Why aren’t the Boston Celtics looking for another max contract free agent this summer? The new national TV deal with the NBA means every team is awash in cash and cap space so, obviously, the Celtics can just grab what they need to become an NBA Finals contender?
At first glance it looks like the Celtics only have $62 million in guaranteed salaries for next season and with a projected salary cap of $101 million, giddy-up, here comes Gordon Hayward. Not so fast says Celtics Blog Keith Smith as he makes a solid case for why this is very unlikely to happen.
The Celtics can get to a maximum of just over $36 million in cap space, but that would mean renouncing all free agents, waiving Demetrius Jackson, Jordan Mickey and Tyler Zeller and agreeing to not sign any of the draft picks. That is an extremely unlikely scenario.
Make all those moves and the Celtics are still shy of the $30.6 million it would take to sign Hayward by about $1.4 million. Before you say the math is off, remember that you have to add what is called an Empty Roster Charge
It’s not impossible to create the space necessary to sign a max free agent, it’s just really, really painful and objectively stupid. You don’t just dump a number one overall draft pick to create salary cap space and there are no future considerations another team could offer that is going to be equivalent.
President of basketball operations Danny Ainge hasn’t been in the habit of giving away his assets for nothing and he’s got some more big decisions coming up a year from now.
Next summer Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Marcus Smart will be free agents and could eat up to $85 million in salary cap space all on their own. Having those highly talented players acquired with his high draft picks (thanks Brooklyn) is going to become really important if Ainge wants to keep his core together and that’s still true if he wants to use one of those “salary slots” to facilitate a future trade to acquire an equivalent talent at forward or center.
If he can, Ainge will certainly be open to making trades this summer and next to fix the holes (rebounding maybe?) in his roster. He does have too many very good guards, but like last summer, he isn’t giving away his hard won assets for less than they are worth.
Nabbing that big free agent, however, just doesn’t look realistic.