Dennis Schroder’s first foray into NBA free agency has gone about as poorly as possible. The veteran point guard reportedly turned down a four-year, $84 million extension from the Los Angeles Lakers during the season hoping to cash in on a bigger deal in the $100 million range, but with the bulk of free agency now in the books, no such offer has materialized.
Now, only Oklahoma City and New Orleans have the ability to create meaningful cap space, and at this stage of the offseason, it doesn’t appear either is all that interested in doing so for Schroder. The Lakers still have his Bird Rights and could go above the cap to bring him back, but they’ve signed several guards this offseason and don’t appear to have minutes to offer him. Even if they did, their luxury tax bill is going to be so high that bringing Schroder back even on a modest one-year deal would have enormous financial repercussions. Schroder’s best bet, at this stage, would likely be to take the mid-level exception from one of the teams that still have one.
For the first time this offseason, a true suitor appears to have emerged. According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, the Boston Celtics and Schroder are discussing a deal. Jordan Schultz of ESPN adds that the hold-up at this stage comes down to contractual demands. The Celtics have reportedly offered Schroder a one-year deal at the taxpayer mid-level exception at $5.9 million, but Schroder wants the full MLE ($9.5 million), and he also wants a second-year option. The Celtics, however, aren’t interested in being hard-capped moving forward.
Boston’s hesitance to make a long-term commitment to Schroder makes sense in the context of the rest of its offseason. The Celtics have worked hard to preserve cap space in the hopes of creating enough next offseason to pursue Wizards star Bradley Beal should he hit the market. Signing Schroder as a one-year stopgap at point guard could help Boston have a strong enough season to recruit Beal without tying up their finances for the long haul. Right now, Marcus Smart and Josh Richardson are projected to start in the backcourt for Boston, but both are better suited to playing shooting guard. If Schroder’s goal is to raise his value enough to get a big deal next offseason, Boston appears to be one of the best fits left available to him.
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The Celtics recently crossed the luxury tax line by signing Enes Kanter to a one-year deal. At present, they only have enough room beneath that line to offer Schroder the taxpayer mid-level exception worth $5.9 million. The non-taxpayer mid-level exception pays more than $9.5 million, but Boston would need to clear some salary in order to offer that. In a perfect world, that would mean getting off enough money to sign Schroder without crossing the luxury tax line. Jabari Parker’s $2.3 million is not guaranteed, and Kris Dunn’s $5 million would be redundant if the Celtics sign Schroder. Boston has paths to clearing the money if they want to do so.
The problem with such a pact from Schroder’s perspective is that signing a one-year deal with Boston, or any other team besides the Lakers, would cost him his Bird Rights. He would instead have Non-Bird Rights next offseason, which could provide him only a 20 percent raise before his new team would have to use cap space or a different cap exception to retain him.
If Schroder wants to retain full Bird Rights, he would have to re-sign with the Lakers or spend three years with a new team. The Lakers could, in theory, sign-and-trade him to a new team using his Bird Rights now, but there doesn’t appear to be a robust market for his services. Taking a discount wouldn’t be ideal either. Any sign-and-trade deal must last at least three seasons. Only the first year needs to be guaranteed, but options are not permitted. In other words, Schroder could sign a deal that gives his new team the freedom to get rid of him, but he could not use a sign-and-trade to guarantee himself free agency next offseason.
There is no ideal option left for Schroder at this stage of the offseason. He’s going to have to compromise one way or another. For now, Boston looks like the best option for Schroder. It’s not a four-year, $84 million deal, but it’s a good role on a winning team for a decent short-term salary. If he’s going to have any chance of eventually recouping the money he passed on, he’s going to have to find a situation like that.