2010/11 Boston Celtics Payroll: $57.0 million
2010/11 NBA Salary Cap: $56.1 million
Roughly: $0.9 million over cap
The Good: A lot of teams from the 2006 draft are kicking themselves right now because they passed on a certain guard from Kentucky. This season, Rajon Rondo turned Boston’s big three into a big four and become one of the best PGs in the game. He averaged 13.7 points, shot 50.8% from the field, and was fourth in the league with 9.8 assists per game. He is also an excellent defender who led the league in steals, swiping 2.3 per contest. Rondo gets a pay raise next season as he begins a five year, $55 million deal and he is worth every penny. Soon, the veterans around him will be gone and this will be Rondo’s team. As they rebuild another winner, the Celtics will be in great shape having this guy lead their team.
If Boston is smart, they’ll keep Kendrick Perkins around to be a bookend with Rondo. Perkins is a model of efficiency for the center position. He plays hard defense, rebounds, blocks shots, makes 60% of his attempts (of which he doesn’t need many) and just gives the team a solid, dependable presence at the five. He probably won’t be an all-star, but he has proven he can be the starting center on a championship team. Perkins is a bargain at $4.4 million for next season. Hopefully they can lock him up long-term very soon.
The Bad: Kevin Garnett is still a good power forward and a very important player on this team. But let’s be honest, he is far from the All-NBA player he used to be, even though he still gets paid like one. KG has two huge paydays coming to him; $18.8 million this year and $21.2 million the following year. That’s a ridiculous amount of money for 14.4 points and 7.3 rebounds every night. Championships aren’t cheap and if all that money helped bring KG to Boston so they could win that one title, then the cash was probably worth it. And if the Celtics keep making Finals appearances, it becomes easier to overlook KG’s price tag. However, with the mileage on his body and the uncertain future of this team, it looks like Boston won’t be getting much value for their many, many dollars.
When the Celtics signed Rasheed Wallace, they thought they were adding veteran depth to their front line and a player who could stretch the defense with his three point shooting. Instead, Wallace jacked up long-range bricks, hitting just 28% of his attempts and 40% of his shots overall. He also contributed very little in other areas. Boston was on the hook for another $13 million over the next two years. Sheed announced Friday he will be retiring which is great news for the team.
Also worrisome is the fact that the C’s bench is extremely thin as Marquis Daniels (2.1 million next year) has been a non-factor and both Nate Robinson and Tony Allen are now free agents.
The Future: There are two main reasons that the Celtics lost their finals series with the Lakers. One was the superior offensive rebounding by L.A.’s front line. The other was Ray Allen’s putrid performance in everything besides game 2. Even a slightly below average production from Allen would likely have given Boston the series. He missed numerous open threes and lay-ups, turned the ball over, and generally looked old and washed-up. Needless to say, his pay grade won’t be approaching the $20 million he received last season. That’s if Boston even wants him to come back, which is unlikely after the 3 of 14, 4 turnover performance in game 7.
With Allen’s return in doubt, the Celtics will need to decide if they want to try and squeeze one more title run out of this group or if it might be time to start rebuilding around their young nucleus of Rondo, Perkins, and Glen Davis. Paul Pierce is also wondering the same thing. He has a player option next season for $21 million. That is a difficult sum to pass up, but if the Celtics are no longer gunning for championships, he might be happier elsewhere. Of the original big three, Pierce is the only one left that is still playing at a high level. He put up 18.3 points per game, shot an excellent 41% on his three pointers, and he can still hit clutch shots in the 4th quarter. There would be some interest out there for his services, so the team will need to convince him that it will be worth it to stick around.
Since KG will be untradeable until he becomes an expiring contract, Boston should probably make one more attempt at winning it all. They can try to replace Allen with a younger and more effective shooter, either by trade or with the mid-level exception. Maybe some other good veteran with a little juice left in the tank would take a pay cut to go for a ring? It’s possible. If the Celtics can pull it off and keep Pierce in the green and white, they just might make some noise again next year in the Eastern Conference. After that, it will be back to rebuilding mode, perhaps with some shiny new hardware to look at.