For those that watched the Ainge interview saw him joking about free agents coming to Boston and following the James Posey plan. "Come play for us, and go get your money later." In other words, sign for less money to play for Boston, create a name for yourself, and cash in next year.
Now, keep in mind that he was laughing when he made that statement. He was probably exaggerating a bit. Well, maybe. On the other hand, if you can get players for less than their true value, that's good business. The only trick is making sure it still makes good basketball business.
Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
Ainge was willing to use the MLE on Posey, but he was the best guy on the unrestricted market willing to accept the MLE. Now the best way to maximize value is to wait until all the opportunities dry up for the guys looking for MLE (or partial MLE dollars) and give them a nice fallback option. We are saying, in effect, "Can't get the payday you were hoping for? How about signing a one year deal with us? You'll win a bunch of games, raise your stock around the league, and sign a big deal next year." Players are competitive by nature, and if they can't get paid, they want to win.
Almost by definition trying to sign any restricted free agents means overpaying them to keep the former team from matching. On the other hand, if you wait long enough, sometimes a team will decide that they can't wait any longer on their free agent and move on to other options. The teams with cap space and willing to spend have all spent their money. So that means players might be looking at sign-and-trade options. What if the Hawks sign-and-trade Josh Smith in exchange for a package that includes another wing player or two? Would they still match any offer for Childress? As it is, how much do the Timberwolves still want Ryan Gomes now that they have added Mike Miller? If Ryan can get the full MLE from someone, I'm not sure that deal will be matched.
The point is things change (sometimes very quickly). Sometimes waiting produces opportunities that were not considered viable before. Consider this: Last year James Posey wasn't signed until August 27.
When you shop in the bargain bin, you are normally looking at items that have some sort of flaw or have fallen out of style. Same with players. The question becomes "does the talent outweigh the risk?" We've talked about some of these guys in the past, but let's break them down here.
Shaun Livingston - I'm a big fan of bringing this guy in. He was a huge talent when he was healthy and seemed to be the point guard of the future in La-La Land before a series of setbacks and one gruesome injury. Obviously the risk is that he'll snap in two and play fewer games than Planet Pollard. The upside is that he'll be a super-talented backup to Rondo.
Stephon Marbury - Yeah, we've gone over this before. But it bears mentioning again. The guy has $21M talent and a $.02 head. If we can point him in the right direction and sell him on Ubuntu, he'll be the best bargain on the market. He only has to stay sane for a season. Even Artest has been able to pull that off in the past.
Darius Miles - Like Livingston, any team picking him up is gambling that he'll be able to stay off crutches. Then again, he's only looking for a veteran's minimum contract. He's a very good low risk, high reward kind of guy. He's been working overtime to make sure people know that he has grown up and has a love for the game that is driving him to get back on the court.
Tony Allen - Needs no introduction around here. Usually with knee injuries of this sort, the first season is just ok and the second is where the player gets back to normal. That was what happened with Tony's first injury, at least until he got hurt again. Maybe this is the year he'll hit his stride and stay healthy. Maybe.
I don’t think you can fill out the rest of the roster with Patrick O’Bryant, 2 rookies and some combination of the above players. That’s just too much risk. But I could see Ainge picking one of the above and giving him a shot. It is my hope that he’d balance it with a low risk, steady hand like Kurt Thomas.
Nobody really knows what Danny is going to do. He might not even know yet. However, based on recent history we know that he won’t overpay (sacrificing flexibility down the line) and he will look to maximize talent for a bargain price. It worked last year, can it work again next year? We’ll see.