Where do Celtics turn now with Irving and Horford likely leaving?
The Boston Celtics appear poised for the possibility that All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Al Horford will both walk away this summer, forcing the team to recalibrate its path to title contention.
A youth movement appears imminent and the Celtics must decide the best way to complement younger players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Fortunately for Boston, there’s a handful of ways to restock the roster, whether that’s hunting for sign-and-trade options to recoup assets for departing stars or utilizing newfound cap space to keep the team competitive while a path forward comes into focus.
The Celtics have potential to immediately open anywhere from $28-32 million in cap space by renouncing their rights to free agents (that would include Irving, Horford, and Terry Rozier). Patience might be the team’s biggest asset but here’s a few potential options for the team moving forward:
The Wizards will soon be under new leadership and team brass will have to decide whether they want to build around Beal, who has two years left on his deal, all while being hamstrung by John Wall’s bulky contract.
Beal is set to earn $27.1 million next season and the Celtics could absorb him into potential cap space with the right maneuvering, which means they could offer a package heavy on picks that might position the Wizards for max flexibility if they could ever move Wall’s albatross of a deal.
Horford will be looking for a team that can pay him the long-term, big-money deal he’s looking for in departing Boston, but he will also prioritize being on a contender. Maybe a team like the Los Angeles Clippers would interest him, using their cap space to sign Horford and Kawhi Leonard. But, in the absence of a deal with a team with space, the Celtics might be willing to facilitate a sign-and-trade to bring back young talent and/or assets.
Capela, a 25-year-old rim runner, might be an intriguing piece to put alongside Tatum and Brown. He drew some scrutiny for a less-than-stellar series against the Warriors this postseason but he’s coming off a year in which he averaged 16.6 points and 12.7 rebounds over 33.6 minutes per game. He’s scheduled to earn $16.4 million in 2019-20.
The Pelicans got Lonzo Ball as part of the trade package for Anthony Davis and might be tempted to add another point guard if Darius Garland is on the board at No. 4 on Wednesday night. Might they consider moving for assets at that point?
Holiday, 29, is coming off a season in which he averaged 21.2 points, 7.7 assists, and 5 rebounds per game. He’s one of the best two-way guards in the league. He’s scheduled to earn $26 million next season and Boston could offer a package heavy on picks to give David Griffin even more future assets to build with.
Orlando surged to the playoffs last season and seems to be moving in the right direction, but the Magic also have a bevy of athletic big men and have always seemed a bit conflicted about whether Gordon is a long-term option.
Gordon is set to earn $19.9 million next season and maybe the Magic would listen to offers for the still-only-23-year-old depending on how their roster takes shape early in the offseason.
It seems like just yesterday that Love was frolicking around Fenway Park, hobnobbing with Rajon Rondo. He’s 30 now and might not fit the Celtics’ timeline but he’d seemingly be available as the Cavaliers navigate their own rebuild.
The danger for Boston: Four more guaranteed seasons of escalating money for Love, though he’d certainly help replace the leadership and production lost in Horford’s departure.
New leadership in Minnesota probably wouldn’t mind moving Wiggins and his big-money deal if they’re not convinced he’ll ever figure it out there. The Timberwolves can’t be overly patient with Karl-Anthony Towns almost assuredly desiring to win now but they’d listen to anyone interested in a Wiggins swap.
The Celtics probably wouldn’t view Whiteside as a long-term option but they might be willing to bring him in — especially if they could collect additional future assets — in order to defray Miami’s bloated tax bill. Whiteside is expected to opt into a $27 million final year but comes off the books next summer.
Celtics could pry some more draft assets from the Clippers and help them free up the space to sign someone like Horford by taking on the final year (and $22.6 million) of Gallinari. His salary comes off the books after the season and Boston could seemingly pry a pick or two if the Clippers are eager to load up if Kawhi Leonard comes west.
If the Celtics were going to use their cap space to target players at less-than-max money with big upside potential, they could target someone like the 24-year-old Randle. He averaged 21.4 points per game for New Orleans last season before declining his player option to enter free agency.