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 Jason Terry.
It certainly took a while, didn’t it?
After a very unspectacular regular season, Jason Terry finally arrived in the playoffs. He finished the series shooting 21-45 over the last four games, a stretched that saw him average just over 16 points a game.
The problem with is, he struggled through most of the season before that. Oh, he had other stretches, here and there, but few would disagree with the notion that Terry was at least disappointing this season.
Some of that is on him, some of it is on the team. It’s on him because, well, he’s the guy that’s out there. And when you’re out there, you have to make the shots you get. If he can’t do it as well as he used to, that’s an issue. But it’s also on the team because they signed a guy in Terry to do the same things Ray Allen did, but they’re not the same kind of player.
There are a lot of questions surrounding Terry. Does he need to play more? Can he succeed being more of a spot up guy with Rondo on the floor? How much does he really have left in the tank?
So here we sit with two more years of JET in the Celtics hangar. But does it have to be? Here are the options regarding Terry.
It would be hard to trade Terry straight up for someone, unless there’s a team out there that thinks he fills a perfect niche for them. And after this past year’s performance, it’d have to be perfect, or else you’re using valuable cap space on an aging, struggling shooter.
Making it more complicated is the 7.5% trade kicker in Terry’s contract. That means he gets a 7.5% raise immediately just for being traded. He’s on the Celtics payroll for $5,225,000 and $5,450,000 over the next two seasons, but if he’s traded, his new team will be paying him $5,616,875 and $5,858,750. It’s not egregious, but it is a raise, and that extra money could be what pushes them over the cap, tax, or tax apron. Or if that receiving team is a taxpayer, those extra few hundred thousand could turn into millions based on the level of taxation.
Let’s say a team that trades for Terry and it puts them $5 million over the tax line. His financial impact next year, when you factor in the trade kicker and the $1.75 tax on every dollar in the tax bracket, would be $9,829,531.
Would you, as a GM, be willing to shell out almost $10 million a year to bring in Jason Terry?
Considering David Kahn is out of a job, the answer is probably a unanimous no. And the teams that are under the cap are mostly young teams that are trying to build something from scratch. They don’t need a guy who’ll be 36 next season who arguably needs 30+ minutes a night to be anywhere near effective taking up a roster spot.
So a trade is possible, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Hope he retires
He hasn’t hinted at it, and he seems to be the proud sort that would look at his playoff run and swear he’s got plenty left to give. But there’s a chance with any guy north of 35 that he might say “you know… enough is enough.”
If he sees a team that’s looking to move on without him, retirement may save him the embarrassment of being cut. This is probably the longest shot of this group.
There is a new provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement called the “stretch provision.” Under the stretch provision, the Celtics can waive a guy and spread the cap hit out twice the remaining years on the deal plus one.
So under the stretch provision, Terry can be waived, and the $10,675,000 he’s owed would be spread over five years at a cap number of $2,135,000.
The up side to that: Terry’s gone, and he’s only occupying a little more than $2 million of the cap. Not great, but it could be worse.
The down side: You’ve got dead money on the cap for five years… leading to the inevitable mention on this site in 2018 that “we’ve still got Jason Terry money on the books.”
You could also negotiate a buyout. They could pay a lump sum for him to leave… or come to a deal that spreads that out over the couple of years he’s here. There would likely be a reduced cap hit, but it will probably be more, at least for the next two years, than the stretch provision scenario. It’s hard to say because each buyout is different.
Of course the Celtics could determine that they’ve learned their lesson from year one, have figured out how to better use Terry, and get more use out of him over the next year or two. They could keep him for another year, and then re-run these scenarios under a different financial climate next year.
The stretch provision would still be in play if they used it next year (there’s no limit to using it), and it would spread $5,450,000 over 3 years rather than the $10,675,000 over 5. That would reduce the cap hit to $1.8 million a year over 3 years… which is a little bit more palatable than $2.1 million over 5.
So to recap…
The Celtics could trade Jason Terry, but his trade kicker makes his deal slightly more expensive to whatever team might take him on. Couple that with the tax, and teams could be hit with a bill that’s twice what the Celtics are paying him… or more.
The Celtics could waive Terry by using the “stretch provision”… spreading his cap hit over five years. They could also buy him out.
They could hope he quits, files papers, and are freed of the remaining salary he’s owed.
They could keep him, at least for another year, and (a) hope he and the team have learned their lessons and things go better or (b) waive him NEXT season when the hit is lessened even more.
I came into this swearing it’s time to waive him using the stretch provision, suck it up for a few years, and move on.
If the Celtics bring back Pierce and Garnett, and they stay above the tax line, the $2.1 million on the cap counts towards the tax. So it’s possible… and this depends on whatever other moves the Celtics make… but it’s POSSIBLE the Celtics could cut Terry and still end up paying the close to the same amount of money for a guy who isn’t there.
If he returns, they’re paying him $5.2 milion. If they use the stretch provision, have $2.1 million in dead money sitting on the cap, and make other moves that get them over the tax line, they could be on the hook for $3.2 million (if they sit in the first tier of the tax bracket) or $3,736,250 (if they sit in the second tier).
So the question now becomes “is saving $2 million on Jason Terry worth it?”
There’s no doubt the Celtics need to make roster moves this summer or else they will be hit with a good tax bill. The Celtics have been willing to pay taxes for a winner with a shot at the title, but you have to wonder if they’d consider next year’s team strong enough to justify the extra expense.
On the other side, next season will be the first season that will feature the Rondo/Bradley back court for all (or most, depending on Rondo’s ACL recover) of the season. IF the Celtics move Pierce to the bench in favor of Green as a starter, and then start Jared Sullinger (who had won the starting job before his injury), the Celtics will have a bench that featured Brandon Bass, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, and Courtney Lee.
The Terry/Pierce pick and roll was an effective play. And Bass spreads the floor enough to give them both room to work.
I’ve been hard on Terry all year, and in a different financial climate for the Celtics, I’d be screaming for them to cut ties with him. In fact, I was up until I started researching this piece. But the bottom line is that cutting Terry doesn’t have a tremendous effect on the bottom line.
I think the Celtics should enter the offseason with a plan to move Terry somehow. If they find a taker in a trade, then great. If they let Pierce go and free up $10 million (or more), then you can waive Terry now and suck it up for a few years to give yourself a little more room.
But if Pierce and Garnett return, then there’s a financial reason to keep Terry for at least one more year, and hope that a full offseason of understanding what his role will be with Rondo out there will help him better prepare for a more productive 2013-14 season. I know that conclusion may seem wishy-washy, but what the team does with Terry depends greatly on what it does with other guys. And if I’m following my own conclusions, then I’m forced to bring Terry back because, as an owner, I wouldn’t want to spend all that money on no one, especially as the tax rates get more punitive, and with some financial flexibility around the corner next summer.
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