One thing has been made clear on this site for quite some time: We love Rajon Rondo. We've been saying for quite some time that he belongs in the same sentence with the other elite point guards in the league. He's in the process of getting the keys to the team from the Big 3… and I'm excited for our future.
But that does give the Celtics a decision to make. When do you extend his contract, and for how much?
In many respects, Rondo really IS an elite point guard. He makes passes that seem impossible. He can penetrate at will. And he's always focused on getting his teammates the ball. And he's a top notch defender.
He's still got some holes in his game… at least for now. He can get caught gambling a little too much on defense. His jump shot is much better… but it's not good enough to (a) always make the other team pay for using his guy to roam and double team or (b) give him enough confidence to keep shooting after he's missed a couple of J's. Orlando used Rafer Alston to run a double at Paul Pierce 35 feet away from the hoop, and Rondo wasn't always able to take advantage. I think all this will change in the future, but the Celtics might be able to take advantage of it now.
Rondo's got one more year on his deal before he becomes a restricted free agent in 2010. He'll be making $2.6 million next year. The Celtics have said they want to extend Rondo now… and I'm fully on board with that. I don't want him out on the market in that magical 2010 free agent year when teams with all sorts of cap space will be looking for an impact player. I can see a scenario where someone misses out on LeBron, Bosh, and Wade turns to Rondo and makes a offer too rich for the Celtics' blood.
But signing Rondo to an extension this season might just seal the fate of Ray Allen, who comes off the books after next year. In 2010/11, Paul Pierce will be due $21.5 million dollars, and Kevin Garnett will get $18.8. That's $40 million for two players.
As far as I know, and I'm no cap-ologist, the Celtics have the option of waiting until Rondo becomes a restricted free agent… they can sign people to fill available spots… and THEN sign him. Because they'll have Bird rights, they can sign him to whatever without salary cap implications… but with plenty of luxury tax implications. The risk there, if that's even a possibility, is that Rondo will fill the holes in his game and be worth even more money a year from now.
So what do we do? Do we try to extend Rondo now at a price that we might consider a bargain in 3 years? Do we wait until next year and take our chances with the hope that you can fill some other holes before getting stuck with no cap space? And if you extend Rondo now, how much do you pay him? Just for some comparison: Chris Paul will make $13.7 mil next year, the first year of his big extension. He'll go on to make $15.2, $16.6, and unless he opts out, $18 mil in the final year of that deal. Deron Williams is going to make the exact same thing. Tony Parker with make $12.6 mil next year and $13.5 in 2010 before becoming a free agent. According to the salary cap rules, players can get no more than an 8% raise each year.
I say you do the deal now and not take the chance. I'd start at $10.5 mil for 2010/11, with the full 8% raise over 4 years ($11.3 in 11/12, $12.2 in 12/13, $13.2 in 13/14). Rondo just turned 23, so that means when he's 27, he'll still get a chance at a max deal… so he's not getting screwed there. Kevin Garnett is off the books in in the 12/13 season, so I'd even be happy to make 13/14 a player option year, since the C's theoretically would have a bunch of cap space.
What do you think?
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