The offseason is here for the Boston Celtics, and in just a couple of months, they will begin the process of putting next year’s team together. We will take a look at the current Celtics and try to figure out what to do with each of them. We continue today with Rajon Rondo.
The injury seemed innocuous enough. Rajon Rondo landed somewhat awkwardly on his right leg in a late January game against the Hawks, but he seemed to shake it off and he even continued playing on it. We’d later find out that it was a torn ACL, and Rondo’s season was over.
What ensued provided fodder for both sides of this Rondo argument. The Celtics immediately ripped off a 7-game winning streak, and won 14 of 18 after Rondo’s injury. The Celtics were suddenly better without him, and that prompted many to call for him to be shipped out.
Then came the playoffs, in which the Celtics offense devolved into a discombobulated mess. It was so bad, even the loudest “better without Rondo” voices had to eat crow. Each side is staking its claim.
So what do we do with the guy? Here are the options… all two of them
Rondo’s been mentioned in a million trade rumors, so it would be no surprise to hear more. Rondo’s salary next year is $11,954,545.
Because the Celtics are a taxpaying team, they can take back 125% of the outgoing salary, plus $100,000…. or $15,043,181.
If the Celtics shed enough salary, say, with the release of Paul Pierce, and they get under the tax, they can take back 150% of the outgoing salary, plus $100,000…. or $18,031,817.
Things to keep in mind:
- Whether the Celtics are a taxpaying team is determined by what the team salary would be AFTER the trade. If they get under the tax line before any trade, deal Rondo for enough additional salary to put them OVER the line, they’d only be allowed to take back 125%.
- The Celtics only have so many roster spots available. Depending on what other moves are made ahead of time, a multiple player for Rondo deal could get complicated.
- There are a number of players with “trade kickers.” Sham Sports has a list of them here. So if you’re thinking about a deal for Anderson Varejao, who makes $9 million next year… he’ll get a 5% bump in pay.
- A sign-and-trade deal for someone like Chris Paul this summer is immensely complicated: Via CBAfaq.com:
- Starting in 2013-14, the team receiving the player cannot be above the “apron” ($4 million above the tax level) after the trade
- Starting in 2013-14, the team cannot receive a player in a sign-and-trade if they have used the Taxpayer Mid-Level exception
Assuming Chris Paul will get a max deal, the Celtics will have to throw in other pieces to make a deal work. But they’d also have to pare down salary to make sure they’re not above the apron. That would almost certainly involve waiving Pierce, as well as waiving other non-guaranteed guys like Shavlik Randolph and Terrence Williams.
The Celtics could also choose to deal Rondo for more than one player. One argument being made right now is for the Celtics to bring back a couple of quality role players in a trade, and Rondo is by far the most valuable trade asset the Celtics have. The Celtics don’t necessarily HAVE to get a star player in return for Rondo.
We all know Danny Ainge will explore options when it comes to his entire roster, and he should. Rondo is the most valuable asset for the Celtics, so you naturally have to wonder if he’s worth moving.
Ainge could simply decide to ride out Rondo’s deal. He’s due about $12 million next year and $13 million in the 2014-15 season. When you compare that to other top point guards in the league, it’s a pretty good deal. In this new financial climate where avoiding taxes is getting critical, having an All Star player making a few million less than his comparable counter parts is more valuable than ever.
Let’s say it’s your opinion that Deron Williams, for example, is better than Rondo. Williams will make just under $18.5 million next season. That’s $6.5 million that gets you closer to, or over, the tax line. This is where all the other moving parts of the roster really come into play. If the Celtics DON’T clear the cap space occupied by Pierce or Garnett, then moving Rondo and taking back additional salary will be a tough pill for ownership to swallow.
The tax line last season was $70.3 million. The Celtics payroll, as is, is $76 million next season. The dollar-for-dollar luxury tax days are gone. So instead of a $5.7 million tax bill, the Celtics will pay $9,975,000 (a tax rate of $1.75 for every dollar over the tax threshold). Bear in mind, these are approximations based on last year’s line. Next year’s threshold hasn’t been determined yet and might be higher or lower, depending on revenues.
In a nutshell, if the Celtics shed no other salary next season, and trade Rondo for a player or players making more money than him, the Celtics will pay a $1.75 tax for every extra dollar they receive in player salaries.
Beyond that, you have the potential “contract year” performance looming in two seasons. You could keep Rondo and try to take advantage of the extra motivation he has to push for a maximum contract extension. Even if the Celtics have no intention of re-signing him, they could still ride the Rondo wave in 2014-15, let him try to put up an MVP-type season, and dangle him in a sign-and-trade scenario then. If you’re looking for a “sell high” moment on Rondo, it’ll be in July of 2015.
So to recap…
- The Celtics could move Rondo and, depending on other moves, bring back players worth anywhere between $15 and $18 million dollars. Other roster moves are critical to this scenario if the Celtics want to avoid a large luxury tax bill.
- The Celtics could keep Rondo and take advantage of his cap-friendly contract for at least two more years.
This past season was a step back for Rondo. But even if you’re sick of the guy, an emotional “trade him for anything” move is the type of knee-jerk reaction that will turn the Celtics into the Phoenix Suns or Toronto Raptors.
Looking at the Celtics cap situation, Rondo’s $12 million salary next year is too payroll-friendly to give up. Of course, so much of this depends on Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and their fates could heavily influence the Celtics when it comes to Rondo.
Still, I see much more positive to keeping Rondo right now than negative. He has incentive to show the world he’s 100% after his ACL injury, and then he’ll be playing for a contract the year after that. He’s a dynamic player with the ability to take over games, and, as Danny Ainge has said, he’s been the MVP of more than one playoff series. Most of all, he’s got two years under a great contract to take the next step and live up to his lofty expectations.
If he doesn’t, then we can reconsider moving on from him after this contract is over. The possibility of a Rondo sign-and-trade in 2 years brings back much more value than he brings back now. At this point, I’m happy to keep him for at least the remainder of his contract, and reassess from there.
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