The Big Al Question
Al Jefferson established himself as a top young big man in the league with his play on the court this season. One would assume that he'd like that stature to soon be represented in his bank account as well. Big Al has one year left on his contract and will be re-signed this offseason but the question is for how much and, more importantly, how will the deal be structured. The first question of how much is Jefferson worth is somewhat easy, but in the end (as the saying goes) a million here, a million there and soon it starts to add up to real money. While Big Al has played as well as many max contract guys, the team also couldn't win a lick when he was the main man so I think you can easily talk him out of demanding that much. Then again, big guys who have shown less have signed for good chunks of change (i.e, Chris Kaman, Nene, Troy Murphy). For me, I think Jefferson will be getting a deal that is around 6 years, 64 - 75 million. Getting him at closer to 60 would be a steal and help the C's significantly when it comes to signing someone to help Pierce. Closer to 75 and the team will be flirting with the luxury tax if they try to add anyone significant. But perhaps the bigger issues is how the Celtics structure his deal. The typical deal is one with rising salaries. The first year will be the low amount and the players will get a raise each season afterwards. For instance, Chris Bosh makes 12 million next year and, in four years, will take home 16 million. While this has been the norm, some GM's are starting to sign descending deals. David West and Kirk Hinrich have these types of contract which are beneficial because, as the years progress, the team will get more and more cap space. Those deals are usually made by teams that are already under the cap space and can afford to take the biggest sum of the contract in the beginning. And then there's the seldom seen even money deal. Theo Ratliff has that and Luke Ridnour recently signed one of these deals. These contracts have the player making the same amount of money throughout the contract. At first, the descending deal seems like the obvious choice as it will enable us to make more moves in the long run however that type of deal limits the type of player that we will be able to bring in after next season. If you want to sign someone to help Paul Pierce, then you can't give Big Al that type of deal. You need his cheapest years now. If Jefferson's biggest amount (say 14 million) is plopped on the books for the 2008/9 season, the Celtics will likely be right at the salary cap and unlikely to afford more than some vet minimum/LLE type free agents. However, if Jefferson signs a rising deal, then we might be able to afford someone for 3 or 4 million dollars more. In the end, it could mean the difference between signing Brevin Knight as opposed to Dan Dickau. That being said, the downside of a rising deal is that in 2010/11, Pierce and Jefferson's contract could eat up 3/5's of the Celtics' cap space. A Luke Ridnour, even-money type deal gives the worst of both worlds. The team won't save all that much to add help now and won't be saving enough in the long run to make it easier to sign someone in spite of Pierce's 2nd max deal. Danny has been avoiding it for years but it's time to figure out whether he's going to focus on winning now or winning later. Jefferson's contract will likely shape the moves that the Celtics will be able to make for the coming five or six years. I don't think this team is going anywhere (or signing anyone) next year so I would be in favor of the declining deal. It frees up money in the long run and will help offset the raises that Pierce is in line to make. Then again, if The Truth learns that the team won't be able to make even an MLE signing this offseason, lord knows if he'll even be a Celtic for the last year's of his contract. Personally, that's a risk I'm willing to take.