Thursday, July 17, 2008

On James Posey's Departure...

So, as I figured it is bye-bye James Posey. It is too bad but I think the Celtics were smart in not matching the 4 year/$25M contract which he got from the Hornets. Guaranteeing that kind of cash and years to a 31 year old role player is a risky proposition so I think ultimately the C's made the smart decision. It's tough not to get wrapped up in emotion over watching him go, but let's use the same logic we applied when the Red Sox let Johnny Damon and Pedro walk because they got more money and years elsewhere. It's not paying Posey for the first two years that you worry about, it's paying him for the last two years.

With all that being said, if you want to look at James Posey as being a nouveau version of Robert Horry - a fair comparison I think when you consider that both players have made their names as key contributors to championship teams and their games revolve around defense and three point shooting off the bench - take a look at the seasons Horry put forth between the ages of 32-35, the same age range which will cover the next four years of James Posey.

Per Game Stats (minutes/points/rebounds/FG%/3pt FG%)

2001-2002 (LAL) - 26.4/5.7/5.9/.398/.374

2002-2003 (LAL) - 29/6.0/6.4/.387/.346
2003-2004 (SAS) - 15.9/4.8/3.4/.405/.380
2004-2005 (SAS) - 18.6/6.0/3.6/.419/.370

...and now, James Posey's 2007-2008 stats for reference plus what Robert Horry did in his age 31 season

Posey - 24.6/7.4/4.4/.418/.380

Horry (LAL) - 20.1/5.2/3.7/.387/.346

*bolded years are championship years

In looking at the above, two things jump out. First off, James Posey had a better age 31 season than Robert Horry, and I'd even go as far to say that he had a much better age 31 season than Robert Horry. Secondly, Robert Horry remained relatively productive through his age 35 season. Yes, there was an expected minutes drop off in the last two years - the old dude can't run like he used to - but for the most part the production was consistent. If you estimate James Posey's career to follow about the same path then I think you can make a case for him still being a relatively valuable role player in the last two years of the contract. Maybe in those last two years he is the seventh or eight man on the team and not the sixth, but like Horry he is still going to be a guy you will be happy to see on the floor for your team in crunch time. So, if it is just production we are talking about, independent of money then I think a James Posey re-signing would have made sense.

But the numbers don't tell the whole story because in basketball, unlike baseball there is a salary cap. Sure teams flaunt it all the time and pay the luxury tax - which the Celtics did last year - but that is something that teams understandably want to avoid or at the very least want to avoid going way over. Whether or not Posey's contract would have pushed them to the limits or over the tax this year or any of the next four years I do not know. What I do know is that the contract that Posey has received from the Hornets has in effect almost doubled his salary from last year from about $3.2M to $6.25M a year this year and over the next four years. That's a substantial increase not only for Posey but for the hit it would be on the Celtics when you consider the following:

Rough amount owed PER YEAR to Ray Allen/Paul Pierce/KG over the next three years - $57M

2008-2009 NBA Salary Cap - $58.68M

2008-2009 Luxury Tax Threshold - $71.15M

Last year, the Celtics proved that they are okay with going over the luxury tax to field a championship level team as they went over by about $8M (payroll was $76M and luxury tax threshold was $67.8M). Assuming that they are comfortable going about $8-$10M a year over the threshold for the next few years, that puts their estimated payroll next year at about $80M. Taking into account the $57M owed to RA/PP/KG next year, that leaves about $23M to fill out the rest of their roster. With Perk scheduled to make about another $4.25M that brings the number down to $19M for 8 more active players, plus another two or three they will want to carry in case of injuries. If another $6M goes to James Posey, then all of a sudden that number is dropping to around $13M for about 7 to 10 guys. Obviously, that is a daunting task.

And that is just next year.

Considering that over the life of James Posey's contract they will definitely want to work out an extension for Rajon Rondo and either do the same for Leon Powe and Big Baby or explore other options to fill their roles then it becomes even more clear that $6.25M a year for a role player is just too much to spend. A luxury.

Still, it's sad to see James Posey leave. More than likely the C's do not win it all last year without him. So what now? Well, I think we nominate James Posey to be the second official member of the Orlando Cabrera Hall of Fame and call it a day. In a way, it's kind of nice that our lasting memories of James Posey will be his play in the NBA Finals and nothing else. It's the ultimate George Costanza leaving on a high note moment. It's worked pretty well for our memory of the OC right? I mean, he was a guy that hit .294/6/31 in 58 regular season games with a 97 OPS+ and hit .271/0/11 in the playoffs. That's not what we remember though. We remember him as royalty on account of his infectious attitude, outstanding defense, and the fact that he lifted the Nomar Malaise from the team. The hitting was nice enough but wasn't it just all the other "stuff" with the OC that we loved? And isn't it nice to have a guy like him who we can look back on and think of nothing but good times? Sure, the shortstop position has been more or less a disaster since he left town - like the 6th man position on the C's could very well become - but the Sox have won another World Series since and the 2005 and 2006 teams were each a lot more than an Orlando Cabrera away from championship level anyway. Considering that, it's not like not having him around "cost" them in those years. Sure it would have been nice to still have the OC around these parts and it would be nice to be looking forward to James Posey for the foreseeable future as well. Unfortunately, neither of those things were or are reality and we just have to move on and take solace in the outstanding memories these two players have provided. Even if they were just around for a short while, both have left us with the greatest of lasting impressions.

PS (part 1)...

If James Posey was the 2008 Celtics Orlando Cabrera then PJ Brown was their Dave Roberts. Both Brown and Roberts were more bit players than Posey and Cabrera but both had signature moments in the largest of situations that extended their team's championship runs. For Roberts of course it was The Steal and for PJ Brown it was the fourth quarter of Game 7 against Cleveland. Just wanted to put that out there.

PS (part 2)...

When I saw on the Globe's site that they had Ryan Gomes on the list of possible James Posey replacements, the blow of him leaving got softened drastically. I'd love see Gomes come back here in one way or another and I think he would be great in that 6th man role. He may not have the range of Posey but he can shoot and rebound and I think the transition from Posey to Gomes would be pretty smooth. Plus he should be a bit cheaper, fans are predisposed to him, and I have never met a Celtic fan who did not like him. Seems like a great fit to me.

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