Green Thoughts

Chronicling the Boston Celtics quest for banner number 17... and beyond.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Would you pay $51M for this team?

Contrary to the team’s spin, the Celtics aren’t bad because they’re young. They’re bad because the front office does a terrible job of getting value for their payroll dollar and an only less poor job with draft choices.

Here were the six highest paid players on the Celtics for 2005-2006:

Pierce, Paul $ 13,843,157
Szczerbiak, Wally $ 11,016,000
LaFrentz, Raef $ 9,996,179
Olowokandi, Michael $ 5,900,400
Scalabrine, Brian $ 2,586,000
Dickau, Dan $ 2,375,000

That’s about $46 million on a total payroll of $52.6M, with about $36M in the top three. Add in Doc’s salary (249-254 lifetime, 78-86 w/Celtics, 8-14 in post season), and you’re at about $51M. And most of that money is tied up in long term deals.

Set aside Pierce, who’s worth the money, and Wally, who’s not, but is very good at what he does. That’s still $21M-$22M – about 40% of the cap - tied up in Raef, Kandi/Blount, Scabs and Dickau. Hard to win when you spend your money that way.

What’s more, the Celtics have pretty much done a terrible job of getting value since the big three retired: Dana Barros, Vin Baker, Travis Knight, Xavier McDaniel, Dominique Wilkins, etc…
The value equation also extends to draft picks. The Celts have done such a fantastic job spinning the “development and youth” message that most of the sports media have bought it. I don’t mean there’s no criticism. There is, and it’s sometimes withering. But at the end of the day, most of the sports media settles down and says “okay, we’ll be patient,” even though high school players, in general, are much less likely to pan out than college players. They’ve never played against any stiff competition, and there’s no way to know what kind of adults they’ll be. In fact, moving so quickly to the NBA world of fame and money makes it much harder for kids to develop into healthy adults.

So it’s really no surprise that the players who’ve panned out for the Celts are Delonte West, Ryan Gomes and, although he’s gotten into some trouble, Tony Allen. They’ve been vetted. Of course, being a good college player is no guarantee either. But it’s a better bet.

The Celts want everyone to keep buying tickets, so they keep spinning the “development” message. They may even believe it themselves. But it’s a real crapshoot that Jefferson, Perkins and Greene will ever turn out to be consistent players. Moreover, this is the NBA. Of course there needs to be an adjustment period for any new player, but this is not a development league. Players are expected to produce and win.

In the meantime, the Celt's front office has escaped ANY serious scrutiny regarding the way it spends the VAST majority of its dollars, and the kind of value it delivers… THREE YEARS after blowing up a playoff team.


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