While the Celtics will have as many as six free agents, there is little doubt that fans seem most interested in the future of Glen "Big Baby" Davis. BBD averaged 15.8 points and 5.6 rebounds in the playoffs, and seemed to be hitting his jump shot at a fairly regular clip (including one clutch dagger against Orlando). With that in mind, it's time to look at what BBD's current status is, what his market looks like, and whether it makes sense to sign him.
1. What is BBD's current status? How much can we re-sign him for?
Assuming the Celtics make him a qualifying offer by June 30 of between $1.0 and $1.1 million, BBD will be a restricted free agent. That means that the Celtics will have an opportunity to match any contract offer sheet BBD signs with another team.
Because BBD is a second year player, other teams are restricted in the amount they can offer him. In the first two years of any contract BBD signs, he is limited to the amount of the mid-level exception (somewhere between $5.0 and $5.5 million next season). In the third year, however, BBD's salary can jump to the maximum amount allowable under the CBA, which looks like it will be in the neighborhood of $13.5 to $14.0 million. BBD can be offered up to a five year deal by other teams, which could max out at an average annual value of between $11.0 and $12.0 million per season.
Because the Celtics have "Early Bird" rights to BBD, they can match any deal that BBD receives, without having to use the MLE.
2. Is BBD likely to give the Celtics a "home town discount"?
"If I was a rookie, I’d be like, ‘Man, I want to stay here,’ but now I understand that it’s a business," Davis said. "I love the staff here. I love the coaches. I love everybody here, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Hopefully it works out. If it not, then not. If I have to go somewhere else, I’ll go somewhere else."
That echoes words in yesterday's Herald that "This is a business first. You just have to go where you have to go" and in the Globe that "I feel a lot of emotions. It's a business" and "you always realize that it's still a business. You just got to take the bad with the good". Several weeks ago, BBD noted that it was "hard not to think about" his pending free agency.
In the past, BBD has made it clear that getting paid is important to him, too. After BBD fell to the second round, a local Louisiana paper reported:
"There's a difference in the money, but as a kid you want the dream of going in the first round," Davis said. "The draft is only one day. You've got to keep playing and keep fighting."
Added [Davis' agent, John] Hamilton, ". . .[T]he majority of second-round guys have the potential to make a lot of money. I think he felt a lot better with everything (Friday) after we sat down and talked about it away from the big crowd.
(June 30, 2007, "The Advocate" (Louisiana))
Davis' agent then pressed hard to make sure BBD was a free agent in two years (rather than the three the team was offering), to make sure that he could get paid earlier.
With all of the above, it seems clear that BBD views himself as simply a Celtics employee, and wants to maximize his earning potential, whether that be with the team or elsewhere. It appears very likely that BBD will sign with whatever team offers him the biggest contract.
3. How much can BBD expect?
According to Marc Spears, "one general manager said he could command $3 million-$5 million per season."
That seems to be in line with what other players of his talents are earning, including Nenad Kristic ($5.0 million), Jason Maxiell ($5.0 million beginning next season), Joe Smith ($4.8 million), Reggie Evans ($4.6 million), Ronny Turiaf ($4.5 million), Kurt Thomas ($4.2 million), Kwame Brown ($4.0 million), Amir Johnson ($3.7 million), Ryan Gomes ($3.5 million), and Carl Landry ($3.0 million).
4. Will the Celtics match any offer BBD receives?
The Celtics would like to have Davis back, but it appears as though they don't want to overpay. In speaking with the Dennis and Callahan show on WEEI, Doc Rivers looked at BBD's pending free agency:
Rivers said he is uncertain whether free agent[ ] Glen "Big Baby" Davis . . . will return next season . . .
"With Baby, it will probably come down to what he can get on the open market . . .
From that quote, it appears as though the Celtics have a price they'd be willing to pay, but it's not unlimited.
5. Should the Celtics match any offer BBD receives?
That's the question of the day, isn't it? The Celtics are going to have to think long and hard about how BBD fits into their budget for next season. Right now, assuming Eddie House comes back, the Celtics have guaranteed salaries next season of $73.0 million. That puts them somewhere between $3.0 and $5.0 million over the estimated luxury tax of $68 to $70 million, before signing anybody. As we all know, the Celtics have to pay a dollar-for-dollar penalty on any amount over the luxury tax. It's understandable, then, why the Celtics would want to adhere to a budget.
Last season, the Celtics had a payroll of approximately $80 to $81 million. If the Celtics want to maintain a similar payroll this season, that means the Celtics have somewhere between $7 million and $8 million to spend. If that's the case, it's likely that the Celtics will be looking to fill out the roster using the MLE (around $5.0 million) and minimum salary deals (approximately $800k each).
If the choice then becomes "use the MLE" or "sign BBD", it's a difficult one. As mentioned yesterday, there are a variety of quality free agents on the market, including guys like Rasheed Wallace, Shawn Marion, Antonio McDyess, etc. (The entire list is available here). Danny Ainge has said he wants to add to the team's front line, and Doc has said it's very important to get a backup small forward. Some of the available guys are no doubt going to want more than the MLE.
That being the case, if the team is asked to choose between BBD on one hand, and Antonio McDyess and Grant Hill on the other, I think the Celtics may have to swallow hard and allow BBD to move on. Obviously, the ideal solution is for the team to bring back BBD *and* sign key free agents, but that may not be realistic.
Ultimately, my opinion is that I like what BBD brings to the team, but it's important to remember that he's a flawed player. While his stats in the playoffs look good, keep in mind that he was playing 36 minutes per game. During the regular season, he averaged 7.0 points and 4.0 rebounds, filling a role similar to what he'd be asked to fill next season. He's an undersized player who is a mediocre rebounder who doesn't block shots. He's not a great finisher around the hoop, and has an erratic jump shot. (For more on BBD's strengths and weaknesses, see Celtics Hub's analysis.) He made huge, huge strides this season, and obviously continuing to improve. However, it's important not to fall in love with this guy and give him a huge contract simply because he played well over the course of a few weeks.
Additionally, of course, there's the elephant in the room: BBD's weight. BBD dropped a ton of weight during his draft workouts, because he was looking to improve his draft position (and thus get paid). After that, he rapidly gained much of his weight back, for whatever reason. NBA history gives us other examples of large players who struggled with their weight (Stanley Roberts, Orlando Miller, even Shaquille O'Neal). There's at least a concern that BBD will regress after getting a big contract.
Based upon those concerns, I'm not comfortable offering BBD a deal for the full MLE. If we can get him for 3 years, $10 million, I think that's a good deal, assuming that it doesn't limit our opportunity to make other moves.. 3 years, $15 million - or anything more than that - is probably a little too much.
The important thing for the team this year is to actually upgrade its bench, rather than maintaining the status quo. If resigning BBD gets in the way of that goal, I think we have to move on.