COMMENTARY | The Boston Celtics have until August 1 to decide whether to pick up Shavlik Randolph's $1.1 million option. If president of basketball operations Danny Ainge wants the best for his organization, he should keep Shav aboard.
Easier said than done, right? The Celtics' roster currently features the maximum 15 players with guaranteed contracts. And the team's inclusive salary sits at $72,531,029 -- in other words, $1.05 million over the 2013-14 luxury tax threshold.
The newest collective bargaining agreement further complicates such matters. Under the new CBA, if a franchise's salary exceeds the tax level by between $0 and $4.99 million, the organization must pay $1.50 tax for every $1 over.
Still, there are ways for the Celtics to retain Randolph and stay below the tax threshold. Here's how they can do that, and why it would make sense.
How to Keep Shav
Let's first contemplate the upcoming salaries of two expendable players. Jordan Crawford, initially acquired at the February trade deadline to bolster the Celtics' bench scoring, will earn $2,162,419 in 2013-14. Meanwhile, Fab Melo, the seemingly-endless "project" who has more of a home with Boston's D-League team in Maine, is set to make $1,311,240.
If the Celtics could part ways with Crawford and Melo in a trade, they'd drop nearly $3.5 million in overall payroll to $69,057,400.
Assuming they netted draft picks or cash considerations, the Celtics would be left with more than enough room for Shav's $1,106,942 contract. They would remain under the $71.48 million tax threshold, sitting at $70,164,342.
Given the right price, a handful of teams would more than likely welcome Crawford just for his pure scoring potential. Ainge grabbed him to assist in a playoff run, but now he serves little use in Celtics green during a rebuilding effort--especially with an overabundance of shooting guards on the roster.
Similarly, many teams would invest small potatoes in a trade for Melo, willingly absorbing his minimal contract. He may be a slow developer, but he's 7'0" and has a wide frame. Those types of bodies don't grow on trees, so other GMs tend to gobble them up.
Note: even if Boston had to land an expiring contract up to $1.31 million in any Crawford-Melo deal, they could still afford Randolph without elapsing the tax.
Why They Should Keep Shav
Boston was second-to-last in team rebounding last year (39.3 boards per game) and dead last on the offensive glass (8.1). And they just dealt their two leading rebounders, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. KG accounted for 7.8 rebounds per game in 2012-13, while the "Truth" grabbed 6.3 per contest.
Sixth place on the team in boards? Shavlik Randolph, with 4.4 rebounds in only 12.4 minutes. Per 36 minutes, he led the entire squad with 12.7.
That's not all. Of the remaining Celtics, only Rondo (18.1) beat Randolph's 15.9 PER last season. Nobody, however, comes close to Shav's rebound rate (an estimate of the available rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor).
If Randolph played enough games to qualify for statistical leads, his 20.9 rebound rate and 17.2 offensive rebound rate would have cracked the top 10 in the NBA. Think about that, folks: this guy grabs over 20 percent of all missed shots while he's on the floor, and 17 percent of all possible rebounds on the offensive end. Fans almost came to expect second-chance opportunities from the big man.
Compare that to Fab Melo's 4.9 rebound rate, including 9.6 defensively and 0.0 offensively, and it seems like a no-brainer to keep Shav. Sure, Melo's 36 total minutes in 2012-13 is a limited body of NBA work, but the Brazilian even struggled to grab boards in the Orlando Summer League a few weeks ago. At some point, Ainge must pull the plug on the Fab "project" and let someone else patiently wait for his "development."
Some fans will point to the rebounding ability of new addition Kris Humphries, the power forward Ainge "welcomed" in the Pierce and KG deal. However, there's no guarantee Hump will still be in a Celtics uniform by October. Ainge has indicated multiple times that he plans to make more moves, and the Humphries seems to have as few fans in Boston as he did in Brooklyn.
It would be silly to let Randolph slip away for a little over one million bucks. A rebuilding year would be the perfect time to equate a player with his basketball IQ and overall potential with rookie coach Brad Stevens' offensive scheme.
Many forget that Shav led the Chinese Basketball Association in scoring last season before joining Boston. He has an underrated skill set with the ball in his hands--just ask his former CBA head coach.
"If he is asked to start doing more offensively, he is really going to surprise some people with what he can do," said Norm deSilva, his Foshan Dralions coach last season, in a personal interview in March. "If he gets a chance to start a few games or play significant minutes, people are going to be very surprised at how well he shoots the ball from the outside, and his ability to spot up on the perimeter. He can really stretch the floor and present matchup problems for other big guys who have to come out and guard him."
DeSilva also pointed out Randolph's unusual combination of characteristics: large frame, strong motor and instinctive presence.
"Guys like Shav are so hard to find," deSilva told me. "He is very skilled and mobile for his size. He has a knack for finding a way to rebound against more athletic players, and is very difficult to guard when he faces up in the low post."
Final Plea: In Shav We Trust
With a logjam at the shooting guard position and serious deficiencies on the interior, Boston needs Randolph's 6'10", 236-pound frame. He has proved he can bang around down low against power forwards as well as centers, meaning he could help fill a serious gap in the middle.
Melo continues to demonstrate his body (and mind) are not NBA-ready, looking out of shape and, frankly, just out of it. He lacks athleticism, speed, hustle, stamina and instincts. At least Shav offers a few of these characteristics, and always gives 100 percent on the floor.
And while his defense may be lacking, at least he tries. The same can't be said for Jordan Crawford, one of the most pitiful backcourt defenders in the NBA. A shoot-first, pass-and-defend-later guy, Crawford never really panned out with the Celtics. Sources suggest that Ainge would "love" to trade him, but it's been a little difficult to find suitors.
Boston should be able to find somebody by the end of the summer. Melo and Crawford both possess affordable expiring contracts. Even if Ainge can get second-round picks or cash for them, he should bite the bullet and make it happen.
At least the salary cap space would be preserved, the roster would be trimmed down and the rebounding woes would be partially addressed.
And Shav, bless his heart, would be saved.
Sloan Piva lives in New England and covers the Boston Celtics. His articles have been published in a range of different magazines and websites. Find Sloan 24/7 on Twitter @SloanPiva.
- Sports & Recreation
- Boston Celtics
- Danny Ainge
- Shavlik Randolph
- Jordan Crawford