Greg Stiemsma is a restricted free agent, as the Celtics have offered him a $1.05 million qualifying offer. The question is, how much above and beyond that $1.05 million do the Celtics go if another team signs Stiemer to an offer sheet? Is he worth $2 million per season? $3 million? How about... $8.33 million? Probably not, but that's what Houston just offered a very similar player:
Player A: 3.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1 bpg, 14.7 mpg, 50.6 FG%, 45.6 FT%, 66 games (2 starts)
Player B: 2.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 13.9 mpg, 54.5 FG%, 70.7 FT%, 55 games (3 starts)
... Player A is Chicago Bulls second-year center Omer Asik. Player B is Celtics rookie center Greg Stiemsma. ...
And before you bark about how good Asik is defensively, hear us out. There's no denying Asik's talents on the defensive end. Of all NBA players with at least 250 defensive possessions against them last season, he ranked No. 1 allowing a mere 0.653 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data.
Stiemsma? He ranked No. 7 at 0.711 points per play and often was the first big off the bench to spell Kevin Garnett, so it's not like his numbers were overly inflated by sharing court time with Boston's defensive anchor...
There's at least a strong possibility that Stiemsma is going to be offered more than his QO. Matching a contract offer -- even a reasonable one -- can be tricky under the cap rules, though.
Stiemsma is a "non-Bird" free agent. Basically, that means that we can only go over the cap to sign him for his qualifying offer this season. If we want to pay him more, we have to use another exception -- the MLE or the bi-annual exception (BAE). Let's say another team offers him the modest sum of $2 million in the first year of his deal. Unfortunately, we can't match that without using our MLE, meaning that rather than being able to offer $5 million to a guy like Jason Terry, we'd only be able to offer $3 million. That's a serious loss of flexibility.
Additionally, our budget is constrained by the $74 million hard cap for teams that want to use the full MLE. Signing Stiemer to an amount greater than his QO jeopardizes our ability to stay within that restriction, which would result in the loss of the BAE and would confine us to the "taxpayer's MLE" of $3 million. Again, that's a loss of flexibility (especially if 2/3 of that "taxpayer's MLE" is spent on Stiemer).
So, faced with those options, what do you do? To me, I wouldn't feel comfortable going over the $1.05 million qualifying offer, and I definitely wouldn't offer more than the bi-annual exception ($1.957 million). While Stiemsma is a good story and a decent project as a backup center, I think his production can be almost matched by a number of veteran minimum type centers. I just don't think we can sacrifice our flexibility to bring in free agent upgrades for a guy with fairly minimal production.