Should Shareef Abdur-Rahim Come to Boston?
Word is that Shareef Abdur-Rahim is close to being dealt to New Jersey for Kerry Kittles and Aaron Williams, and that the only stumbling block is the Blazers' insistence that the Nets include a future first-round draft pick to sweeten the pot. But last-minute trade changes do happen. Either way, this proposed deal highlights some possibilities for Boston in their search for a veteran big man.
What is the proposed deal?
Portland trades Shareef Abdur-Rahim to Boston for Michael Stewart, Jumaine Jones, and a re-signed Chris Mihm. (Note that this is not even rumored to have been discussed. It's an illustrative example that, as I will try to convince you below, might make sense for both teams.)
Do the numbers work?
Abdur-Rahim is set to make $14,625,000 this year. The total salaries from Boston must be such that increasing them by 15% gets you to within $100,000 of Abdur-Rahim's salary. That means Boston's salaries must total ($14,625,000 - $100,000) / 1.15 = $12,630,435. Michael "Yogi" Stewart is set to earn $4,800,000 and Jumaine Jones $1,687,500. That leaves $6,142,935. That is too high a salary for Mihm if it is to increase by the usual 10% each year. A problem? Yes, but not without a solution.
Suppose someone wants to sign Mihm to what seems to be becoming a standard mid-level exception deal for six years. The MLE is $4,900,000. A six-year deal with 10% salary increases each year add up to $37,806,490 for the duration of the contract. Suppose we instead want to pay Mihm equal salary every year, with no increases. Mihm and his agent should be happy with that because it means he is getting more of his money earlier. Indeed, if we account for the time value of money, Mihm will in fact earn more, in real dollars.
An equal salary would be $6,301,082 per year, with no increases. After six years, that cumulates to the same $37,806,409.
With Mihm's salary of $6,301,082, the salaries match.
In other words, the numbers work if Chris Mihm is re-signed to a six-year deal starting and ending at $6,301,082 per year, and traded immediately to Portland. Mihm's approval is required for this trade.
What are the advantages to the Celtics?
(1) They have an immediate low-post scoring threat to balance Paul Pierce and the rest of their myriad wing players. Even Raef LaFrentz and Mark Blount tend to play a little further away from the post then Abdur-Rahim would.
(2) Rookie sensation Al Jefferson has excellent competition every night and will quickly absorb all of Abdur-Rahim's moves. Mentor or not, Big Al would finish the year with an even more polished array of offensive moves.
(3) With Abdur-Rahim's contract expiring at the end of the summer, the Celtics will become players in next year's free agent class. A successful and exciting campaign this season, plus cold hard cash, will attract even the most heat-loving players to Boston. Just look at Denver's example this year, as their exciting up-tempo style got them into the playoffs, and their deep pockets of cash got them Kenyon Martin.
(4) If things go very well, Abdur-Rahim might be tempted to re-sign with the Celtics much like Rasheed Wallace re-signed with the Pistons. This is far-fetched thinking, of course.
What are the advantages to the Blazers?
(1) They have been looking to move Abdur-Rahim almost since they acquired him. Zach Randolph is their power forward of the future and Abdur-Rahim is not comfortable coming off the bench. His agent has reportedly even threatened to keep Abdur-Rahim out of training camp if he is not traded.
(2) The Blazers are looking for spot-up wing shooters. They're not going to get that in this proposal. Instead, they lock-up a promising center/power forward who on a per-minute basis can potentially lead the league in offensive rebounds. Theo Ratliff is not going to be around forever, and they'd like to replace him with another blocking, rebounding, hustling center.
(3) The Blazers would still get about one-third of Abdur-Rahim's salary off the books in the summer as Stewart's contract rolls off. Stewart, it should be noted, has reportedly been a class act in every city he's played in. No one ever complains about his locker room antics.
What are the advantages to Abdur-Rahim?
(1) He gets to go back to the East, where he can probably have an easier time bumping against defenders who are more generally in the mold of Brian Scalabrine than Tim Duncan.
(2) He gets to start for a playoff-caliber team.
(3) He gets to play for arguably the most storied franchise in all sports.
Sounds perfect. Are there any disadvantages?
Indeed there are. First of all, if Al Jefferson comes along even faster than anyone expects, and is capable of being a quality starter, he will be stuck behind Abdur-Rahim all year. Or, if he beats him to the starting role, Abdur-Rahim may once again be upset at being benched. On Portland's end, they are looking more for spot-up shooters and expiring contracts but instead are receiving a long-term backup center, a small forward/power forward tweener, and the rest as an expiring contract. Not exactly their ideal scenario.
Are there other possibilities?
Absolutely. The most obvious one is that Portland will ask for Ricky Davis instead of either Mihm or Jones. In fact, if Mihm is re-signed to a simple MLE deal, then Jones can be replaced with Davis and the salaries will match. Davis is an explosive scorer and an underrated defender and passer. But the Celtics would be wise not to deal him so quickly. There's a solid chance that Davis can become a very solid player for the Celtics. Besides, it is not worth losing Davis to get a one-year player in return.
Why would Portland want to reunite so many former Cavaliers?
Indeed, they already have Darius Miles. All three of the players in the proposed trade, and Ricky Davis should his name be mentioned, are all players the Celtics acquired from Cleveland last year. But given the propensity for a variety of teams to mold themselves into teams of yore, this shouldn't be too exceptional. Examples are: the Philadelphia Celtics who were looking to get Blount but instead got Kedrick Brown, Jim O'Brien and his assistants, and are looking to bring back Antoine Walker. The Miami Lakers with Shaq and Eddie Jones. The Washington Warriors with Larry Hughes, Antwan Jamison, and Gilbert Arenas. The Orlando Rockets. Why not the Portland Cavaliers?
The Celtics would love to tweak New Jersey and get Abdur-Rahim out from under them. This whole trade may be unlikely to happen but if it does, it would mean New Jersey is valuing the future draft picks it received from Denver way too highly. Word is that the Nets and Blazers will agree this weekend. But of course, stranger things have happened. Either way, this proposed trade with the Celtics is meant to highlight some issues that could be addressed with other veteran power forwards having expiring contracts.