News came over the Twitter “wire” Saturday that the Boston Celtics are reportedly signing Aron Baynes to a one year, $4.3 million contract.
Whoops to both Aron for opting out of his final year with the Pistons at $6.5 million, and possibly to Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower for outsmarting themselves one year ago when they signed Boban Marjanovic.
To be fair, their logic seemed sound when they signed the 7’2” free agent center from the San Antonio Spurs in last summer’s free agency: Aron Baynes would almost certainly command more than his current $6.5 million salary when he became a free agent in the summer of 2017, most likely eight figures over multiple years. Why not pick up Aron’s eventual replacement a year early? So the Pistons signed him to a 3 year, $21 million contract.
But last summer was the salary cap spike, the summer where Joakim Noah got a 5 year, $72 million contract and Timofey Mozgov got 4 years, $64 million. Sure Boban’s 3 years, $21 million seemed a bit steep, but nothing like those two contracts. Plus, Boban was a per-36 superstar and an incredibly likable guy. Boban could, over the course of the 2016-17 season, supplant Aron Baynes as Andre Drummond’s primary backup. Then, you’d flip Baynes’ de-facto-expiring contract for
a 6 pack of Fosters a second round pick or another asset before the end of the season.
Well we all know that didn’t happen. Baynes continued to be Drummond’s primary backup until the playoffs were officially out of reach, at which time it was obviously too late to get anything for Baynes. Up until the trade deadline I assumed the front office was giving Aron an extended audition for possible trade partners, as Boban was never given anything but garbage-time minutes.
It was incredibly hard to predict, but the free agent market has been much drier this year, especially for traditional centers. Small ball is killing the traditional center position (much to the chagrin of SVG and Gores - not only for the Boban signing but also for the Drummond signing. That’s a depressing story for another time) and with it died Aron’s chance at a multiyear contract and a nice payday.
Baynes definitely was no superstar, but he was a very solid backup NBA center, and he will definitely have a role in Boston. Boban has played incredibly well, in mostly limited minutes, but has never been tested over a full season as a regular backup center. This season promises to be an interesting one to watch in the backup center department, where we will get to see if SVB’s gamble on Boban will pay off more than Aron’s did on opting into free agency.
Did Stan outsmart himself or everyone else? Only time will tell.