This season for the Boston Celtics has been a roller coaster, but things will only get crazier after the season ends. The Celtics currently have nine players under roster, four draft picks, and eight players from this season that could possibly return. Let’s dive in and take a look at the Boston Celtics offseason.
Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter each have player options meaning they can choose whether to test free agency or stay with Boston for another season. If Hayward were to opt out he would likely receive 15 million at most. Given that his player option would allow him to make upwards of 34 million, he will definitely accept it. Enes Kanter, on the other hand, is only making five million. Kanter has proved an exceptional backup big and can likely get more money if he were to test free agency. That being said, Kanter could very well stay in Boston considering he seems to like it here and he would be competing for a championship.
Semi Ojeleye, Javonte Green and Daniel Theis all have team options or non-guaranteed contracts. This basically means Boston has the choice to bring them back for another year to let them test free agency. Semi and Green have a team option of 1.7 million dollars and 1.5 million dollars respectively. Relative to Boston’s cap, this is not a lot of money, however, the main temptation to let Semi and/or Green go would be to free up a roster spot. To bring back Theis, it would cost the Celtics exactly five million. Theis has been exceptional for Boston this season, so there is no doubt Boston will pick up his team option.
Restricted/Unrestricted Free Agents
Brad Wanamaker, Tremont Waters, and Tacko Fall all are on expiring deals. Wannamaker will be an unrestricted free agent, meaning he is free to sign with any team. Wannamaker will likely not be expecting more than a minimum contract so the Celtics will be able to bring him back. With that being said, he did not contribute much to the team and they will likely want to keep that roster spot open. Waters and Fall, however, are restricted free agents. Restricted free agency allows the team to match any offer the player receives from another team. But in order to have that right, the team must have issued the player a qualifying offer. If a qualifying offer isn’t issued, that player becomes an unrestricted free agent. Both Waters and Fall spent significant time in the G-League and performed well. They are both still young, Waters 22 and Fall 24, so it is unlikely that the Celtics would give up on them after just a year.
Assuming Hayward, Theis and Kanter come back, the Celtics will have committed nearly $140MM in guaranteed money to 12 players. The cap for the 2020-2021 season will be roughly 115MM so the Celtics will be way over it. This means the only way for Boston to bring in new players is through the taxpayers exception, or mid-level exception.
The mid-level exception is the most common way for NBA teams over the cap to sign free agents for more than the minimum salary. For example, last season the Celtics signed Enes Kanter to a two year, 10 million dollar contract using their mid-level exception. Each team can have a different mid-level exception depending on how over or under the cap they are. The Celtics will be way over the cap in the 2020 offseason. Barring some cost-cutting moves or a surprise Hayward opt-out, the Celtics will not have the full mid-level exception or available in the offseason. It seems the Celtics will only have a few million dollars to sign a player. It would be a waste not to use the exception so you should expect the Celtics add another player in free agency.
So lets make this more simple. Hayward and Theis will 100% be returning. Kanter, Fall and Waters will very likely be coming back. Wanamaker, Green and Ojeleye are less likely to return. The Celtics will almost certainly be picking up another player with their exception. Assuming they bring back Hayward, Theis, Kanter, Fall, Waters and add another player, this will leave them with 14 players.
If they decide to not trade any of their picks, and pick four players, it would leave them in an awkward situation. If they were to sign all four draftees they would have 18 players. A team can have a maximum of 17 players on their roster during the season so the problem with this is they would then have to cut one of their draftees before the season starts. Even though the player will not be on the roster, the Celtics will still have to pay their salary. So basically they will waste a pick and still have to pay that players salary. Another option is make all their picks but then not sign one of their picks. This would not cost them any money but essentially this would be a waste of a pick. Either way, the Celtics would be drafting a player that will end up not being on their roster when the season starts. This is less than ideal.
The obvious solution to this would be to make a draft night trade. The trade would likely entail combining two, three or all of their picks and in return get one player. This would not only solve their crowded roster problem, but it would also give them a player that can jump right into the rotation.
To sum it up, the Celtics will not be making any significant moves in free agency. The more interesting part of the Boston Celtics offseason will come during the draft and team/player options. There are countless different scenarios in which the Boston Celtics offseason, and only time will tell what happens.