Jeff Green has been tremendous so far this season. He is averaging 19.9 points a game on 45% shooting from the floor and 85% from the line. He has had at least 14 points in each of the Celtics 9 games so far this season, highlighted by a 35 point effort in Dallas and 28 more along with several highlight plays Monday night against the Suns (I gif'd the dunk over Marcus Morris just so I could keep watching over and over). His exploits this season have been covered both here and here.
One of the reasons Green is playing so well this season is because of the structure of his contract. Green signed his 4 year, $36 million contract in the summer of 2012 with one major wrinkle: super agent David Falk put an opt out clause in the deal for after the 2014-15 season. What that means is that Green is playing this season on a de facto expiring contract. It is unfair to credit Green's play solely to the motivation drawn from the potential of a big payday this summer, but we would be naïve to think it is not playing a part in his impressive campaign thus far in 2014.
In a normal summer, after posting numbers like he has so far this year, Green's decision to opt out and obtain long-term security would be an easy one. However, there are 24 billion reasons why this summer will not be a normal summer.
When and by how much the cap will rise after the new TV deal remains to be seen, but some reports have indicated a leap of somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 million within just a couple years. Some pundits say the cap will rise gradually through "smoothing," while others are predicting a massive leap over one summer. If that is the case, that summer would be the summer of 2016.
If the cap rises, player salaries will as well. Max players will make more - as their salaries are based on a percentage of the cap - and there will be a trickle down effect after that. Every player will be command more money under a larger cap simply because there is more for teams to spend. Jeff Green and his agent certainly know that.
These factors all contribute to what Green's future will look like, and whether it will be in Boston or elsewhere. There are three potential Celtic-centric scenarios for what could happen with Uncle Jeff in the next couple years.
- The Celtics could deal Green before the deadline.
- The Celtics could keep Green, and he could opt out of his deal, making him a free agent this summer.
- The Celtics could keep Green, and he could opt into his deal, playing out the 2015-16 season for $9.2 million before becoming a free agent that following summer.
Green has been suggested as a trade candidate by countless media members, including by Grantland's Zach Lowe, who is plugged in everywhere around the league and has said on multiple occasions that Green has many teams that are intrigued by his talents.
Green's trade value is higher than it's ever been, and there are teams willing to spend big to fill holes on the wing, as we saw this summer. Every team would love to have a guy on their roster that can handle the ball, shoot and defend - as well as play the 4 in small-ball lineups. The question is what they would give up for that guy.
Green's value is very difficult to determine. A team trading for him would be trading for a guy who could be on an expiring deal, if he was so inclined. That is a great motivator and would give the team confidence Green would play well, but by the same token, they would not be willing to give up as much for a guy they were only renting for half a season.
Teams trading for Green would also have to be wary that if he was a let down when he arrived, he could extend the expiration date on his deal by deciding to opt in and guarantee himself the $9.2 million for the next season.
However, even if Green did disappoint, his play would have to take a complete nosedive to not be worth that $9.2 million in 2015-16, considering the ballooning contracts in the league.
Keep Him, Opts Out
Scenario number two is probably the most likely of the three. This would assume that Danny Ainge wouldn't get a package at his asking price for Green, which isn't a huge assumption as asking for the moon is par for the course for Danny (as it should be). It also assumes Green continues his high level of play and has a great year, confident he played his way into a big deal on the open market.
At this point, the Celtics would have a big decision to make. They would love to have Green around for the long haul, but it could take a huge offer to get him back in Boston. Just this summer, Gordon Hayward got a max deal and Chandler Parsons got 3 years and $46 million. Wing guys are getting paid. It is hard to believe, but Jeff Green could be looking at contract offers of upwards of $14 million per year this coming summer.
Keep Him, Opts In
Scenario number three is probably the best for the Celtics, giving them a motivated Jeff Green for another year and a half at only $9.2 million per year. Unfortunately, it is also the least likely scenario of the three.
Green would be electing to bet on himself having another big year in Brad Stevens's pace and space system and cashing in when the cap is sure to rise. Green could post even better numbers with what should be an upgraded Celtics roster next year (fingers crossed Rondo stays) with all of the young pieces a year older and the possibility of a trade for a star. If he improved on the numbers he is posting thus far, along with a huge bump in the cap, Green would be looking at a massive deal.
However, Green's opportunity at securing a long-term deal this offseason, especially looking at the money Hayward and Parsons already got under the current cap, makes this scenario unlikely.
There is also a way in which this scenario could be a disastrous one, coming about if Green plays poorly enough down the stretch that he wouldn't get the $9.2 million on the open market. Let's think happy thoughts and ignore that one.
Where Jeff Green will end up for the 2016-17 season is anyone's guess, and there is a lot that has to happen before we get to that point. Here is how things could play out.
If the Celtics trade Green, they will be selling high, but he could turn into a superstar on another team, which would be agonizing.
If Green opts out this summer and the Celtics splurge to bring him back, he could revert to his inconsistent ways without impending free agency to motivate him, and the Celtics would have an albatross of a contract on their hands. Again, happy thoughts.
Then again, Green could opt out, get a huge contract offer from another team, and the Celtics would lose him for nothing.
Or finally, Green could opt out, the Celtics could sign him to a big deal, and he could continue to evolve into the superstar we all hoped for when he was acquired from the Thunder. That's happy. I like that one.