Why Isaiah probably won’t get a max contract next summer

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Why Isaiah probably won’t get a max contract next summer

Post by bobheckler on Tue Jul 25, 2017 11:33 am

https://www.bostonsportsjournal.com/2017/07/25/isaiah-probably-wont-get-max-payday-next-summer/



Why Isaiah probably won’t get a max contract next summer



ByBrian Robb



Posted on July 25, 2017





DAVID BUTLER II/USA TODAY SPORTS



 
After navigating through another successful offseason by landing Gordon Hayward in free agency, the next major decision on the docket for Danny Ainge is determining what Isaiah Thomas will be worth in the summer of 2018.

The 5-foot-9 guard exceeded everyone’s expectations yet again during the 2016-17 season by transforming himself into a second-team All-NBA guard and one of the top scorers in the NBA. Thomas will also be one of the best bargain contracts in the league for at least one more season, as his $6.2 million salary in 2017-18 represents the final year of his deal.

Thomas has made no secret about his desire to be paid more, and he’s well within his rights on that front after playing on an under-market pact since 2014. The question the Celtics will need to ask themselves in the next year is whether they want to pay the 28-year-old the type of money ($30.4 million would be his starting max) he may command on the open market. Ainge has shown a history of moving on from valuable future free agents-to-be (see: Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley) before they have a chance to walk away for nothing.

The odds of Thomas remaining in Boston long term increased considerably this offseason in my opinion, based largely on the moves the Celtics have made. A potential point guard of the future (Markelle Fultz) was passed on in favor of Jayson Tatum. Another free agent in line for a future payday next summer (Bradley) was moved preemptively for Marcus Morris. A second All-Star was added to the mix in Hayward, making Boston a team that’s built to give the Cavaliers a run for their money sooner rather than later. I doubt Hayward agrees to come to Boston if Isaiah weren’t a part of the team’s long-term plans too.  

While it makes more sense than ever for Thomas to remain in green from a competitiveness standpoint, the kind of market Thomas will see in his next deal has been hotly debated. In order to effectively answer that question and get a better sense of Ainge’s long-term planning, let’s take a look at the factors that will help determine the next payday for Thomas:


1) The point guard position is incredibly deep around the league

If you take a look around the NBA playoff picture last year, you won’t find too many teams with holes at the point guard spot. Other top teams in the East are fully set at point guard (Kyle Lowry, John Wall), while many other potential playoff teams have big money or young elite talent already committed to the position (Charlotte, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia). The same holds true in the Western Conference where you’ll only find a few playoff teams (LA Clippers, San Antonio, Utah) where you would qualify Thomas as a major upgrade at the point guard spot.  

There are certainly teams around the league that need serious help at point guard (Orlando, New York), but are those the franchises that want to be investing $25-30 million per year in a 5-foot-9 guard who will be 29 when he hits the open market?

There’s also another side of this situation that favors Boston. The reduced salary cap estimate ($102 million for 2018-19) has created an environment in which it’s hard to find a team that a) needs a veteran All-Star point guard, b) wants to compete right away, and c) has enough salary cap room available to make a significant offer.

Let’s first examine point guard signings around the league this offseason to try to get a better sense where the market is.





2017 notable point guard signings

Steph Curry at age 29: 5 years, $201 million (Warriors)

Kyle Lowry at age 31: 3 years, $100 million (Raptors)

Jrue Holiday at age 26: 5 years, $125 million (Pelicans)

George Hill at age 30:  3 years, $57 million, third year unguaranteed (Kings)

Jeff Teague at age 29: 3 years, $57 million, third year player option (Wolves)

Analysis: Curry got the super max, as he should have. Lowry was eligible for a 35 percent max with 10+ years of experience, but he came up a little shy of that. Getting only three years has to be considered a surprise too. Holiday got overpaid in my opinion, but he also held plenty of leverage over a Pelicans team that had no cap room to replace him with if he walked. With DeMarcus Cousins on an expiring deal too for 2017-18, Holiday’s agent had the Pelicans over a barrel and he did well for his client. I would imagine Thomas' agent would use this Holiday deal to ask for a max contract since he can make the case Thomas has been the better player than Holiday for a couple years now.

It’s safe to bet Hill and Teague’s deals are encouraging from Boston’s perspective since they were for reasonable money and just three years in length. Hill’s contract in particular was surprising since he had to settle for a third non-guaranteed year. Fewer than four years is generally a good thing when you are signing a non-star player at 29.    


2) Most teams have point guards already under contract for 2018-19

Teams "set" at point guard in 2018-19:

Charlotte (Kemba Walker), Golden State (Curry), Houston (Chris Paul), Memphis (Mike Conley), Miami (Goran Dragic), Minnesota (Jeff Teague), New Orleans (Jrue Holiday), Oklahoma City (Russell Westbrook, if he re-signs), Philadelphia (Markelle Fultz), Phoenix (Eric Bledsoe), Portland (Damian Lillard), Sacramento (George Hill/De’Aaron Fox), Toronto (Kyle Lowry), Washington (John Wall), Utah (Ricky Rubio)


Teams that could use a point guard, but are rebuilding and/or have young talent at point guard already:

Atlanta (Dennis Schroder), Brooklyn (D’Angelo Russell/Jeremy Lin), Chicago (Kris Dunn), Dallas (Dennis Smith Jr.), Denver (Jamal Murray), Indiana (Victor Oladipo), LA Lakers (Lonzo Ball), Milwaukee (Malcolm Brogdon)

Teams that could use an upgrade at point guard but probably won’t have cap room next summer:

Cleveland (????), Detroit (Reggie Jackson), LA Clippers (Milos Tedonsic)

Teams that need a point guard and could have cap room in summer of 2018:

San Antonio: The Spurs just re-signed Patty Mills to a four-year deal for $50 million, but Parker could be coming to the end of his career. If LaMarcus Aldridge and Danny Green opt out of their contracts, San Antonio could have max money to throw at a big name to pair with Kawhi Leonard.

New York: Cap space might be available if Carmelo Anthony opts out of his contract next summer (a big if, since he won’t be able to command $28 million elsewhere). The Knicks are rebuilding, but they are also the Knicks, so you can’t rule them out from throwing big money at Thomas to bring a star to the Big Apple to play alongside Kristaps Porzingis.

Orlando: The Magic desperately need an offensive sparkplug like Thomas, but they may not have the ability to offer Thomas max money or close to it without moving on from future restricted free agents Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. I’m also not sure Thomas does enough on his own to improve a roster plagued with bad contracts. If Orlando simply wants a star name to sell tickets and create some buzz, Thomas would be an attractive piece. His age doesn’t really line up well with what that team is trying to do from a competitive standpoint, though.    


Wildcard suitors

Brooklyn: There is money to spend here, but I don’t buy this possibility unless Russell flops next year. Investing in youth makes far more sense for Brooklyn at this point anyway.

Dallas: If Smith Jr. doesn’t pan out right away, the Mavericks will likely be looking for a big name to bridge the gap with Dirk Nowitzki fading into the sunset. Would the lure of big money on a non-contending team in Dallas appeal to Thomas? The Mavs will have plenty of money to spend next summer, so this is a team to watch.

Denver: The Nuggets made a big splash in free agency by landing Millsap and have plenty of young tradeable contracts on the roster for the 2018-19 season. Moving a few of those could open up the cap space to make a run at Thomas, if Denver doesn’t feel confident handing the keys to Jamal Murray just yet.

Oklahoma City: If Russell Westbrook and Paul George skip town in 2018, Thunder GM Sam Presti is going to easily have upwards of $30+ million in cap room next summer. Rebuilding is the logical choice for OKC, but they could also be looking for a new face of the franchise if they want to sell tickets.

The Celtics’ brass already know all of these looming factors about the 2018 free agent market. The salary cap is smoothing out. Elite free agents (Lowry, Paul Millsap) had to settle for three-year deals this summer. Lowry also had to settle for less than the 10+ year max. Few teams probably think they can make a serious run at the Warriors anytime soon. There are only a handful of teams that could be in position to offer Thomas max money next summer, and it’s unclear whether those franchises will believe he’s worth that kind of dough at age 29 without a chance of contending.


3) The free agent point guard market in 2018 is weak

While there may be limited teams with cap space in the summer 2018, the pickings will be very slim after Thomas for teams in the market at point guard. Here’s a list of the best floor generals that will be available next July:

Isaiah Thomas

Chris Paul (probably staying in Houston)

Marcus Smart (restricted)

Elfrid Payton (restricted)

Jeremy Lin (player option)

There will be a lot of other All-Stars at other positions out there exploring their options (Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins) but once those names get gobbled up, Thomas should be a hot commodity.


4) Health

Thomas valiantly played through a hip injury for the end of the regular season and the first two rounds of the postseason, but the lasting damage of that decision still isn’t clear. The All-Star told reporters in May that he hoped to avoid surgery, and Brad Stevens indicated earlier this month that the team expects Thomas to do so and be ready for camp.

While Thomas played his best basketball of his career last year, it’s not clear to the Celtics or the rest of the league whether the veteran point guard will be at 100 percent at the start of next year. Shane Larkin’s reported signing also raised a few eyebrows as well. That type of uncertainty provides a daunting backdrop for the All-Star, particularly as he heads into a contract season. If Thomas stays healthy and matches his incredible production from last season, it’s safe to guess a couple teams could buy into the idea of paying Thomas max money.


Conclusion

When you assess all of these variables, it’s easy to see why the Celtics believe they will be able to sign Isaiah for less than the max next summer. Even with the weak point guard crop, it doesn’t look like there will be a lot of teams in the market that will pay an older guard max money, especially when you consider Isaiah’s limitations on the defensive end.

Thomas will likely get his money from Boston (they won’t have the salary cap room next summer to find an adequate replacement) but the Celtics will be facing significant luxury tax concerns next year as well, particularly if they want to keep Smart as well. Any dollar the Celtics pay Thomas could end up being multiplied by three for ownership when you factor in luxury penalties that will loom in 2018-19. Boston isn’t going to bid against itself.  

The starting point guess here is about $25 million per year (a bit higher annually than Jrue Holiday’s deal) and that number goes up if Thomas delivers the goods again in 2017-18. Thomas will be able to back up the Brinks truck next year, but the guess here is he won’t be filling it to capacity.




bob



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Re: Why Isaiah probably won’t get a max contract next summer

Post by wideclyde on Wed Jul 26, 2017 7:17 pm

Nice article by Robb. Thanks for finding it, Bob. Hard to argue any of his points at this time from where I sit.

As a Cs fan, I surely hope that Thomas can play at the same level again this season. We are going to need him to do so to win the East.

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Re: Why Isaiah probably won’t get a max contract next summer

Post by BleedGreen on Thu Jul 27, 2017 1:17 pm

ESPN printed this article today:

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/20143724/nba-nuclear-winter-forecasted-free-agents-summer-2018

It is about serious market correction coming in 2018 after we just saw some signs of it in 2017 with guys like Derek Rose and DeWayne Dedmon. Rose would likely have gotten the Rondo 1+1 deal (14m + a 14m team option) last summer and Dedmon at least 3/36 instead of 2/15.

There will be a market for Thomas, but not one at 30+ million for year max money. I think his best bets would be one of two options:

A. Sign a 5 year deal in the 125 million range.

The Celtics are the only team that can sign him for a 5th year, providing serious job security. IT will be making 100 million more than his last deal signed with Phoenix, allowing for the 'Brinks Truck' analogies to still exist. By not taking the max he will look like a team guy who cares more about winning and allowing the C's the flexibility to keep Smart next summer and extend Hayward and (likely) Brown to big deals in 2020. If the CBA allows it the C's can even give him a no-trade in this type of deal, almost ensuring he ends his career in green and with 8.5 years of service time would have a good chance to land his # in the rafters. He'd be 34 at the end of the deal, which is the age nobody expects him to be able to do even 80-90% of what he is doing now but he'd still be on the back end of a few productive seasons and only slightly overpaid.

B. Sign for max money PER YEAR in a 2+1 deal.

This means he could get 2 years at roughly 62 million + a 3rd year team option at around 33 million. Since Hayward has an opt-out option after year 3 of his deal (summer of 2020) and may be looking at a 5/200 type extension at that time, this deal can give Thomas more cash upfront (never a small thing) before Wyc gets into tax payer hell. Those two years would be his age 30 and 31 seasons, probably the last 2 anyone realistically thinks he could perform like he did the last 2 seasons, MAYBE he can stretch this ti age 32, in which case there is the option year. The options part is pretty simple. If Hayward opts in (or opts out and signs elsewhere) the Celtics pick up IT's option unless Thomas prefers as long-term deal both sides are happy with at that time. If Hayward opts out and signs an extension in that 5/200 range the team cannot afford to be giving Thomas 33m at the same time. They would tell Thomas that the remaining 3 years and 63 million from the 5/125 offer would still be on the table as an extension if he were still performing at an all-star level. The C's could even turn it into a 5 year extension at that time with declining salaries (22-20.5-19.5-18-17) that keeps him in green for the rest of his career and ends up paying him something like 160 million over 7 years. Or Thomas could fall off significantly after age 30 like his naysayers predict and the C's are free to let him walk to another team with younger/better in-house options from all their draft picks or they can really lowball him with some 4/60 type deal that still keeps him a Celtic through age 35.
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Re: Why Isaiah probably won’t get a max contract next summer

Post by BleedGreen on Thu Jul 27, 2017 1:29 pm

I'd hope Thomas takes one of those two deals mentioned above and Smart becomes a victim of the lower cap crunch. Marcus, even with only minimal improvement from the last 2 seasons, probably would have been offered Evan Turner type deals in the 4/70 range summer of 2016.

Now he'll have seen what happened to guys like Caldwell-Pope and restricted free agents like Plumlee and Noel who have no leverage trying to get 17-19m per year when no team has even 13-14m in cap space anymore to give them an offer sheet.

Smart would be wise to take a 5 year 70 million extension from the C's that would not crush Wyc as he enters tax payer hell. He could also sign a 2+1 deal like the one suggested for Thomas. Maybe 35m over 2 years and a team option at 18-19m that could be picked up summer of 2020 if Thomas were to leave and Smart would know that entering his age 27 season and absolute prime with tons of minutes guaranteed him that he could position himself for a nice 4 year FA deal of 20m+ per season in the summer of 2021.

Al Horford is a wild card here as well. He can opt out of 30 million summer of 2019, one summer before Hayward. But while Hayward may be looking to break the bank if he has 3 All-NBA type seasons in green with a 5 year deal his age 30-34 seasons, Horford will be entering his age 33 season and exiting his prime. He doesn't have tons of mileage or a game dependent on extreme athleticism, so I think Horford could be expected to age well. It might be wise for both sides to give him a 4-5 year extension in the 70-100m range that could save a lot of lux tax cash in the 2019-20 season and give the team a better idea of who they can afford moving forward (hopefully both IT and Hayward).
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Re: Why Isaiah probably won’t get a max contract next summer

Post by bobheckler on Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:39 pm

Isaiah Thomas' opinion on this matter:







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Re: Why Isaiah probably won’t get a max contract next summer

Post by dboss on Wed Aug 02, 2017 12:58 pm

I think IT would jump all over a 5 year deal in the $125 Million range.

However I do not think Boston should tie themselves up like that. In my opinion I am still very unsure if the Celtics can actually win the NBA title with IT as your lead guard.

The Celtics have pretty much headed down the IT path but there still is a possibility that they will not keep him.

He had his very best year during 2016-17 scoring the basketball at an amazing clip. He will score again this year but probably not at the 29 PPG clip. He will be 29 in February and by the time the season ends in 2018 he will turn 30 in the 18-19 season which will be the first year of a new contract. I think Boston would be better off looking at a 3 year deal.

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