State of the Cap: Boston Celtics

Wed, 05/02/2007 - 9:43am

By Josh Redetzke

2007/08 Boston Celtics Payroll: $62 million
2007/08 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $55 million
Roughly: $7 million over cap

[img_assist|nid=3904|title=Gerald Green - AP Photo: Reinhold Matay|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=250|height=379]The Good: Despite one of the worst seasons in franchise history, there are still reasons to be positive in Beantown. Al Jefferson developed into the post player that everyone hoped he would be. His averages of 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game roughly doubled last year’s numbers. Before a left knee injury sidelined him towards the end of the season (tank alert?), Jefferson was really having some big games, like his 32 points and 18 rebounds against New Jersey. The Celtics have him for a scant $2.5 million next season, but if he keeps this up, they will have to pay dearly the following year. They might want to extend his contract this summer.

Great deals don’t get much better than Ryan Gomes. The promising second round pick from last year blossomed into one of Boston’s better players. Gomes gave the team 12.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game on 47% shooting. Considering his paycheck is less than $800,000 dollars next season, Gomes is an absolute steal. Unfortunately, like Jefferson, that is the last year the Celtics will benefit from his cheap salary.

How can you not like Gerald Green? The high-flyer was a huge hit on All-Star weekend, bringing home the slam dunk title and giving the fans a little something to cheer about. (The Dee Brown, no-look jam was my favorite, though dunking off the side of the backboard was impressive.) The 21-year-old made good progress during regular season games as well. The promise is there and Boston still has two more years to find out what kind of player he can become. A higher basketball IQ would sure help Green a lot.

The Bad: If you are paying a guy over $11 million a year, you hope he will be healthy and productive. Wally Szczerbiak was neither this season. Injuries kept him out of 50 games and when he did play, the normally sharp-shooting Szczerbiak shot a career worst 41.5% from the field. He’ll need to rehab from ankle surgury and regain his touch in order to earn the $25 million he has coming the next two seasons. If he doesn’t respond quickly, he’ll likely become cap-cutting trade bait.

The good news for Brian Scalabrine is that he improved in every statistical category this season. Unfortunately, his numbers were so dismal last year that he still isn’t earning the $3 million a year Boston is paying him. At least he still has three more years to prove his worth, right?

Just before last year’s draft, the Celtics basically traded their #7 pick to Portland for what they hoped was a good, young point guard to guide their future. Instead, they got Sebastian Telfair and his 2.8 assists per game and 37% shooting. Telfair’s recent gun arrest caused the team to waive him, severing ties with the troubled guard. Randy Foye is looking a heck of a lot better right now.

The Future: Things can only get better for Boston after such a dismal season and it looks like it will get better in a hurry. For one, they are in great position (#2) to land one of the prized phenoms of the upcoming draft, Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. While Durant is a talent, Oden would certainly be a much better fit in Boston. Jefferson (6’10”) and Kendrick Perkins (6’10”) were the only two players taller than 6’9” to see any significant action for the Celtics this year. Oden would easily catapult them back into the playoffs, providing the team can stay healthy.

Even if they don’t get a chance to select either player, they will still have a very high pick in an extremely deep draft. And although the team is completely devoid of cap space, it does have Theo Ratliff’s $11.6 million expiring contract to dangle in front of other teams. Package him with one or two of their nice young players, like Green, Delonte West, Gomes, etc., and Boston could fetch a good veteran player in return. They don’t have cap room, but the Celtics do have options that could quickly turn things around and give Paul Pierce a competitive team for him to lead.

Speaking of Pierce, he obviously believes in the direction the team is heading, as evidenced by his contract extension that makes him a well-paid Celtic through 2011. Boston has their star wrapped up; they just need the rest of the pieces to fall in place. We’ll see what the ping-pong balls have to say about that.

Free Throw: Will this be the last time we see former #1 overall pick Michael Olowokandi in an NBA uniform? It’s hard to imagine another team picking him up after such a forgettable season. The Kandi Man gets a lot of flak for being such a bust, but is it really his fault that some scouts vastly over-estimated his potential? Not really. Best of luck to you, Olowokandi, wherever you might go. Just try to steer clear of L.A., Minnesota, and Boston. You might not be welcome.

Grade: C+

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