The Boston Celtics did the bulk of their summer lifting on Friday, agreeing to a trade with the Indiana Pacers to land Malcolm Brogdon and securing free-agent forward Danilo Gallinari.
Boston then reached agreement with bench holdovers Sam Hauser and Luke Kornet. The Celtics have 12 players under contract and are quite deep into the luxury tax with at least two more spots to fill (and two two-way contracts to finalize).
So what should we expect the rest of the summer?
To TPE or not TPE, that is (not really a) question
After a full year of speculation about what the Celtics might do with the $17.1 million traded player exception generated in the Evan Fournier sign and trade, there is the very real chance it could vaporize without use on July 18.
That would be a bad thing if Boston hadn’t splurged to land Brogdon, adding $67.6 million in salary over the next three seasons. The Celtics are now committed to nearly $170 million in contracts for these 12 players (with 2022-23 contract value):
- Jayson Tatum -- $30.4M
- Jaylen Brown -- $28.7M
- Al Horford -- $26.5M
- Malcolm Brogdon -- $22.6M
- Marcus Smart -- $17.2M
- Derrick White -- $16.4M
- Robert Williams -- $10.7M
- Danilo Gallinari -- $6.5M
- Grant Williams -- $4.3M
- Payton Pritchard -- $2.1M
- Luke Kornet -- $2.1M
- Sam Hauser -- $1.9M
The Celtics can remain relatively opportunistic with the TPE. If there’s a low-cost player who's worth adding, the team can pounce via trade. But at $20 million over the tax line with no pain-free means to shed salary along the 2022-23 journey, the Celtics might be at their spending limit. Boston is projected to be at nearly $225 million in total commitment when projecting their tax bill given the elevated rates that come the further you wade into tax waters.
Which is to say it’s hard to see the Celtics taking on, as an example, another $8 million player via the TPE, as it would push their total spend to roughly $260 million. The Celtics are essentially paying at least $3.75 million per $1 million spent for every dollar spent after $20 million over the tax.
Now, Boston has paid four second-round picks to keep a big TPE alive through its incarnations with Gordon Hayward and Fournier. Still, it’s a sunk cost and it gave the Celtics an alternate way to add high-level talent if the Brogdon deal had never materialized. The cost to acquire Brogdon was so low that Boston can stomach losing the TPE if there’s no way to kick it further down the road.
The Celtics could use the TPE to find a defensive-minded wing or third center to fill out the roster but only if those players were worth splurging a draft asset and represent something over what’s attainable with a minimum contract on the free-agent market.
Who gets the final roster spots?
With tax concerns in mind, the Celtics should be motivated to give one of their final roster spots to a player with zero years of league service. Maybe that’s bringing Juhann Begarin stateside (Yam Madar would work, too, but it feels like there’s too much point guard depth to waste years of service). Alternatively, the Celtics could sign 2022 second-round pick J.D. Davison, who might otherwise land a two-way deal or ponder a stash overseas.
If Boston yearns to add one more veteran, it should be a defensive-minded wing who can fill some minutes when Brown and Tatum are on the bench, or a bruising big who can take some of the wear and tear off Horford and Williams III (the Celtics were previously linked to Thomas Bryant).
Whoever gets added needs to understand that there is not going to be many minutes available outside the top 10 and must settle for bite-sized chunks of playing time.
Maybe the decision on which rookie to carry into the new season will come into focus a bit when the Summer Celts head to Vegas.
If Begarin is still raw, maybe it's best to keep him stashed. If any non-veteran player shows promise and can benefit from being around the team during the season, maybe the Celtics treat one of the final open roster spots like a souped-up version of a two-way deal, much like they did in elevating Hauser after all the in-season maneuvering last season.
The Grant Williams extension
Williams emerged as a key piece of Boston’s rotation last season, embracing his 3-and-D role and thriving from his corner office. Recency bias will make an underwhelming Finals the prominent memory, but Williams was fantastic in helping to hound Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the early rounds of the postseason.
So can the player and team agree on a number to give him some financial security moving forward?
The market was relatively cool for 3-and-D and power forwards this past summer. P.J. Tucker -- a favorite Williams comparison given their undersized nature -- got $11 million per season, but age and experience all factor into his deal. Kyle Anderson got just south of the full midlevel at around $9 million per season while signing with Minnesota.
The Celtics could offer Williams something in that $9-11 million range to get the ball rolling. Maybe they go up a bit on that number but we can’t see them splurging too much because of all the salary committed into the future (though Horford’s money coming off the books will help luxury tax concerns). If Williams is part of the Horford succession plan, then maybe the team is more inclined to pay to lock him up early.
The Jaylen Brown extension
We’ll get into this more later, but the bottom line is that Brown is extension eligible and the Celtics will want to put that offer in front of him to let him know how much he’s appreciated. But they shouldn’t be offended if he wants to wait to maximize money down the road.
Fill out Ime Udoka's coaching staff
With Will Hardy’s departure, and some assistants/support staff likely to follow him to Utah, Udoka will have some spots to fill or shuffle on his staff.
If Joe Mazzulla is back after being in the Utah head coaching mix this summer, it would seem likely he’s bumped up to a front-of-the-bench role.
Pick the training camp destination
Hey, Brad and Ime, it’s time to take training back on the road gain. Put in that reservation for the Rodgers Recreation Center on the campus of Salve Regina.
Let the boys get out of the Auerbach Center for a few days at the start of another potential nine-month odyssey, and let them bond on the Cliff Walk. It’s a long season and there will be PLENTY of time to hang out in Brighton.