If you’re a Celtics fan who enjoyed watching Glen Davis and Jeff Green toward the end of Boston’s season, you’re probably the type of person who self-administers Chinese water torture. The two oft-maligned players are free agents now (Davis is unrestricted, Green is restricted), so the Celtics will have to make some decisions regarding their futures.
Davis took a large step back in his development. Many Boston media members said he gained 15-20 pounds during the season, but let’s be honest—with Davis, a few extra pounds are difficult to recognize. Either way, whether he was a “svelte” 300 or a chubby 320, Davis stopped doing the things that made him so successful earlier this season. He started taking hero shots on offense, lost confidence in his jumper, rebounded the ball like a circus midget, and even became less proficient taking charges, which had grown to be his forte.
Green, likewise, disappointed. After Danny Ainge made significant overhaul to a championship favorite during midseason, Green held an important responsibility in the eyes of the Boston faithful. He needed to succeed by himself, and he needed to help the Celtics win a championship. Unfortunately, Green did neither. Rather than flourishing under a championship environment, Green’s shortcomings became painfully obvious. He didn’t always seem to play full throttle. He rebounded like a blind ten-year old. He was brought in to add scoring punch to Boston’s second unit, and to (gasp) defend opposing small forwards while Paul Pierce rested. Green did neither. Granted, there were a lot of factors working against him—he was added to a team with complex schemes in the middle of a season; his role decreased from playing 37 minutes per game to playing 20; and he was primarily playing a position (small forward) he had rarely played during his NBA career. Still, the Celtics fan base (and probably Ainge, too) expected more.
Now Green and Davis, objects of scorn and contempt the past few months, are free agents. And though letting them go would seem like a no-brainer to some, things aren’t that simple in the NBA. If the Celtics let Green and Davis both walk, the C’s will remain over the salary cap. Under current CBA rules, that means they will be unable to sign outside free agents except for the use of their mid-level exception. In other words, Davis and Green might be the only free agents (except for their mid-level exception) Boston can target for greater than the veteran’s minimum. Sadly, signing Green or Davis to a long-term deal for any significant amount of money seems like an easy “hell, no” (at this moment in time, at least; ask Tony Allen if a player’s value can change). Even if the Celtics choose not to sign either player long-term, there are options.
Using a sign-and-trade deal would allow Boston to secure assets for the future even while saying sayonara to Davis and/or Green. For example, if the Celtics sign-and-traded Davis to Los Angeles, they might receive Randy Foye in return. That would help the Celtics because Foye is a decent scorer off the bench, and because his contract expires at the end of next season, when the Celtics will presumably hope to rebuild (or reload, depending on your amount of optimism). This trade is just hypothetical. I’m not saying I want to do it, nor am I saying the Clippers or Celtics would want to do it. I’m just explaining a route the Celtics might take.
Another sign-and-trade option would be to package Green and Davis (and perhaps the Clippers’ 2012 first-round pick). This could net Boston a larger expiring contract for next season (sticking with the Clippers, perhaps Chris Kaman). Again, the goal would be to set Boston up for the future while improving the team’s title chances for next season.
A problem with these sign-and-trade hypotheticals? Green and Davis have both played themselves out of value. It seems unlikely any team would be willing to spend big money on two players who more or less shat themselves for the past few months, nor does it seem likely they’ll be willing to give up much value in a sign-and-trade. The Celtics could find a meager sign-and-trade market. Then again, this is the NBA, where Brendan Haywood can sign a $55 million contract and proceed to average 4.4 points per game.
Qualifying offer (for Green only):
Because Green’s a restricted free agent, the Celtics can (and will, according to Danny Ainge) offer him a qualifying offer. This is a one-year offer sheet that does two things:
1) It allows the Celtics the opportunity to match any offer Green receives this summer.
2) If Green doesn’t receive any offers he deems worthy of signing, he can return to the Celtics next year on a one-year contract, at the price of the qualifying offer (which, if I’m not mistaken, would be $5,908,640). The one-year contract would allow Green to revisit free agency next season as an unrestricted free agent.
Returning to the Celtics to play for the qualifying offer could be Green’s best choice this summer. Presumably, he lost himself a lot of money this season. Accepting the qualifying offer would make Green decent money (relatively speaking) this season while also giving him the chance to play his way into a bigger contract next year. Again, this is the NBA, where Travis Outlaw can make $35 million. All bets are off. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Green finds a slim market and accepts Boston’s qualifying offer.
I would be surprised (and disappointed) if the Celtics re-sign Green and/or Davis to long-term deals. But if Danny Ainge gets creative, he may be able to net Boston some assets for the present while also maintaining future cap flexibility.