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Offseason In Review: Boston Celtics

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees and more will be covered as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.



  • None


Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

  • Terry Rozier (Round 1, 16th overall). Signed via rookie exception to rookie scale contract.
  • R.J. Hunter (Round 1, 28th overall). Signed via rookie exception to rookie scale contract.
  • Jordan Mickey (Round 2, 33rd overall). Signed via cap room to a four-year, $5MM deal. The first two years are fully guaranteed, while the final two years are non-guaranteed. The final season is also a team option.
  • Marcus Thornton (Round 2, 45th overall). Signed one-year pact with the Sydney Kings of Australia’s National Basketball League.

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Going into the summer, the Celtics might have been delighted to know that they would trade for a two-time All-Star who’d twice averaged more than 20 points per game and eclipsed 10 rebounds per game on four occasions. The revelation that the player is David Lee, who hasn’t accomplished any of those feats since the 2012/13 season, would temper that feeling. Lee has been a consistently productive player over an extended period of time in the NBA, make no mistake. He averaged 18.2 points and 10.7 rebounds per game over a six-season span from 2008/09 to 2013/14. Still, his performance in last year’s Finals notwithstanding, his game is a poor stylistic fit for the modern NBA, as he’s neither a floor-stretcher nor a rim-protector, and he suddenly found himself dropped from the starting lineup and the rotation entirely with the Warriors last season.

The early results of his Celtics tenure are telling, as the team appears to regard him as just one of five big men jockeying for playing time in an overcrowded frontcourt. He’s started in only half of the Celtics games and is averaging 18.5 minutes per contest. Only his contract, which pays him nearly $15.5MM this season, would suggest that he’s still a featured player.

Yet it’s Lee’s contract that’s part of his appeal for Boston. His pay doesn’t match his production, undoubtedly, but he represents an extra cost of only $4.4MM over Gerald Wallace, whom the Celtics offloaded in the Lee trade and who was decidedly less productive last season than even a diminished Lee has been so far this year, as Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe pointed out to us. Lee’s also in the final year of contract, meaning the team has a season to evaluate his value within its system and set his price accordingly when he hits free agency in 2016. At worst, he departs, and the Celtics pocket the cap space.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge pursued the same idea with the free agent signings of Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko, neither of whom has guaranteed salary beyond this season despite contracts that call for them to make $12MM and $5MM this year, respectively. Boston opened cap space for the first time since 1997, but with no marquee acquisition in the cards, the Celtics essentially rolled it over to next year, retaining their copious flexibility and at least some of their trade assets.

Still, the Celtics elected to sacrifice a bundle of trade exceptions when they dipped beneath the cap, including an exception worth about $12.9MM from the Rajon Rondo deal and another of about $7.7MM that was a vestige of the trade that sent Tayshaun Prince to the Pistons. They could have executed the Lee trade as an over-the-cap team, since the salaries were within the allowed matching range. It would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, to acquire Johnson without burning the Rondo exception one way or another, but if they simply absorbed Johnson using the Rondo exception in a sign-and-trade, they probably could have kept the Prince exception to use during the season.

Regardless, the Celtics still have as many as three extra first-round picks coming their way in 2016, the right to swap first-rounders with the Nets in 2017, and two additional extra first-round picks beyond that. It’s a haul that represents trade fodder, and Ainge already reportedly tried to deal some of them as part of offers that would have sent a whopping four first-round picks to either the Hornets or the Heat. Ainge was evidently targeting Justise Winslow in this year’s draft, but with those offers rejected, the Celtics pulled a surprise at pick No. 16, taking Terry Rozier. Boston went with more conventional choices at picks Nos. 28 and 33, drafting R.J. Hunter and Jordan Mickey, respectively.

Hunter appears the most likely of the three to receive significant playing time this season, as Brian Robb of ESPN TrueHoop’s Celtics Hub suggested to us and as Chris Forsberg of has written, though none have cracked the rotation yet, and Mickey is in the D-League on his second assignment of the year. Mickey’s D-League time seems partly a product of the frontcourt overcrowding, while Rozier plays at the same position as Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas. This year’s draft additions seem to underscore the idea that the Celtics are still stockpiling talent to bolster their chances for a trade and not giving too much thought to how that talent fits in with the existing roster construction.

Jae Crowder appears to be the exception to that rule. He was one of 13 free agents around the NBA to sign a five-year deal this past offseason, and while his $35MM take was the second least lucrative among them, it’s clear the Celtics see him as a complementary player who can fit with the team as it moves into what it hopes is a future in which it returns to title contention. It’s a testament to what Ainge was able to reap in the Rondo trade last year, since Rondo has already moved on from the Mavericks and clearly looked like he had gone into decline once he arrived in Dallas.

Ainge continued to make swaps this past summer, though not quite at the dizzying pace that saw him pull off 11 deals during the 2014/15 season. The Lee trade was the most prominent among this summer’s Celtics trade, but Boston picked up second-rounders in swaps that brought in Zoran Dragic and Perry Jones III, both of whom subsequently hit waivers. The Celtics couldn’t find a taker for Jones before he became a casualty of preseason cuts, but they received $1.5MM cash from the Thunder to largely offset his salary of more than $2.038MM.

The Celtics remain in flux even as they have a shot at back-to-back playoff berths. They still don’t have the sort of star that’s almost always necessary for title contention, but they have a skilled coach, lots of trade assets and a front office chief not afraid to take risks. Boston’s offseason was far from perfect, and Ainge may well have been better served staying above the cap and holding on to the team’s trade exceptions, but the Celtics still have loads of cap flexibility for next season. They have only about $34MM in guaranteed salary against a salary cap many around the league think will surge to $95MM, thanks in part to their decision not to do extensions with either Tyler Zeller or Jared Sullinger. They also remain in play to make a game-changing trade. That’s ultimately the point of just about every move Boston is making.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of it.

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2 thoughts on “Offseason In Review: Boston Celtics

  1. Is it correct that the Celtics get the NJ Nets first rd pick in the upcoming draft, with no stipulations? That’s going to be a huge trade chip if Ainge is going to pull off a big deal.

    • Chuck Myron

      Yep, it’s unprotected. Same deal in 2018, too. Great trade for the Celtics.

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