BOSTON (CBS) – One of the forgotten members of the Celtics roster this offseason has been small forward Gerald Wallace.
Through all the trade rumors this summer, with names like Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, and more recently Rajon Rondo popping up, we have not heard of any potential deals surfacing which involve the 32-year-old swingman.
That’s probably not for a lack of trying on Danny Ainge’s part. The Celtics president of basketball operations would surely love to clear out some of the roster glut by dealing Wallace. The problem for Ainge is that there are a couple major complicating factors limiting his ability to move Wallace out of town.
Issue one is health. Wallace underwent season-ending surgery on his left knee and ankle back in March. Incredibly, the procedure was the first time Wallace has ever had surgery in his life, a shock for a guy nicknamed “Crash.”
Wallace should be ready to go by the start of training camp later this month, but after not seeing any real court action in six months, and at age 32, it’s a tough sell to convince any NBA team to take on a guy with two years remaining on a significant contract. That sizable deal leads us to issue two.
Wallace’s contract right now is still a monstrosity. It’s one of the worst value deals in the league as the 13-year-veteran is scheduled to earn $10.1 million over each of the next two seasons.
Wallace can still be a viable contributor, but his offensive skills have been on a sharp decline over the past three years, and his athleticism is starting to drop off as well. He’s worth a mid-level type contract at this stage of his career at best, not $10 million per year.
Other teams around the NBA are well aware of this fact and don’t want to take on Wallace’s deal unless one of two things happen.
1) The Celtics take back another bad contract in exchange for Wallace.
2) The Celtics send an asset — another young player or a future first round pick with Wallace in the deal.
At this stage of Boston’s rebuild, it makes very little sense for Ainge to give in on any two of these demands. Taking on another sizable contract doesn’t help Ainge’s situation at all, and giving away assets when you are trying to rebuild isn’t a sound strategy either.
It might make some sense for the Celtics to attach a pick to Wallace in a deal down the road when they need to clear salary cap space, but right now is not the time for that. Boston isn’t exactly an appealing destination for free agents at the moment, and dumping Wallace wouldn’t put the Celtics under the cap anyway.
There was one other option for the Celtics to get rid of Wallace this offseason through something called the “stretch provision.” It’s a recent addition to the NBA collective bargaining agreement that allows teams to waive a player over a two-month period during the summer and pay them the remaining salary owed on their deal over a longer period of time.
For Wallace’s contract, this means the Celtics could pay him $20.2 million over a five-year window (two times the remaining two years on the deal, plus one season). That move would amount to a $4.04 million cap hit over the next five seasons for Boston to account for Wallace’s full deal.
A couple teams around the NBA, the Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings, used the stretch provision this year, but the Celtics declined to take advantage of the cost-cutting tool by the September 1st deadline this week.
At this stage of the Celtics rebuild it was a wise choice by the team’s front office, especially since ownership is willing to swallow hard and pay a hefty salary bill for an underwhelming Celtics roster.
If the Celtics improve their personnel and become a playoff team again in the next couple years, muddling up any potential cap room down the road by stretching Wallace now will result in dead money on the cap until the 2018-19 season. That cost could be a detriment to the team’s rebuild down the road.
If and when the Celtics are able to make a significant move in free agency (potentially next summer), they should consider using the provision on Wallace to create the necessary cap space.
Until then, the smart money is on Wallace remaining in Boston. After seeing him provide a valuable positive influence in the Celtics locker room last season, one more year of Gerald may not be a bad thing for the team after all.
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