Irving makes second All-NBA team

Kyrie Irving was selected to the All-NBA second team yesterday, the first time Irving has been selected to the All-NBA second team. Irving was selected to the All-NBA third-team in 2014-2015 as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving received 52 second place votes and 39 third place votes for a total of 195 points; he received no first-place votes. Irving finished behind Houston Rockets guard James Harden (500 total points), Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry (482 total points) and Portland Trailblazers Damian Lillard (306 total points).

Irving’s accolades make him eligible for the NBA Super Max contract, which will pay players like Chris Paul and John Wall over $40 million per year. Irving was named to the All-NBA second team in his eighth year of NBA service, and is entering the last year of his rookie max extension deal he signed with Cleveland in 2015-2016. This makes Irving eligible for the 5-year Super Max contract. Considering the incentives associated with this type of contract, Irving could stand to make nearly $250 million over the next five years.

The Boston Celtics situation looked a lot different when they signed Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward two years ago.

Can the Celtics Afford Irving?

Can the Celtics afford that? Do the Celtics want to afford that? I wrote about the issues Kyrie Irving and the Celtics ran into last year and it doesn’t seem promising. In fact, even other teams have expressed concern over signing Irving to a long, lucrative contract.

The salary cap in 2019 is $109 million; The salary cap increases to $118 million in 2020. The Super Max contract Irving is eligible for is worth 35% of the team salary cap, with 8% yearly kickers. Irving would stand to make $38.15 million in the first year of his contract; He would make $44.6 million in the second year and so on.

Team chemistry withstanding, the Boston Celtics can’t even afford to sign Kyrie Irving to the Super Max contract. Gordon Hayward, virtually un-tradeable after a gruesome leg injury a season ago, and his sluggish return this past season, will make $65 million over the next two seasons. Al Horford, the unsung leader and backbone of the Celtics, has a player option worth over $30 million due in 2019-2020. Horford may want to sign an extension with Boston, but that would only save the Celtics $10-15 million per year.

(Boston, MA, 11/01/17) The Celtics future with Kyrie Irving once looked bright. Pictured (left to right) are guards Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, forwards Al Horford, Daniel Theis, guards Terry Rozier and Kyrie Irving. Staff Photo by Matt Stone

Crunching the numbers

Let’s say the Boston Celtics were to sign Kyrie Irving to the Super Max contract for which he’s eligible. Even after considering salary cap increases, the contracts of Irving, Hayward and Horford would comprise nearly 92% of the team’s total salary cap; In 2020 Irving’s and Hayward’s contracts alone would comprise 67% of the salary cap. The luxury tax increases from $132 million to $143 million from 2019 to 2020. But even that inflated number would barely cover the three max contracts in addition to the requisite 7-10 role players. Besides, what owner is eager to pay luxury taxes? The salary cap numbers don’t even take the existing Celtics contracts into consideration. The numbers simply don’t crunch.

Irving has already talked about leaving Boston. And a player with Irving’s confidence likely assumed he’d earn All-NBA team honors in 2018-2019. In other words, Irving is prepared to leave an estimated $40-100 million on the table to sign with another team. Considering the issues the Celtics had with Irving this past season, compounded with the amount of money it will take to keep Irving around, it’s in the best interest of the Boston Celtics to keep that money on the table, too.