8:28 AM ET
WALTHAM, Mass. — Having constructed a championship roster once before,
Gordon Hayward’s free-agent decision has caused a public tug-of-war between Celtics president Danny Ainge and his son Tanner, who is running for Congress in Utah.
Kevin Pelton looks at how Boston might bring in two stars, and what that means for a potential Paul George trade.
The market opens on Saturday, and NBA free-agency and trade news is coming in fast. Stay up to date with the latest rumors and rumblings across the Association.
Avery Bradley is the longest-tenured member of the Celtics, and the only player who has been part of the transition from the most recent Big Three era to the don’t-call-it-a-rebuild rebuild under coach Brad Stevens. Bradley subscribes to this Ainge-obeying philosophy.
“I know Danny will make the best decision. I trust him. In all these years I’ve been here, he’s been making the right decisions for our team,” Bradley said this week after being asked whether Boston missed an opportunity to nab an All-Star when Jimmy Butler was moved to Minnesota on draft night.
Added Bradley: “No matter what people thought about [Ainge’s decisions] at the time, they always ended up to work out.”
Here’s the crazy part about Bradley’s declaration: If Ainge and the Celtics check all the boxes on their summer to-do list — which not-so-secretly includes chasing both Gordon Hayward and Paul George — then Bradley is a likely candidate to be moved, either to dump salary to clear max cap space or as a contract to make salaries match in a trade.
Peppered with questions this week about Boston’s summer road map, Bradley could have easily lobbied for Ainge to keep the current core intact. He could have suggested that the Celtics should use cap space to explore extensions for soon-to-be free agents such as himself and Isaiah Thomas.
Instead, Bradley said fans should have confidence in Ainge.
“[Ainge and his staff] do a great job of getting the right guys in here,” said Bradley. “I’m confident that they’ll do whatever’s best for the Celtics.”
In Danny he trusts.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
The Celtics spent approximately 6,528 days over the salary cap, culminating with three years of seemingly perpetual roster change that allowed Ainge to finally put on his swim trunks and dive headfirst into a free-agent pool last summer. In typical Ainge fashion, he swung for the fences by pursuing the two biggest free agents on the open market, landing one (Al Horford at four years, $113 million) and making the other at least consider the possibility of playing in Boston.
Kevin Durant certainly made the right decision to join the Golden State Warriors, as his shiny new Finals MVP trophy confirms. Ainge’s challenge this summer is to construct a team capable of hanging with Durant’s super-squad out west.
So what is Ainge doing? Well, he is again chasing the biggest available names on the market.
“Danny is a magician when it comes to things like this.”
Celtics G Marcus Smart
While Ainge has been exceptionally patient while building this roster back up — we’re roughly 1,200 days removed from owner Wyc Grousbeck’s “fireworks” declaration — this summer could potentially be his last chance to construct a roster with the benefit of cap space.
Next summer, Thomas — the player who may be most responsible for expediting Boston’s return to contender status — will be eligible for his “Brink’s truck” payday. Bradley, if he sticks on the roster, will be a free agent as well.
Thomas could have spent this summer squawking about how his salary will drop to a mere $6.3 million this season, after finishing fifth in the MVP vote and earning his first All-NBA berth last season. Instead, Thomas has implored Ainge to use Boston’s available cap room to chase the big-name talent that could help the Celtics close the gap with the Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.
In Danny he trusts.
Boston is in a fascinating position, able to be a bit of a chameleon given all its assets and flexibility. Yet there are still land mines ahead, even as the team prepares to pitch itself to free agents like Hayward, all while staying in conversation with the Pacers about the disgruntled George.
A lower-than-expected salary cap ($99 million) leaves Boston roughly $2 million shy of generating the room necessary to sign a free agent like Hayward or Blake Griffin. If either player was willing to take less-than-max money, it could help Boston preserve a key rotation player. But given the competition for their services, the Celtics might have to pay market value.
That means Ainge would have to move at least one rotation player — Bradley, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart or Terry Rozier — to clear the room to sign Hayward. It would also mean the team has to renounce its rights to restricted free agent Kelly Olynyk and some other contributors to recent playoff teams like Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson.
Unlike last season, when the Celtics just added Horford to their core, adding players this summer would come with concessions.
Ainge and his number-crunching sidekick, Mike Zarren, might be able to work some wizardry with the non-guaranteed contracts at their disposal, but there will still be obvious pain points in roster construction. Yet Celtics players, some whose jobs are most at risk, don’t seem overly concerned.
“Danny is a magician when it comes to things like this,” Smart said this week.
In Danny he trusts.
The Celtics can’t offer Hayward the same length and total value as Utah (five years, $172 million), but because he’s not eligible for a super-max deal after failing to land on any of the three All-NBA teams, the Celtics can offer Hayward virtually the same money over the first three seasons with a four-year, $127 million offer. A player option in that fourth season would set Hayward up to re-enter free agency after 10 years in the league, when he could maximize his earnings by inking another huge-money deal, Read More…
Via:: NDTV – Sports