While having a conversation with the fine folks over at SonicsCentral.com, an interesting topic came up. Mr. Baker made the point that the Sonics are attempting to do away with "old market" contracts (max deals and the like) and instead focus on a roster full of "new market" contracts. The Sonics have a lot of free agent decisions to make, so it will be interesting to see if they follow through on that goal. But it's not without precedent.
Take a look at the defending Champion Pistons payroll. Nobody makes $10M this year but the roster is deep in solid players. So too is the Phoenix roster with only Marion making over $11M. Clearly Sacramento decided that this direction was better and jettisoned CWebb for 3 mid teir players. All decided that if they don't have a Shaq or a Duncan, they better get the best "team" money could buy.
As it stands, Boston isn't that far away from such a model. Walker has finished out his max contract and won't get near that wherever he signs. Paul is the only one on the upside of $12M. Two years ago, Danny inherited a team with two (actually, make that 3) max guys and nothing else. Now we have movable parts and young talent.
Some might see this as a reason to move Paul for a few lesser players with more reasonable contracts. However, unless you bring in a leader like Nash or Ben Wallace, all those spare parts won't add up to more than what we have with Paul.
So can Walker be that leader type that gets the most out of Paul and his teammates? For a long stretch this year, it looked like he could be. If he comes back for easy money, he'll get another shot at it. However, as few have failed to notice, Walker's uneven play in the postseason didn't do anything to secure his spot.
However, if the team goes in another direction, it will likely try to sign-and-trade Antoine to get some other talented player(s) and/or moveable contracts in return. I would imagine that they will try to do the same with Payton (if that is possible with the late season deal he signed to rejoin the team).
Danny seems to have a plan, and it does not involve sinking all our money into one or two pots and hoping for the best. He'll be dealing from a position of strength this offseason. He can make several moves or just tweak and tinker. It all depends on what opportunities the market creates. The key is that he isn't handcuffed to a few deals and he won't be forced into doing anything (no, not even dumping the funky one).
Somewhere Billy Beane is smiling.