Friday, July 18, 2014

C's Offseason Up To This Point

So far the dominoes that were ready to fall in the Eastern Conference have done so since LeBron made his decision a week ago. The Celtics however still remain players in free agency, but with certain limitations in terms of cap space and flexibility. Danny Ainge knows with these restrictions, it won't be easy to create any 'fireworks' when it comes to signing or trading for a big name. It is still early relatively speaking, as July has always been the month were big things happen in an NBA offseason. We've decided to take a look at what the C's have done thus far and what potential moves can still be made considering their current state

Timeline of the Celtics' transactions since the draft:

June 26: Drafted guard Marcus Smart with the 6th pick and guard/forward James Young with the 17th pick

July 2: Agreed to four-year, $32 million extension with restricted free agent guard Avery Bradley who officially signed his contract on July 17th

July 9: Acquired center Tyler Zeller, guard Marcus Thornton and Cleveland's 2016 first-round pick as part of a three-team trade with the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers

July 10: Officially announced the signings of Smart and Young

July 15: Acquired a conditional second-round pick and a $4.3 million trade exception as part of a sign-and-trade deal with the Washington Wizards for free agent Kris Humphries

July 15: Free agent guard Jerryd Bayless agreed to a two-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks

A look at the current depth chart for the 2014-2015 Celtics (As of July 17th)

Point Guard:  Rajon Rondo | Marcus Smart | Phil Pressey

Shooting Guard:  Avery Bradley | Marcus Thornton | James Young | Chris Babb

Small Forward:  Jeff Green | Gerald Wallace | Chris Johnson | Keith Bogans

Power Forward:  Brandon Bass | Jared Sullinger | Kelly Olynyk

Center:  Tyler Zeller | Vitor Faverani | Joel Anthony

Salary commitment for 2014-2015:

Rajon Rondo             $12,909,090                     
Gerald Wallace          $10,105,855      
Jeff Green                  $9,200,000              
Marcus Thornton       $8,575,000
Avery Bradley            $7,154,161**
Brandon Bass             $6,900,000        
Keith Bogans              $5,285,816*         
Joel Anthony              $3,800,000         
Marcus Smart             $3,283,320        
Vitor Faverani             $2,090,000       
Kelly Olynyk               $2,075,760         
Tyler Zeller $1,703,760          
James Young               $1,674,480         
Jared Sullinger            $1,424,520      
Chris Johnson              $915,243*       
Phil Pressey                  $816,482          
Chris Babb                   $816,482*
Totals                       $78,729,969

*Non guaranteed | **Estimated

A breakdown of the Celtics' Salary Cap:

As it stands there are currently 17 players committed to approximately $78.7 million in salary, which includes three non-guaranteed contracts (roughly at $7 million). The C's at the moment are $15.6 million over the 2014-2015 salary cap ($63 million), and are $1.9 million over this season's luxury tax line ($76.8 million). Danny has to make a decision on Chris Johnson, Chris Babb and old friend Keith Bogans preferably before the start of the season (when their salaries become pro-rated), and the league maxim for any roster is 15. Otherwise any of the aforementioned and their deals become fully guaranteed in early January.

How can the Celtics still add players?

Ainge's only way to sign any remaining free agents is through exceptions Boston still have in their back pocket:

Midlevel Exception: The C's have up to $5.3 million that they can offer at the moment, but would have to trim some current salary to stay below the tax apron. At this point it might be wiser to hold on to this exception in case something good comes along

Biannual Exception: Valued at just over $2 million, it's hard to believe the Celtics will use this anytime soon, since they haven't had the need to in a few seasons. Though it's good to have for the foreseeable future.

Trade assets the Celtics can use:

The Celtics have four players with expiring deals (Rondo, Bass, Thornton & Anthony), and three previously mentioned non-guaranteed contracts. Plus the rest of the roster can be used in a possible trade, except rookies Smart & Young for the first 30-days of them signing their new contracts. Boston also has a few trade exceptions they have acquired over the past year than than can be used including: A $4.3 million exception (once the Humphries deal to Washington is completed). A $2.1 million exception (from the Courtney Lee deal to Memphis this past January), and a $283,816 exception when Fab Melo was also traded to Memphis (expires in mid-August). It's good to keep in mind that all trade exceptions are good up to one year from when they are officially received, and can not be combined in any deal, but can be split to bring back multiple players to absorb salary.

The biggest trading chip Ainge has stock piled over the last 12 months is draft picks, which include as many as nine first round-picks. You would think they have to be used in some sort of deal and hopefully sooner rather than later. Here's the breakdown of the future picks for the next few years:

2015 Draft 
1st round: Boston, Clippers, Philadelphia* 
2nd round: Boston***, Philadelphia**, Sacramento*** 
* Philadelphia's pick is lottery protected 
** Philadelphia receives pick if in the lottery 
*** Only receives pick if between 56-60 

2016 Draft 
1st round: Boston, Brooklyn, Cleveland* 
2nd round: Boston***, Miami, Philadelphia** 
* Cleveland's pick is top-10 protected until 2019 
** Philadelphia receives pick if in the lottery in 2015 
*** Potentially could go to Utah or Memphis 

2017 Draft 
1st round: Boston* 
2nd round: Boston**, Sacramento*** 
* Boston has option to swap with Brooklyn 
** If Boston swaps with Brooklyn, it loses pick if between 46-60 
*** Only receives pick if between 56-60 

2018 Draft 
1st round: Boston, Brooklyn 
2nd round: Boston 

2019 Draft (and beyond) 
1st round: Boston 
2nd round: Boston

What's next for the Celtics?

This was suppose to be the summer of Kevin Love, right? Since May C's fans have been teased with the idea of arguably the best power forward in the game in green and calling the TD Garden home. But ever since Love's 'impromptu' trip to Beantown with his agent (who happens to be good friends with Danny), were seen hanging out at Fenway Park and meeting Rajon Rondo, nothing has been done that even seems remotely close to finalizing a deal to officially bring Love to Boston. It's fair to say that July of 2015 would be the offseason Ainge can let off any pyrotechnics that Celtics Nation have patiently been waiting for. With all of the team's cap already tied up in so much salary, it makes it that much more difficult for any trade to go down, let alone make a 'big splash.'

When looking at the the depth chart, a few players come to mind as expendable that might make another team bite. Besides future draft picks, Bogans' non guaranteed deal at $5.2 million, might be the next biggest trading chip the C's have and will probably hold on to for as long as possible. Bass and his expiring $6.9 million should attract some suitors, plus his consistency on the court is a bonus. Marcus Thornton with his $8.5 million coming off the books could also come into play especially if he keeps shooting the ball as well as he did last season. It's believed that's the main reason he was brought here from Brooklyn in the first place.   

If you ask me, I can't get away from the Rondo trade rumors no matter how much I keep telling myself 'In Danny we trust.' I'm in the camp of banner 18 is in the near future, only if the current Celtics captain is leading the way. But most seem to believe Rajon is on his way out via trade or free agency (a year from now), even if he and Ainge have both said countless times that their basketball relationship is for the long hall. They both believe in each other, and that is enough to make me believe that this franchise is moving in the right direction. Obviously at the end of the day it's a business and things happen whether we like it or not, but an impact trade is the only thing left for the Celts to make whether it be now or during the season to turn this thing around.

Someone once told me that 'patience is a virtue.' Let's just hope for the sake of time, all this waiting around actually results in some kind reward that all parties can smile about.

Joel Pavón

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