2017 Offseason In Review: Boston Celtics

Hoops Rumors is breaking down the 2017 offseason for all 30 NBA teams, revisiting the summer’s free agent signings, trades, draft picks, departures, and more. We’ll evaluate each team’s moves from the last several months and look ahead to what the 2017/18 season holds for all 30 franchises. Today, we’re focusing on the Boston Celtics.

Signings:Gordon Hayward vertical

Camp invitees:


  • Acquired the No. 3 overall pick and the Lakers’ 2018 first-round pick (top-1 protected and 6-30 protected) from the Sixers in exchange for the No. 1 overall pick.
    • Note: If Lakers’ 2018 first-round pick doesn’t convey, Celtics will instead acquire more favorable of Kings’ and Sixers’ 2019 first-round picks (top-1 protected).
  • Acquired Marcus Morris from the Pistons in exchange for Avery Bradley and the Pistons’ own 2019 second-round pick.
  • Acquired Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, and the Heat’s 2020 second-round pick.

Draft picks:

  • 1-3: Jayson Tatum — Signed to rookie contract
  • 2-37: Semi Ojeleye — Signed to four-year, $6.042MM contract. Second year partially guaranteed ($902K). Third year not guaranteed. Fourth-year team option.
  • 2-53: Kadeem Allen — Signed to two-way contract
  • 2-56: Jabari Bird — Signed to two-way contract

Draft-and-stash signings:

  • Guerschon Yabusele (2016; No. 16) — Signed to rookie contract.
  • Ante Zizic (2016; No. 23) — Signed to rookie contract.
    • Note: Later traded to the Cavaliers.
  • Abdel Nader (2016; No. 58) — Signed to four-year, $5.917MM contract. Second year partially guaranteed ($450K). Third year not guaranteed. Fourth-year team option.

Departing players:

Other offseason news:

Salary cap situation:

  • Used up cap room. Now operating over the cap, but under the tax line. Carrying approximately $110MM in guaranteed team salary. Only minimum salary exception available.

Check out the Boston Celtics’ full roster and depth chart at RosterResource.com.

Story of the summer:

While many considered the Celtics to be a legitimate threat to land Gordon Hayward this summer, especially due to his relationship with Celtics coach Brad Stevens, it’s doubtful anybody suspected the blockbuster trade between the Celtics and the Cavaliers that led to Kyrie Irving donning a Boston uniform this season. In addition to those two acquisitions, the Celtics traded the No. 1 overall draft pick to Philadelphia in exchange for the No. 3 overall pick and an additional future first-rounder that projects to be a strong pick.

Hayward only met with three different teams, the Jazz, Heat, and Celtics, with his decision ultimately coming down to Utah or Boston. After an initial report by ESPN that Hayward had selected the Celtics, Hayward’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, publicly and forcefully denied that a decision had been made, worrying the Celtics that the premature report may cause Hayward to change his mind and return to Utah. Fortunately for the C’s, that was not the case, and Hayward announced later that night that he was leaving Utah for Boston.

Unfortunately for the Celtics, Hayward’s arrival meant the need to rework their roster to ensure they would have enough cap room to make a max-salary offer to Hayward. The Celtics ultimately ended up trading starter Avery Bradley and his $8.8MM salary to Boston in exchange for Marcus Morris and his $5MM cap hit, thereby clearing the necessary room to accommodate Hayward’s first-year salary.

Then, despite a career year in which Isaiah Thomas averaged 28.9 PPG and played through the death of his sister and a torn labrum in his hip, the Celtics traded him to Cleveland, along with fellow starter Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, Brooklyn’s coveted 2018 first-round pick, and a 2020 second-round pick, in exchange for Irving. 

Key offseason losses:

Perhaps no team lost as many contributors from a season ago as the Celtics. In addition to the departures of Bradley, Thomas, and Crowder, fellow starter Amir Johnson signed with the Sixers as a free agent, leaving the Celtics with only one returning starter, Al Horford, to begin the 2017/18 season.

Additionally, the Celtics were forced to renounce the rights of key bench player Kelly Olynyk in order to have enough cap room to sign Hayward, resulting in Olynyk heading south and signing with the Heat.

All in all, the Celtics’ top three players in minutes played (Thomas, Bradley, and Crowder) and five of the top seven (Olynyk and Johnson) from last season are no longer on the team. With so many integral pieces moving on and new pieces being added to the puzzle, it will be interesting to see how the new parts fit together. If things don’t look good early on, Boston fans may begin to question Danny Ainge‘s decision to overhaul the roster so quickly after such a successful campaign the season before.

Key offseason additions:Jayson Tatum vertical

Though the Celtics lost most of their core from a season ago, they also gained as much talent as any NBA team, second only to perhaps the Thunder. In addition to landing Hayward and Irving, the Celtics drafted Jayson Tatum, whom they reportedly believed to be the best prospect in the draft.

Outside of Hayward, Irving, and Tatum, the Celtics also acquired former Pistons Morris and Aron Baynes, albeit in separate transactions. Taking into account returning players Horford, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier, the club has a legitimate nine-man rotation (eight after Hayward’s injury) to work with this season.

One of the likely keys to the Celtics success this season is how well head coach Brad Stevens can incorporate his young core with veterans such as Irving and Horford. The Celtics are now the sixth-youngest team in the NBA and will rely heavily on four players still in their rookie contracts: Tatum, Brown, Rozier, and Smart.

Outlook for 2017/18:

Unfortunately, the Celtics outlook for this season took an unexpected and unfortunate turn when Hayward was seriously injured in the team’s opening night tilt against the Cavaliers.

With Hayward unlikely to return this season, the Celtics will need youngsters Brown, 21, and Tatum, 19, to grow up in a hurry if they hope to repeat last year’s success, especially with the losses of Bradley, Crowder, Olynyk, Johnson, and Second-Team All-NBA performer Thomas. Moreover, Irving will need to be more consistent as the now unquestioned leader of this young team.

Given Hayward’s injury, coupled with the loss of so many key contributors from last year’s team as a direct consequence of Hayward’s arrival, it’s unlikely that the Celtics will once again earn home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference Playoffs and the No. 1 seed. The emergence of Brown or Tatum as a legitimate star – or Irving playing at an MVP level – could change that. For now though, it’s hard to imagine the Celtics winning 53 or more games, knowing what we know at this time.

Salary information from Basketball Insiders used in the creation of this post. Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Luke Adams contributed to this post.
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