The NBA has set the salary cap for the 2019-2020 season at a value of $109,140,000. With the Celtics’ anticipated addition of Kemba Walker on a $141 Million max salary, the team will be searching for feasible options to continue to upgrade the roster.
By renouncing the rights to all free agents on the roster at the end of this past season, the Celtics created approximately $37.3 Million in salary cap space. The addition of Kemba Walker will consume slightly more than $35 Million of the created space. This leaves the Celtics with about $1.8 Million in cap space to pursue additional free agents.
The rules of the NBA salary cap can be convoluted. The $109 Million hard cap deters teams from spending exorbitant amounts of money on multiple free agents in one off season. However, there are numerous exceptions at different values that can assist teams in pursuing roster upgrades via free agency. After signing Walker, the Celtics will be granted a $4.8 Million “room exception.” This exception will allow them to exceed the salary cap.
With the remaining $1.8 Million in cap space and the room exception, who might the Celtics pursue in free agency after the Kemba Walker signing?
Filling the Void
With the departure of Al Horford, the only centers listed on the Celtics’ roster are Daniel Theis and Robert Williams. While Celtics fans have embraced “Timelord” and the serviceable German big man, the prospect of either player consuming big minutes is less than ideal.
The Celtics are rumored to have interest in multiple free agent centers. These players are realistic options for the Celtics to pursue with their remaining cap space and the room exception:
The 6’-11” Massachusetts (Everett) born center declined a $1.9 Million option with the Oklahoma City Thunder to pursue free agency. He has had an up-and-down, injury filled career that has limited his potential that boosted him to the 6th pick in the 2013 draft.
Noel would be an ideal candidate for the Celtics because he may command a salary around the $1.8 Million that the Celtics have left under the salary cap. He is only 24 years old and he is best known for his abilities as a rebounder and a shot blocker. Although his offensive skills are mediocre, he would allow for the Celtics to use their remaining cap space and save the room exception for the possibility of an additional player.
Kanter was linked to the Celtics as a potential trade target at the 2018-2019 trade deadline. He has once again been linked to the Celtics as a candidate for the room exception in the 2019 offseason.
Another 6’-11” natural center, Kanter provides the offensive ability that other available centers may lack. Between time split in New York and Portland during 2018-2019, Kanter averaged 13.5 points and 3.7 offensive rebounds per game. This type of offensive production from the center position could benefit the Celtics in replacing Al Horford’s offense. Kanter’s offensive game would also complement the defensive ability of Robert Williams. This would allow the Celtics to dictate at the center position when in-game adjustments are necessary.
Perhaps the most intriguing option that has been linked to the Celtics is former Golden State Warrior Kevon Looney. The 22 year old, 6’-9” power forward/center is coming off his most productive season in which he showed undeniable grit and toughness by playing through a fractured rib in the NBA finals.
Looney’s numbers are not overwhelming on paper, but he has steadily progressed in every category from games played, minutes played, total rebounds, and points per game in all four years of his career. Looney’s growth, toughness, willingness to accept his role, and playoff experience at such a young age could provide the Celtics with another core player to establish the chip-on-the-shoulder culture that disappeared from the 2018-2019 locker room.
Although the Celtics salary cap space is limited, the remaining free agent options at center are not. Let the free agency games begin!