After weeks of speculation and a solid week of hints and threats from Mark Bartelstien, this really should come as no surprise. Still, I always kind of envisioned him coming back. I didn't think he'd get a 4th year and if he did I thought that Ainge would bite the bullet and offer it to him. But he didn't and Posey will now play for the New Orleans Hornets.
First, let's take a look at the good news. He won't be playing for the Pistons, Cavs, Wizards, or any other Eastern Conference team next year. So we won't have to face him in the first 3 rounds of the playoffs. Also, we won't be paying him close to $7,000,000 when he's 35 years old. For more on this, see John Hollinger's article here. Finally, there's a slightly higher chance that we'll now be able to bring back guys like Eddie House and Tony Allen.
Of course all that doesn't amount to much considering that we just lost our top bench player, an elite defensive specialist, and an emotional leader on and off the court. He will be very difficult to replace. In fact, I don't think you can replace all that he gave us with just one player. It has to be a combination of new players and current players stepping up.
So we move on to plan B, whatever that is. Let's start looking at other options.
Offering a contract to Josh Childress: This is appealing because he's the same kind of versatile, valuable, ideal 6th man kind of guy that Posey was, except he's less experienced (but has more good years ahead of him). Sounds like a great plan. In fact, a lot of people would agree that he's worth the full Mid Level (depending again on the number of years).
The catch: he's a restricted free agent and the Hawks have told anyone that will listen that they will match any offer. Do they mean it? Maybe. Maybe not. The thinking was that the Sixers or Clippers would offer Josh Smith a huge contract, forcing the Hawks to match and have little left under the cap to match offers for Childress. However, now that the Sixers have Brand and the Clippers have Camby, only the Grizzlies have the kind of cash to lure Smith away (and Memphis isn't spending all their cap space on Josh Smith). Smith is still making noise that he doesn't like the coach, but the most realistic scenario is that he stays in Atlanta for less than a max contract or gets signed and traded away. Either option probably leaves the Hawks enough flexibility to match a MLE offer to Childress.
Offering a contract to Ryan Gomes: Just like with Childress, Gomes has a lot of intangible qualities you look for in a great 6th man. Of course there's the added bonus that he's well known in these parts and by all accounts very well respected by the team. I don't know how the negotiations went with the TWolves, but you can bet Danny was trying to figure out a way to not include Ryan in the deal.
The catch: See above. He's another restricted free agent and the TWolves have expressed great interest in bringing him back. Minnesota is building a young roster to grow around Al Jefferson and Ryan Gomes fits right into those plans. Then again, they might just feel that they have too much money wrapped up in guys like Mike Miller and Brian Cardinal as a result of a draft night trade. With the right kind of offer the Celtics might pry him away.
Filling In With Unrestricted Free Agents: We have other needs on the roster besides defensive wing. Backup point guards like Kenyon Dooling and Carlos Arroyo are on the market and can probably command more than the veterans minimum. I'm not sure what the market is for Shaun Livingston, but he's available too. Or if you must have a wing player, Matt Barnes is available (though I admit I don't know much about the guy). And there's always Darius Miles, ...I guess.
Explore the trade market: There's only so much you can do assuming we are not willing to trade Ray Allen yet (he'd be more valuable next offseason when he's an expiring contract). Perhaps we could convince someone to take Big Baby or Powe. If we could use Scalabrine's contract, even better. Of course, that package isn't going to buy you much in return.
Bring back Tony Allen, Eddie House, and pray: We did just draft two wing players and (laugh if you want) we still employ Brian Scalabrine for 2 more years. If Tony Allen got steady minutes, he could take a big step forward next year (of course we've been saying that for how many years now?). Maybe JR Giddens and Bill Walker could fill in at the wing as well. Only time will tell but don't ask me to put too much hope in this plan.
I'm sure there are other options, and we'll be exploring those in the weeks ahead, but this is enough to get us started. The post-Posey era begins now.