Trade rumors continue to surround Terry Rozier. The 24-year-old will become a restricted free agent come the end of the season. This means Rozier can agree to an offer sheet with any team, but the Celtics can retain him by matching the terms.
Unfortunately, there are two major issues complicating the situation.
The Celtics are already over both the salary cap and luxury tax threshold. Signing Rozier would push Boston further over the threshold, restricting the Celtics from signing any outside players this offseason, or in the near future.
This forces Boston to replace any impending free agents, like Marcus Morris, with veteran minimum players.
It is well documented that Boston has a log jam in their backcourt. Kyrie Irving is the clear-cut starter, while Rozier and Marcus Smart are featured off the bench. Although this is a great scenario for the championship contending Celtics, it is a less advantageous spot for Rozier.
During Irving’s absence in 2017-18, Rozier started 19 playoff games, averaging 16.5 points, 5.7 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals in 36.6 minutes. His six 20-point games and one double-double helped the Celtics reach game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals.
With the Phoenix Suns reportedly interested in acquiring the point-guard, it is clear he is viewed as starting caliber in the NBA.
The Celtics options regarding Rozier’s future are as follows:
Contract Extension (Not Currently Viable)
The October 15th contract extension deadline has passed, meaning Rozier and the Celtics were unable to agree on an extension. “Scary Terry” reportedly rejected a $12 million offer from the Celtics. If the two parties are to come to a contract agreement, it will be during the free agency period.
Match Offer Sheet
One option for the Celtics will be to match the terms of another team’s offer sheet. This means that if the Phoenix Suns were to offer Rozier a $20 million contract, the Celtics would have two days to either match it or refuse. If the Celtics were to refuse, there would be no required compensation for Phoenix, and Rozier would walk. If Boston were to match the offer, their salary situation would become a farce, as Boston would be forced to pay a hefty luxury tax.
Assuming Irving signs with Boston for the max, and Al Horford accepts his player option, the Celtics will have three players making more than $30 million each next season. Including Marcus Smart’s new four-year contract and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s team options, the Celtics will have about $120 million tied up in just six players. If the Celtics match an offer sheet for Rozier, they will be forced to pay significantly.
Another option for Boston is to trade. The point guard and his $3 million contract have drawn interest from the Phoenix Suns, who allegedly made the Celtics an offer before signing free agent Jamal Crawford to a one-year veteran minimum contract.
If the Celtics do not think they can retain Rozier, the best decision would be to trade him before the February 7th trade deadline. For Boston, trading means avoiding a hefty luxury tax next season, at the cost of losing a sixth man of the year candidate. If the Celtics move Rozier, another guard will receive significant minutes. Candidates include Marcus Smart (who already receives significant minutes), Brad Wanamaker, or a new acquisition.
Celtics are in the driver’s seat
“Scary Terry’s” future in Boston is uncertain, although the Celtics are still in control. If they are willing to pay the luxury tax, Boston will be able to sign or retain Rozier. Alternatively, they can trade Rozier in order to accumulate future assets.
Ultimately, the Celtics are trying to build a dynasty, so going over the luxury tax may be worth the risk.