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KG is coming back. So what does that mean?

John - Red's Army (@RedsArmy_John) June 30, 2012 Celtics News, Free Agency, Kevin Garnett 20 Comments

Kevin Garnett is coming back.  That’s great.

So… now what?

Lost in the excitement of KG’s return is the fact that this was basically the starting gun for an offseason marathon for Danny Ainge.  He needed a quick resolution to this so he could see where his roster stood, and what he can do to fill it.  So let’s take a look ourselves and see what we’ve got.

Step 1:  The Known

If Garnett’s contract is indeed for 3 years, $34 million, then his starting point has to be somewhere just north of $10 million this year if they’re going the escalating, 7.5% raises.  For simplicity’s sake, let’s just round it to $10 million because the extra little bits aren’t going to radically change what we’re doing here.

The Celtics are guaranteed to have the following players under contract this upcoming season:

  • Kevin Garnett (approximately $10 million)
  • Paul Pierce (approx. $17 mil)
  • Rajon Rondo ($11 mil)
  • Avery Bradley ($1.6 mil)
  • JaJuan Johnson (approx. $1.1 mil)

So the known entities as of this very moment give the Celtics five players under contract for about $41 million.   The salary cap last season was set around $58 million and the luxury tax threshold was just north of $70 million.

Step 2:  Our free agents

While it might look like the Celtics have got about $16 million to spend, they really don’t because of what are known as “cap holds” (a very nice explanation can be found here).  Ray Allen still takes up $15 million in cap space.  Brandon Bass takes up $8 million.  The good thing about KG’s contract is that it takes his $22 million cap hold off the books and replaces it with his actual salary (all Celtics cap holds can be found here).  The holds reflect a number of different possibilities, including “Bird Rights“… which allow a team to exceed the salary cap to re-sign their own players.

Here are the options the Celtics have with their current free agents (Ray Allen, Brandon Bass, Greg Stiemsma, Marquis Daniels, Mickael Pietrus, Ryan Hollins, Keyon Dooling, and even Jeff Green).

  • Sign them, which would remove the current cap hold, and replace it with the player’s actual salary.
  • Renounce them, which would remove cap holds but also give up all Bird Rights. (For example, if the Celtics renounced Ray Allen then decide they want to try to re-sign him, they would only be able to offer him whatever they had left under the cap or part/all of their mid-level exception.  Currently they can pay him whatever they want).
  • Sign-and-trade them, which is a tool to allow one team (the team receiving the player) to take advantage of another team’s Bird Rights (the team trading the player).  For example, the Celtics could sign-and-trade Ray Allen to a team that didn’t have the cap room to offer him a big contract before.  The payoff for Boston is they get something in return for Ray rather than letting him walk.
  • Let them sign somewhere else.  Once that player signs with another team, the cap hold comes off Boston’s books.

With just five players actually under contract, the Celtics must first focus on which players they are going to try to retain and which they will let go so they can pursue other free agents.  Once the various cap holds come off the books, the Celtics can get to work on bringing in other players.   Which brings us to…

Step 3:  Other free agents

Guys like OJ Mayo and Jamal Crawford are unrestricted free agents, and the Celtics have expressed interest in both.  Chances are that once the dust settles, the Celtics will have exceeded the cap.  That’s fine, because at some point, it becomes better to be over the cap than under it.

The cap is expected to be set around $58 million.  The luxury tax will probably stay at the same $70 million.

If the Celtics can manage to keep their salaries, prior to pursuing other free agents, in the lower end of that range, they will have at their disposal two exceptions:

  • The full, non-taxpayer mid-level exception.  That will allow them $5 million to give to one player, or split among other players for contracts up to four years.
  • The bi-annual exception.  That will allow them nearly $2 million to give to one player, or split among other players for contracts up to two years.

A very important note:  The determination on these exceptions is made AFTER the exception is used.  SO…

If the Celtics, after re-signing, sign-and-trades, and renouncing, have a payroll of $67 million dollars, they CANNOT use the entire non-taxpayer mid-level because the resulting $5 million will bring them above the luxury tax.  The Celtics would then use the TAXPAYER mid-level, which would give the Celtics slightly more than $3 million to give to a player, or split among multiple players, for contracts up to three years.

And now… the strategy

The owners really wanted a hard cap in this past CBA (a cap that cannot be exceeded with exceptions), and they sort of created one with the new luxury tax structure.

Here’s why the $70 million will act as a sort of hard cap for the Celtics.

In 2014-15, a new luxury tax structure kicks in that forces teams to pay a “repeater” rate if they have been luxury tax payers in the previous three seasons.  By avoiding the luxury tax this season, the Celtics can set themselves up to pay lower taxes down the line if they felt the needed to in making a title run.

This is where it gets a bit confusing. Larry Coon as the breakdown of the new tax system, which includes repeater rates and all that jazz.  Just know this, by avoiding the tax this year, the Celtics can save themselves millions later on.

With ALL of that in mind…

We’ve got KG, Pierce, Rondo, Bradley and Johnson under contract for about $41 million.  Now let’s start adding players.

  • Jeff Green?  He could be getting between $7 and $9 million.  He’s virtually guaranteed to come back.  Payroll: $48-50 million.  6 players under contract.
  • Brandon Bass? Let’s pretend he gets $6.5 million since that’s around what Glen Davis makes.  Even if the Celtics sign-and-trade him, they’ll get $6.5 million back in salary… so this all works out numbers-wise.  Payroll:  $54.5-56.5 million.  7 players under contract.
  • Our two draft picks, Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo.  They will make a combined $3 million, guaranteed.  Payroll:  $57.5-59.5 million.  9 players under contract.

Let’s pause a minute to assess our roster at the moment:

Guards:  Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley
Wings:  Jeff Green, Paul Pierce
Bigs: Fab Melo, Jared Sullinger, Kevin Garnett, JaJuan Johnson, Brandon Bass

E’Twaun Moore’s contract will become fully guaranteed if he is still on the team’s summer league roster by July 15.  Let’s assume he will be.  That’s about $800,000.  Payroll:  $58.3 million – $60.3 million.  10 players under contract.

Now…

The Celtics, with 10 players under contract, will be at, very likely, about $60 million.  That gives them about $10 million in wiggle room to fill between 2 and 5 slots.

They will have a $5 million mid-level to pursue a free agent (or split among multiple free agents).

They will have a $2 million bi-annual to pursue a free agent (or split among multiple free agents).

These exceptions cannot be combined to give one player $7 million

And they will have veteran minimum contracts, which they are free to use on as many players as they want (here are the minimum salaries, which are calculated based on years in the league)

I don’t know who the targets will be from here.  They could bring Pietrus back at the minimum to fill a hole.  They could bring Wilcox back at the minimum to fill another.  Or Dooling.  Greg Stiemsma’s qualifying offer was just above $1 million, so if that’s his final number, he could be a nice, cheap, young option.  And then they could target someone else with the $5 million.

Notice… I didn’t bring up Ray Allen’s name.  He’s a candidate for the $5 million, but the Celtics would have to make a choice.  Are they going to pay him, and skip the mid-level?  Or are they going to pay him, and USE the mid-level, and just pay the tax?

If they pay the tax this year, it’s the typical dollar-for-dollar deal.  So Ray could still come back if the C’s are willing to go into tax territory.  What that does mean, though, is they’ll have to drop below that tax next season if they want to avoid the repeater tax.

So there are a lot of factors going into just how much they’ll sign guys to.  And, of course, they could get someone like Green or Bass cheaper than my assumptions… which would adjust the numbers.  Still, the Celtics are in a complicated situation.  But with Garnett signing the deal that he did, at least we now know where the team stands.

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  • JimmyG

    That’s really good stuff. Nice Job John. Is Mayo worth pursuing and if so, can we get him for cheap? I think Ray is gone at this point – I don’t think he even wants to play in Boston anymore.

  • Brian

    I’ve been doing the same thing making the numbers work since I fould out KG is coming back. I like all the math, my only wishful thinking would be, that Green will take less then the 7-9 million. He wants to play here and yes he will get a lot of looks from other teams but coming off heart surgery and how much he likes being part of the celtics i’m sure they can agree on a lower salary to make things work. I’m sure if they say, hey listen if we can sign you for x, we can bring back ray allen it might work. Green is a team player so this is possible, but at the same time when you are coming off heart surgery you realize life is short and you want to make as much money as you can while you are still able.

    A sign and trade for Josh smith just doesn’t work 13.2 million, how about for Ersan İlyasova?

  • kg215

    If Jeff Green would come back for less than 7-9 mill or another 1 year deal I am all for it, even though I am not a fan of his game. Originally this past season was going to be his “showcase” season, and then he was going to go after a big contract. After the heart surgery, the question is does he say screw it I want to try to get a big contract actually show what I can do first.

  • kg215

    Forgot the word “or” in the last sentence.

  • WinstonSalems

    They won’t bring in Mayo because they have Avery. Avery will be healthy and it doesn’t make sense for the C’s to bring in a guy (Mayo) who wants starters minutes. If Ray comes back, Mayo wouldn’t have a role on this team.Jeff Green will be a nice backup for Pierce, if he can get back into NBA playing shape. The kid hasn’t played in a year, you can’t expect him to come back in the best shape of his life. That said, i still like their chances with Green coming off the bench. I don’t expect the rookies to play starters minutes, so Danny would be smart to bring back Bass (at Big Baby’s salary range). Bass was consistent all year and it would be a nice balance between him and Sully (who plays more in the post). On paper, this team is looking better than last year’s team. Granted, they are one year older, i still like what i’m seeing and apparently KG liked it, too.

  • RedsLoveChild

    KG for 3 more years…Ainge`s big draft night…the Celts becoming younger, bigger, more athletic, etc.

    What do the events of this past week mean?

    It means Dwight Howard will now view Boston as a signing destination in 2013.

    • frickenWaaaltaaah

      Hmm…they don’t necessarily have to wait until 2013 either.

      Remember, when you are under the cap, you can make a trade where the other team gets a ‘trade exception’ even if they are over the cap.

      So…isn’t it more like this summer is their best chance?

    • Alex

      Stop living in a dream.

  • GarnettsGrl

    Now That’s What’s Up!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love it, so the Heat fans that I know can stop saying that if KG want’s another ring he has to team up with them since they are going to win the next 3 or 4(yeah I’m still laughing also). Now I can really enjoy the fourth. I still would like for Ray to come back…….

  • GarnettsGrl

    I don’t think Mayo’s a bad choice my only question is can he fit into our team concept?????????

  • http://Jackhowland.com Jack H

    The question, it seems to me, is what notable swing man thinks he can take his game to the next level flying around the floor with Rondo. If he’s on a team that needs a center, all the better. Anyone agree? Any names come to mind?

    Do we think Stiemsma would be willing to wear Kurt Rambis style rec specs and knee pads? I think that’s crucial for 2013.

  • Double P

    Very excited KG is back.. low risk, low money. Keep in mind we do have the amnesty clause if all goes south.

    I really think we should move on from Ray and get younger.. oj mayo would be great. I also think we should not Target bass, Jeff green is essential to this working. Maybe a sign and trade with new Orleans for a brandon bass / kaman swap. Works for both teams. So Jeff green, Chris kaman, oj mayo, and reggie Evans. Then resign pietrus and your looking good.

  • paul

    We ought to try to renegotiate with Pierce, longer contract for less money, so we can try to increase our ability to bring in talent that can in turn make Pierce’s life easier.

  • Leonard

    KG is back, Ray is coming. He will not take a $3 million mid-level in Miami knowing that the C’s have Bird Rights on him and can pay him more than that. Add to that he would be playing behind Wade, the relationship with the Celtics, and his family being comfortable in Boston does not bode well for the Heat. Signing Bass and Pietrus will be key; with Joseph being drafted I think it is the end of the road for Daniels and Sasha. Dooling might be safe if no veteran PG is available. Steisma will be coming back so the frontcourt will be deeper with Sullinger and Melo along with(possibly Wilcox). Jeff Green is playing a dangerous game if he wants to be a free agent after missing an entire season. Next season’s team will be deeper, more athletic, and be able to rest KG and Allen more. By the way, Pierce will be healed from his MCL strain and the best PG in the game still resides in Beantown. If they go overseas for training camp(which I hope they do) this team will enter the season with a mission that this year’s NBA title was theirs and they let it slip away. Sullinger will be out to prove all the teams who passed on him wrong(ala Pierce in 1998) and Melo will get the opportunity to learn from KG. Way to reload DA!

  • Tony Allen’s Lawyer

    I dont understand the obsession with mayo. All his numbers are trending downward. I understand there will be some decline as he’s not a starter anymore, but he’d be coming off the bench here too. The guy was ranked 106 in shooting percentage for guards last year. Crawford will be cheaper and better, seems like a no brainer to target him instead.

  • brian

    You don’t need mayo if you can get ray. I just hope they go with someone other then bass. Bob Ryan was on csnne about how bad bass was on the offensive end. A sign and trade for ersova is the way to go. Better rebounding better shooter.

    • Josh

      Yes a sign and trade for ersova with be a steal. Believe Ersan is going to have a breakout season next year, and with is signing we could start the rebuilding without loosing veterans. Also I think we should go after Lou Williams, I think he is way better than O.J. Mayo or even Ray Allen and would fit like a glove on our rotation system. DA should go after Lou Williams 4sure

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  • CoachAJ

    PG: Rondo-VET-Moore Here is where we can be hurt if Rondo gets hurts. Valuable backup is the key, don’t know if Dooling is answer.
    SG: Bradley-Allen-Pietrus This is more than enough depth.
    SF: Pierce-Green-Joseph Resting Pierce could give Joseph/Pietrus minutes here.
    PF: Garnett-Bass-Johnson Resting Garnett should get Johnson minutes in a regular season. The way Popovich did Duncan.
    C: Steimsma-Wilcox-Sullinger-Melo Position should be a 3-headed monster anyways.
    But that is 16 guys and definitely over the luxury cap.

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