State of the Union
The Boston Celtics are coming off a 48-24 season that was good for third in the Eastern Conference. The team had the 4th best Defensive Rating and 4th best Offensive Rating, with a net rating of 6.3 which was tied for 2nd best in the league. The Celtics have to be extremely pleased with their two talented young wings, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, as both have elevated their game to All-Star territory. Especially Tatum, who has played at an All-NBA level and looks to be a force in the league for many years to come. The talented around these two is also impressive, with Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart in the backcourt, Gordon Hayward on the wing, and an unselfish big in Daniel Theis who does the dirty work for this team. Brad Stevens has done well to get the most out of his unreliable bench as well. However, the lack of depth poses an issue, as well as having to rely on Daniel Theis as your starting center. The Celtics are also facing a potentially steep Luxury Tax bill in 2020/2021, depending on the Tax line set by the league, and that could hamper their ability to upgrade this roster and bring in some depth. The team looks to be capped out for the foreseeable future, with the impending Jayson Tatum max looming on the horizon. The only tool they have to utilize this offseason financially is the mid-level exception. However, Danny Ainge does have three first round picks in this draft, giving him some ammunition to make moves.
Salary Cap Analysis
-Current Cap Room: ($42,367,102)
-Projected Cap Room: ($42,367,102)
-Max Cap Room: $5,509,655
-Path to a Max: Very highly unlikely. It would have to involve Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter turning down their player options, as well as moving Kemba without returning any salary. Again, not going to happen.
-Best Contract on the Books: Jayson Tatum. There is going to be a theme here. When your best player on your team is on a rookie scale deal and you are consistently competing for conference championships, you are in good shape. Tatum has to be up there as one of the best plus contracts in the league.
-Worst Contract on the Books: Gordon Hayward. Hayward is most definitely going to be opting into that player option. At the time he signed his contract in Boston, it was universally viewed as a huge win for the Celtics. However, he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy during his tenure and has gotten passed up on the wing by the two young stars. Additionally, the team has seemed to play better when it matters most with Marcus Smart instead of Hayward in with the starters. Hayward still competes and is a good player, but Boston will be happy when he no longer has a max cap hit on their books. I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to move him this offseason to a team looking for a good wing creator and decent defender, allowing for Smart to enter the starting lineup full time.
-Team Needs: Bench Depth, Shooting, Bench Creation
-Potential Offseason Targets: Jeff Teague, Tristan Thompson, Mason Plumlee, Marc Gasol, Rudy Gobert
The Big Question
Is Daniel Theis enough at center? Is Robert Williams ready for a full-time back up role? The Celtics need to think long and hard about the center position this offseason. Theis has proven more than capable this past season, but who knows if he is the long-term answer there. If the Celtics don’t believe he is, there are centers to be had this offseason with the taxpayer mid-level exception. Both Tristan Thompson and Mason Plumlee could be available right around the taxpayer mid-level. On the trade market, Rudy Gobert could be a sneaky trade candidate for the C’s. He is up for a supermax extension, and Utah might balk at such a big number. Additionally, Marc Gasol or Serge Ibaka could be a sign and trade candidate if the Raptors decide to tear it down. However, the Celtics are already facing some large team salary numbers in the future and might find it too expensive to add another big contract and might decide to run it back with Theis. On that subject, what will ownership do if the tax line doesn’t move this offseason and the team is deep in the tax? If the line doesn’t move from last season, the Celtics are already in line for a $35 million tax bill before doing anything this summer. Will they hold firm with their championship-caliber roster, or will they look to move Hayward in a cost cutting deal?
-With three picks in the first round, it is highly likely that the Celtics end up moving one or two of them, especially with their tax concerns.
-14th Pick: Aleksej Pokusevski, Precious Achiuwa, Jalen Smith, Tyrese Maxey, Cole Anthony, Saddiq Bey
-26th and 30th Pick: Leandro Bolmaro, Daniel Oturu, Robert Woodard, Desmond Bane
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Nick Thoreson is a young professional working in finance who is passionate about the NBA and especially all things salary cap related.