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What is going on with Glen “Big Baby” Davis and the Celtics? We’ve been hearing all along that Danny Ainge would let the market decide Davis’ value, and that the C’s were going to wait to match whatever offer sheet the forward signed. The Boston Herald is reporting two contradictory stories related to Davis. One is that the Celts and Davis are close to signing a deal. The other is that Danny recently tried to send Davis to Miami in a sign and trade for wingman Jamario Moon. So what exactly is going on?
This is where Utah comes in. Last Friday, Utah’s restricted free agent forward, Paul Millsap, signed an offer sheet with the Portland Trail Blazers. Utah has since been trying to move Carlos Boozer and his $12 million expiring contract. The Jazz are hoping to free up cap space and playing time to retain Millsap. If the Jazz can’t find away to move Boozer and retain Millsap, they can offer Davis the full MLE, starting at $5.8, to backup Boozer for a year and potentially become his replacement when Boozer hits free agency.
A full midlevel deal for more than 2-3 years is likely an offer the Celtics will not match to keep Davis. The reason for this has less to do with paying the luxury tax than it has to do with the future of the franchise. The Celtics have positioned themselves nicely to be major players in the free agent market in 2011 or 2012. Two marquee wing players could potentially be available in those years. Kevin Durant will be a restricted free agent in 2011 and Carmelo Anthony will be unrestricted in either 2011 or 2012 (player option). Pair either of those players with Rondo, Perkins and whoever remains of the Big Three, and the Celtics began to look like they could contend for the next decade.
However, if the C’s give Davis a long term deal that pays him $7 million in 2011 and 2012, this could gravely hurt their flexibility to resign Rondo and Perkins while retaining enough cap space to go after a top of the line free agent. The Celtics are trying to get something done with Davis, whether it be a sign and trade or a new contract, before Utah can set Davis’ value.
The arrival of Rasheed Wallace does make Davis expendable. Both are jump shooting power Forwards. Davis will not be able to split minutes with Rasheed like he did with Leon Powe. Wallace is an all-star caliber forward, whose length and defensive ability puts him well above Davis on the depth chart as the primary backup to both KG and Perkins. That leaves Davis to pick up minutes wherever they become available. Spending $4-6 million long term on a fourth big man is a little extravagant especially when you can have your pick of Ben Wallace, Drew Gooden, Chris Wilcox, Rasho Nesterovic, Joe Smith, or Ike Diogu, at the LLE or vet minimum for injury insurance.
No, retaining Davis is not priority #1. Paul Pierce has played more minutes than any other Celtic over the last 2 years. His effort has truly been remarkable. Pierce’s ability to not only stay on the court during the regular season, but to also battle through four grueling seven-game series in the last two playoffs has been of the stuff that legends are made. If Pierce’s minutes don’t get cut this season, the Celtics’ risk the threat of a potential season-altering injury like the one sustained by KG last season. Danny Ainge knows this and that is why he is exploring sign and trade options with Davis for a serviceable wing player like Moon. The one problem with this deal is that Davis will be a base-year compensation player, meaning that his outgoing trade value is only half of whatever contract he agrees to. It was because of the base-year compensation rule that the trade for Moon fell through.
Another potential trade partner, that has peaked my interest more than any other, is New Orleans. The Hornets are in a tough spot. New Orleans needs to get better in order to compete with LA, San Antonio, Dallas, Portland and Denver, but they don’t have the money to pay players. Hornets’ ownership hasn’t given the administration the clearance to spend in luxury tax territory. New Orleans has said to be interested in Davis, but only in a sign and trade scenario. So here’s the trade I propose: Big Baby ($5 million dollar contract) $2.5 million, Scalabrine $3.5 million, Pruitt $825,000 (non-guaranteed) for Antonio Daniels $6.6 million and Julian Wright $2 million. This trade solves the Celtics’ need for a defensive minded wing and a veteran backup point guard while giving the Hornets a much needed upgrade in the front court. Not to mention that having led LSU to a Final Four appearance, Davis is a bit of a local hero in the Big Easy. Since Pruitt’s deal is non-guaranteed, New Orleans could cut him so that the trade for Davis wouldn’t cost them any extra payroll.
For the Celtics, they get a valuable young player in Wright. Wright’s offense still needs a lot of work, but his defensive ability is well beyond his years. With Wallace and House hoisting up most of the shots off the bench, Wright’s offense shouldn’t be much of a concern. J Wright is 6’8” and has the wingspan of an eagle. His height and long arms would present plenty of problems for opposing elite wings and quick power forwards alike. Since New Orleans currently has Morris Peterson, James Posey, David West, Pedra Stojakovic, and Rasual Butler all currently under contract, Wright is expendable.
Antonio Daniels is a 12-year pro who has spent his career as a backup to the best point guards in the league. Daniels has subbed in on a regular basis for Tony Parker, Gilbert Arenas and Chris Paul. Unlike Stephon Marbury or Sam Cassel, Boston would be assured that Daniels’s ego wouldn’t get in the way of backing up Rondo for 12 minutes a night.
Whatever happens, Danny Ainge has to act quick so that Big Baby isn’t running with the Jazz next year while Paul Pierce’s legs are hoping the legs of Jerry Stackhouse or Bruce Bowen can stay healthy for one last championship run.