Summer agenda: Does a big free-agent splash make sense for Celtics?

Bobby Marks
The Vertical
The Celtics could pursue a big-name free agent such as Gordon Hayward. (AP)

The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a former 20-year executive with the Nets, looks at the possible offseason plans and roster details for every team in the league.

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BOSTON CELTICS

Offseason focus

The direction with salary cap space

The Celtics have different options this summer when it comes to cap space.

Boston can chase a free agent such as All-Star Gordon Hayward or renegotiate the contracts of Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley.

First, though, the Celtics would need to create room.

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Boston is over the salary cap and in order for the Celtics to create significant cap space the team would need to:

1. Renounce the free-agent cap holds of Kelly Olynyk (withdraw qualifying offer), Amir Johnson, James Young and Jonas Jerebko.

2. Waive the non-guaranteed contracts of Tyler Zeller, Jordan Mickey and Demetrius Jackson.

Boston would have $24 million in cap space but lose depth on the frontcourt.

The Celtics do have the rights to 2016 first-round picks Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic.

Restraint at the draft

There is a temptation that comes with having the No. 1 overall draft pick (acquired from the Nets).

The temptation is using the selection to add an All-Star such as Jimmy Butler or Paul George to a team that fell three wins short of the NBA Finals.

While adding either player would enhance the Celtics’ chances of returning to the Eastern Conference finals, sacrificing the pick would go against the rebuild that Danny Ainge started in 2013.

George, on an expiring contract, would be a short-term rental at a significant cost, and Butler, while under contract for two more seasons, would cost the Celtics $32 million in free agency in 2019.

Ainge has shown patience in his mission to restore the Celtics’ glory, and this draft should be no different.

Retaining the pick and drafting Washington point guard Markelle Fultz might not make the team better immediately.

But in a league dominated by point guards, Fultz has the physical profile and overall complete game needed to possibly become an All-Star.

Markelle Fultz is projected to be the top pick in the draft. (AP)

Explore the trade market

The rule of thumb in the NBA is not to risk assets for a player with an expiring contract.

Regarding George, that might need to be reconsidered.

The best way to court a free agent-to-be is to have him for a full season.

If acquired, Boston would also have some leverage, owning George’s Bird rights and having the ability to offer a fifth year.

While the first-round picks from the Nets in 2017 and 2018 should be off the table, the Celtics have depth at point guard, small forward and with other draft picks.

A combination of Terry Rozier, Jae Crowder and Tyler Zeller presents value for a Pacers team that could lose George for nothing in free agency.

Each player would bolster a position of need for the Pacers.

With the likely addition of Fultz and the emergence of rookie Jaylen Brown, Boston has the depth to minimize risk if George were to leave in free agency.

Summer cap breakdown

Guaranteed                                2017-18                                Insider info
Al Horford                                 $27,734,405
Avery Bradley                           $8,808,989                      Renegotiation eligible
Isaiah Thomas                          $6,261,395                      Renegotiation eligible
Jae Crowder                             $6,796,117
Jaylen Brown                            $4,956,480
Marcus Smart                           $4,538,020                    Rookie extension eligible
Terry Rozier                              $1,988,520

Non/partial                                2017-18                            Guarantee date
Tyler Zeller                                $8,000,000                                 July 2
Demetrius Jackson                  $1,384,750                                 July 15
Jordan Mickey                          $1,471,382                                 July 1

FA cap hold                                2017-18                               FA status
Amir Johnson                          $15,600,000                             Early Bird
Jonas Jerebko                          $9,500,000                                   Bird
Kelly Olynyk                              $7,735,033                          Restricted Bird
James Young                             $2,803,507                   Fourth-year restriction
Gerald Green                             $1,471,382                               Non-Bird

First-round cap hold                  2017-18
No. 1 pick                                  $7,026,240
Guerschon Yabusele                 $2,247,480
Ante Zizic                                  $1,645,200

Salary table                                   2017
Guaranteed salaries                $61,733,926
Non-guaranteed                      $10,206,132
Free-agent cap hold                $48,028,842
Salaries: cap                           $119,968,900
Salaries: tax                             $71,940,058
Salary cap                               $101,000,000
Luxury tax                               $121,000,000
Cap space                       None ($18,968,900 over)
Tax room                                  $49,059,942

Projected cap space

The Celtics are over the salary cap but have the flexibility to create room.

If the Celtics remain over the cap they will have the $8.4 million full-mid level and $3.2 million bi-annual exceptions available in free agency.

If Boston elects to create room they will have the $4.3 million room mid-level exception.

June draft picks

Boston has the first pick in the draft.

The Celtics also have three picks in the second round: Nos. 37, 53 and 56.

Future draft picks

The Celtics have the Nets’ first-round pick in 2018.

Boston also has the Grizzlies’ first-rounder in 2019 (protected Nos. 1-8).

If the Grizzlies are in the top eight in 2019, then Boston will receive a pick that is protected Nos. 1-6 in 2020.

The pick becomes unprotected in 2021 if the Celtics do not receive a pick in either 2019 or 2020.

The Celtics will have either a first-round pick in 2019 or 2020 from the Clippers, protected Nos. 1-14 in each year. The draft pick will turn into a 2022 second-round pick if not conveyed.

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