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Offseason Outlook: Boston Celtics

Guaranteed Contracts


  • None

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents / Cap Holds

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (16th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $62,604,091
  • Options: $0
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary: $13,415,607
  • Cap Holds: $23,789,307
  • Total: $99,809,005

The Celtics apparently have resolution to one of their offseason question marks, with president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirming that Doc Rivers will be back as the team's coach. There wasn't much doubt about that, but Rivers wavered at the end of the season, and his name surfaced in rumors about the Nets. Much larger decisions remain, with uncertainty surrounding the futures of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Boston has an unusual opportunity with Pierce's contract. The team can save more than two-thirds of his $15MM+ salary if it waives him by June 30th, the day before the NBA's calendar flips over to 2013/14. That would require cutting ties with the player who's scored more points than anybody in Celtic green except John Havlicek. Pierce, at 35, might not be all he once was, as demonstrated by a decline in free throw attempts to his lowest per-game rate since his rookie season, but most of his numbers this season were consistent with recent years. Recognizing a need to help out a team that was weak on the boards, Pierce averaged 6.3 rebounds, his most since 2005/06. 

Father time appears to be closer to catching up with Garnett, who turns 37 tomorrow. He played just 29.7 minutes per game this season, the fewest since he was a rookie. He still gets it done on the defensive end, where the Celtics give up just 96.2 points per 100 possessions when he's in the game. His rebounding is tailing off, though, as he grabbed 9.4 boards per 36 minutes, his lowest rate since 1997/98. 

Alas, it would be much easier for the C's to part ways with Pierce than with Garnett, who has a guaranteed contract with one of the league's few no-trade clauses. They could try to goad KG into accepting a trade by unloading Pierce and demonstrating that they're in full-scale rebuilding mode, but I don't think Ainge is ready to move on from the "Big Three" era quite yet, if only because there aren't many other intriguing options.

The Celtics could try to trade Pierce, whose contract expires after next season, but that doesn't seem appealing. The cap space the C's can create with Pierce off their books in 2014, when several marquee free agents could be available, is probably more valuable than anything they might get in return for him. Ainge could also dangle Rajon Rondo's team-friendly deal, likely the team's best asset. That could net them draft picks and promising young players, and clear more cap space for a run at one of those summer of 2014 free agents. Boston, despite its rich basketball tradition, has never been a preferred destination for top free agents, however, and that would require Ainge to hit home runs with the youthful assets he would acquire for Rondo, who appears destined to stay put.

The four-year, $36.24MM contract that Jeff Green signed with the Celtics last summer looks like much less of an albatross for the team than it did in the middle of the season. Green's scoring average in games after the All-Star break (17.3) was a whopping seven points higher than it was through the first half of the season. Still, he'll need to show consistency if other teams are to find him an attractive trade asset. 

Brandon Bass regressed after a career year in 2011/12, while Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, the two shooting guards the team ostensibly brought in to replace Ray Allen, went through significant declines as well. None of them look like strong trade candidates. Avery Bradley returned from his shoulder injury to play top-notch perimeter defense again, but he regressed offensively and proved incapable of taking over as the team's primary ball-handler in Rondo's absence. That likely limits his trade value, though Ainge probably isn't giving up a starting guard on a rookie contract.

The Celtics are in line to pay the luxury tax unless they waive Pierce, and they'd still be well over the cap even if they save that $10MM+ on him. The team's best bet to upgrade is likely through the mid-level exception. It will be hard to find quality big men on the cheap, particularly if the team is limited to the $3.183MM taxpayer's mid-level instead of the standard $5.15MM exception. Still, someone who can shore up the team's rebounding will no doubt be a priority for Ainge and his staff, which lost assistant GM Ryan McDonough to the Suns. The Heat were the only team to grab fewer rebounds than the Celtics this season, and Boston doesn't have the kind of all-world talent that Miami can call upon to overcome that kind of flaw.

Barring massive improvement by rookies Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, or midseason acquisitions Shavlik Randolph and D.J. White, the Celtics could also use an inside player to take pressure off Garnett, whose minutes may decline again next season. Ainge acknowledges that the Celtics probably need to add more than a single piece if they're to become a championship contender again. Nonetheless, the clearest path back to the top appears to involve spending the summer on minor changes, rather than an overhaul.

Cap footnotes:

  1. Williams' contract becomes guaranteed for $200K if he's not waived by June 30th, and the guarantee rises to $300K if he's not waived by September 1st. The guarantee becomes full if he makes the team out of camp.
  2. The contracts of Randolph and White become fully guaranteed if they're not waived by August 1st.

Storytellers Contracts and Sham Sports were used in the creation of this post.

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3 thoughts on “Offseason Outlook: Boston Celtics

  1. 4thINFSgt

    Pardon my ignorance Chuck, but why can’t or why won’t the Celtics renounce the rights on cap hold players from McLeod to Pollard (per your list)? Thanks.

    • HoopsRumors

      They can renounce those cap holds at any time, but it doesn’t do them any good, since they’re over the cap. Teams typically hold on to the rights to players like these for years if they’re continually over the cap. The Lakers, for instance, still have a cap hold for John Salley! (link to…. Whenever the Celtics or Lakers plan to go under the cap to sign free agents, which probably happens next summer for both teams, you can expect these long-retired players to disappear from the books.

      The C’s aren’t paying any of those guys, and it’s a slight competitive advantage to have the ability to go over the cap to re-sign them should they once more become relevant NBA players, as someone like Krstic or Arroyo might. But basically, over-the-cap teams hang on to their cap holds simply because there’s no reason NOT to do it.


  2. Justin C. Harrington

    Wow, the new cap interworkings make me wish I had a degree from MIT. Is it as convoluted as it seems or I am just ignorant to it’s workings?

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