Thomas was asked how confident he is that he’ll get the max money he’s seeking.
“Very confident,” he said Saturday during his annual basketball clinic at BU, where he hosted more than 400 campers. “I deserve it. I put the work in, and you can put me down against any guard in the NBA. … My numbers are up there with the best players in the world, and my team is winning. So, I mean, you have to reward that.
“At the end of the day I’m not too worried about it. I only talk about it when people bring it up, so everybody’s always like, ‘He’s always talking.’ I’m not talking about it unless somebody brings it up. I’m just going to keep working though. My time is gonna come. I have a lot of faith in God, and I just have to keep working to get better.”
I’m not nearly as confident.
Thomas provided max-level production last season. If healthy, he could do so again this season.
But that doesn’t mean he can be counted on to keep it up over the following few years.
He’ll be 29 when he hits free agency, and undersized point guards – like the 5-foot-9 Thomas – tend to fall off quickly around that age. His next team should pay for what Thomas will do during his next contract, not reward him for what he did prior.
The NBA’s financial landscape is tightening. As the salary cap levels off, teams won’t have the money to throw around like they did in 2016. Just a few teams project to have max cap space and the need for a point guard – Magic, Bulls and Pacers. That list will surely change between now and next summer, but the starting point is a narrow field.
Boston is also in line to pay the luxury tax if Thomas receives the max, which projects to be worth $177 million over five years if he re-signs (or $132 million over four years if he signs elsewhere). So, the Celtics are especially incentivized to keep costs down.
They’re also incentivized to keep a good team rolling. After trading out of the No. 1 pick and the opportunity to draft Markelle Fultz, Boston is left with Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier behind Thomas. Either of those backups would represent a big downgrade. The Celtics also aren’t in line to have cap space to sign an outside replacement, even if they lost Thomas.
So, Thomas has some leverage. Enough to extract the full max? Maybe. It’d help if he plays at an elite level again, increases his number of suitors. But even that won’t guarantee a max offer.