Power Through Draft Picks
For the past several seasons the Boston Celtics have been in a position of power. The Celtics “Big Three” of the late oughts were parlayed into an abundance of first round picks by GM Danny Ainge. One of those picks was traded for Kyrie Irving, who instantly propelled the Celtics to the next level. When Irving’s late season injury kept him out of the 2017-2018 playoffs, the young Boston core stepped up. The future looked bright for the Boston Celtics.
Unfortunately, the Kyrie Irving situation may not have worked in Boston, but the bigger question is: Will any big free agent acquisition end up working out for the Celtics? The situation doesn’t look as promising with Irving reportedly wanting out of Boston, which would hurt the Celtics trade prospects. Losing Kyrie would also make it difficult to lure another marquee player who might be reluctant to take on Irving’s 2017-2019 role. Players also seem to be keying in on a city’s marketability, and even the weather. There’s a reason we only seem to hear about New York or Los Angeles as potential landing spots for superstar free agents.
A Realistic Future
Imagine a scenario in which the Celtics lose Kyrie Irving next season. Let’s also assume Al Horford and Aaron Baynes pick up their 2019-2020 player options. Finally, we’ll assume the Celtics retain Terry Rozier through their unmatched qualifying offer via Rozier’s restricted free agency. These three scenarios are not only plausible, but possible. The roster might look familiar, but the salary cap situation might surprise you.
Six roster spots on the Boston Celtics are contractually-bound. Those six players – Gordon Hayward, Jason Tatum, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Guerschon Yabusele and Robert Williams – account for over $64 million, or 59% of the salary cap. If we add Horford and Baynes’ player options the salary cap climbs to over $100 million, or 92% of the salary cap. Finally, Rozier’s qualifying offer is nearly $4.3 million, however, the cap number would be nearly $9.2 million. Rozier’s contract would put the Boston Celtics salary cap over $109.9 million; the NBA salary cap is $109 million.
A Reasonable Roster
It’s clear after crunching the numbers the Celtics will be over the salary cap. The good news is the luxury tax is $132 million in 2019-2020, so ownership has the flexibility to sign their draft picks and perhaps take on a veteran minimum contract.
With the money essentially allocated the question becomes who actually fills out the Celtics roster in 2019-2020? With positions like shooting guard (Jaylen Brown), small forward (Gordon Hayward; Jason Tatum) and power forward/center (Al Horford; Aaron Baynes) set, the focus becomes point guard. Justin Mantegani wrote a great piece for Boston Sports Extra highlighting the need at point guard and possible solutions.
The Need For Depth
Questions about the point guard position are pressing, no pun intended, but even more pressing is Boston’s depth. As it stands according to the aforementioned scenario, the Celtics would enter the 2019-2020 season with Smart and Baynes as their only reliable veteran bench players. The rest would comprise of Guerschon Yabusele, Robert Williams and the Celtics’ 2019 draft picks. Perhaps, instead of concentrating on landing marquee superstars, the focus should be acquiring veterans to help the Celtics young core.
The Celtics have budding young stars in Tatum and Brown. The team has veteran All-Stars in Hayward and Horford, and the heart of the team in Marcus Smart. Boston even has raw potential in Yabusele and Williams, not to mention their incoming draft picks. The biggest issue for the Celtics is depth, especially at the point guard position. With Boston’s star point guard Kyrie Irving all but gone, that’s where the focus needs to be.