I'm taking a brief break from the current season and playoffs to look ahead to the offseason. Keeping in mind that the playoffs can and will change a whole lot about our perceptions, we can at least have a spirited debate over who will and won't be back next year.
The two biggest decisions happen to play the same position. Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Leon Powe are practically in a platoon situation. If this was baseball, you'd be seeing one of them play against right handers and the other against lefties. Both are restricted free agents and both have made a case for staying past this year. Do you bring them both back? If not, who do you chose?
Glen Davis has been playing out of his mind lately. He's scored 19 or more in 3 of the last 5 games and he's really helped keep things afloat with Garnett and Powe both missing time. This couldn't be coming at a better time for him personally because he's a restricted free agent at the end of the season.
Not sure how many remember this, but back when he signed as a 2nd round pick, he took a 2 year deal rather than the 3 year deal Gabe Pruitt signed so that he would be able to cash in earlier with a free agent deal. The obvious risk was that he could have gotten injured or flat out failed to play up to his potential and could have been out of a contract or even the league that much earlier. So far it looks like the gamble is going to pay off bigtime.
In an article over the weekend, Marc Spears gave us an idea of Big Baby's market value right now:
Davis's play likely will draw interest during free agency this summer. The ex-Louisiana State star is making $711,517 this season, and one general manager said he could command $3 million-$5 million per season. Since Davis is a restricted free agent, the Celtics could match any offer.
"It's hard not to think about it," said Davis of free agency. "But I'm just trying to go out there and play."
Again, the playoffs could shift things, but it is starting to seem like Baby will be a coveted player this offseason. On the other hand, you have to remember the economy and the expected effect it will have on the free agent market.
Since the Celtics can match any offer, they will likely let him play the market and see what offers he can get. They'll also likely play that game of "we will match any reasonable offer" intended to scare teams away from giving him offers, thus keeping the price from escalating. Chances are good that teams won't have a lot to spend anyway. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.
In a similar situation, of course, is Leon Powe. He's been on the shelf for the last several games, but he appears to be on track to return for the playoffs. He's averaging more points and rebounds than Davis (in fewer minutes) and during a recent stretch of games tallied 20, 12, 23, and 30 points (with 11, 7, 13, and 11 rebounds respectively).
So you have to wonder if these guys were not in a platoon situation if we would see more consistency out of one of them. Keep in mind, many of these big games have happened because KG was out of the lineup, creating a void that each man has filled admirably. If we only have one of the two next year, we can't assume they'll start averaging double doubles just because they don't have to share time with each other.
So I think in an ideal world the easy answer would be this: Bring them both back! Who cares if they somewhat duplicate each other? As we've seen, you can never have too many competent big bodies that know the system and have no fear during high pressure situations. At the very worst, we could always trade one of them in the future rather than letting him walk this offseaon for nothing.
Again, we come back to the market. If both guys get offers in the $3-$5 million range, will that be too steep for the Celtics to match on both? Keep in mind the team will likely be luxury tax payers again next year. Also keep in mind that there could be some bargains to be had with the Mid Level Exception (teams won't want to give big name guys the big money they would have commanded in prior offseasons). Finally, keep in mind that we absolutely have to earmark some future funds to lock up Rajon Rondo till he's Cousy's age.
So the we may not get our first option. If not, what is plan B? Perhaps a sign-and-trade for whomever we can get the best value for? Or maybe the team will just have to make the unenviable decision of keeping one or the other.
So what would you chose if given the option right now? Keep Leon? Keep Baby? Keep them both (regardless of cost)? Let them both walk and go after bigger fish?