extension - known as the Designated Veteran Player Exception or DVPE - which was created with the intent of aiding owners to provide players an incentive to remain with the team long-term should they be a transcendent talent. Unfortunately, as these things can sometimes do, it seems to have had the opposite of its intended effect in the smallest of sample sizes we have to date, that of DeMarcus Cousins' experience with the Sacramento Kings. Cousins, a volatile talent to say the least, was deemed too risky of a player to tie the franchise to for a five-year period and 35% of a team's available salary.


Probably, this was the right move for the Kings given the details of the situation - shockingly enough, given the team's recent history - but it was also very instructive to the league, particularly when considering the fact that many teams made poor decisions when the cap rose via an injection of revenue from a major broadcasting deal last year. Now, the cap, which many teams believed would only continue to rise, has jogged back a bit, placing teams in something of a bind after several pegged their contract deals - Boston included - and long term plans to the more robust projections. Some teams, again, including the Celts - were wise enough with the deals they signed in that era that moving salary should not be a major problem. For others, however, very tough decisions are playing out this summer, now compounded by the possibility of players being tied to the franchise for longer and more money than ever - or top-tier talents suddenly and often unexpectedly becoming available on both the trade and free agency markets due the DVPE with only a handful of teams able to deal for them.


The proximity to the word "dupe" is not lost on me here - more than a few teams may end up resistant to being "DVPED" this summer, and other teams may find themselves beneficiaries of not just cultivating fiscal liquidity in terms of roster construction, but also of the poor management - or near misses - of other clubs who were unwilling to be DVPED...or found themselves unable to be. The latter status, clubs who will not be allowed to offer the deal to current players soon to head into free agency, could very well decide the course of Boston's free agency decisions. Players like Paul George, who had his agent leak his desire to stay with the Indiana Pacers or to join the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency (but recently seemed to signal interest in Boston as well on Twitter), and Gordon Hayward, whose Utah Jazz are facing the stresses at a moment of reducing cap space while also now being able to offer substantially more guaranteed money, are both in the situation where a team like the Celtics, flush with assets and more fluidity than any other contending team in the near- and long-term future, may represent either prospective Celtic's best shot at a ring in their prime now.

Then, on the other side of things, is the list of players who could sign such a deal. Will financial or temporal matters force the front office of one of the very short list of players - just four, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, and James Harden - who will qualify for the deal to make a painful but necessary move as a result? It's hard to say, given the move might be to move another player, or that player if their is time enough left on their contract to warrant it. Age may be the reason, given the five-year term of the deal, but so might money, given the issues discussed above - and in some situations, it could be both. We could also see some stars sign these deals, only to be flipped in a season or two, so that the peak value is extracted but then moved to more desperate teams before father time comes to collect his due from their performance.


For example, Westbrook, who will be 29 for most of next season and heavily relies on athleticism for his success, will be closer to 40 than 30 by the time his deal ends. The small-market Oklahoma City Thunder cannot trade him without returning a similarly stellar talent (and possibly not even then given the backlash they'd be subjected to), yet face the prospect of either agreeing to fork over the largest part of their available payroll to a more-than-likely middling player by the end of the deal - or have him walk for nothing should the extension not be offered. No easy path there, but it doesn't stop there. The likely source of the exception, Kevin Durant's exit to the Golden State Warriors, may force a similarly difficult decision tree into action. Curry, his teammate and once-head honcho of the club until KD's arrival, cannot afford to pay both him and Durant the maximum salaries they can fetch as free agents AND field a competent roster unless someone takes a paycut. If Curry takes this deal, it will likely have to be Durant to take the cut, and unless they win it all, that prospect seems dubious at best.

There's also of course the issue of whether Curry's ankles and general performance will be worth the DVPE by the end of the term, though Curry's game, reliant on shooting, should retain more value long-term. For Harden and Wall, age is less of an issue at 27 and 26 respectively, but both teams look to be over the cap already next season, making improving after earlier-than-desired exits exceedingly difficult for their respective clubs should they sign these deals. For Washington, which will likely be in the tax by 2018-19, the money may be too much to spend, especially with several years remaining on Wall's current deal, a relative bargain at $18 million next season. With Bradley Beal locked up until the 2021-22, moving Wall for talent and assets closer to Beal's age may be the wiser path - IF the club is willing to test the wrath of its fanbase, which is assured to be substantial, to say the least.


Ultimately, it's still much to early to say exactly how the new CBA and the DVPE will affect Boston's summer plans. But with such massive sums of money and long stretches of time for them to impact club's futures, anything is possible - so expect the unexpected.

For more articles on CelticsLife about the DVPE, click here. For more by Justinclick here.



Photo via Robert Scheer/Indy Star
Data via Basketball-reference.com
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn

Justin Quinn 5/19/2017 01:05:00 PM Edit
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