The Celtics are not in the bidding on Dwight Howard. They are not in the bidding for anyone this morning (according to various reports). That makes perfect sense since the Celtics have no cap room, an overcrowded roster, and little motivation to improve immediately.
Low-budget options will be the C’s norm for a while. As one member of the organization cautioned last week, "We’ll be dealing with veteran minimum contracts this year and not much else. Next summer, we’ll be taking a bigger look at free agents."
In other words, don't look for the team to sign anyone with other than the vet min. If that happens, it will likely be later in the summer as the free agents will look to earn a bigger paycheck elsewhere first.
If anything, the Celtics are going to have to be busy trying to offload some of the bloated salaries on the roster right now. They were able to shed Jason Terry, but only because that made taking on Gerald Wallace a little easier to swallow.
Getting the salary structure in order is no simple chore. Sometimes it means showing great restraint, which is a little easier if you don't want you team to be too good. The Celtics, who will be hard-capped if Keith Bogans is sent to Boston via sign-and-trade as part of the Nets deal, will likely desire to stay below the luxury-tax line next season. New repeater rates loom after this season, and the Celtics won't be looking to add big dollars to their roster. So despite the fact that Boston could have some valuable exceptions available (like the non-taxpayer mid-level or biannual), it might be better for the Celtics to simply sit on their hands, or at least err on the side of short-term additions.
The cost of not shedding salary could be greater than what's hitting Wyc's wallet too. If they don't move some bodies for shorter term contracts, they might be looking at some difficult choices next year as well.
Teams don’t rebuild with this sort of payroll, though. The Celtics will still be way over the cap next season, and the team enter the 2014 offseason right at the salary cap level due to Wallace’s massive deal (three years, and $33 million after 2012-13), with restricted free agent Avery Bradley ready to hit a market that will have scads of teams working with cap space, and several roster spots left to fill. Real cap relief, the hallmark for any rebuilding team, won’t really set in until the 2015 offseason. And that’s when Rajon Rondo, sick of it all, could flee as a free agent. By the way, Gerald Wallace will still be on the books (two full years after the Chicago Bulls basically ignored him on offense during Brooklyn’s first round loss earlier this year) for over $10.1 million.
Avery is one of my favorite remaining Celtics, so I don't say this lightly. But he, along with just about anyone else on the roster, has to be considered available at the right price. We might be able to pawn Bass or Courtney Lee off on someone looking to add depth to their rosters and are willing to pay their salaries. Gerald Wallace, on the other hand, would be a much tougher sell. Especially since one of the teams crazy enough to pay him his salary just traded him away.
So we might get backed into a situation where we have to give up future assets (picks or young players) in order to get a team to take one of our contracts off our hands. That would be a shame considering the price that we just paid in order to acquire those picks.
All of which is why the Celtics at least have to consider moving Rajon Rondo (or even Jeff Green) if the right deal came along. I'm not going to get into that too much in this space, but suffice it to say that I value Rondo greatly, I just think that everyone has a price and if they can get good to great value for him, you have to consider it.
What the Celtics won't be doing, however, is hitting free agency hard. Unless Ainge really has some rabbits to pull out of his hat, I don't think we'll be hearing too much about Josh Smith, Al Jefferson, or "Plan A" Paul Millsap. The only way the Hawks or Jazz would want to talk sign and trade is if the Celtics can find a 3rd team to eat the salaries we'd be sending back (don't hold your breath). The Celtics might be more likely to wait till the trade deadline to make a splashy move. Or maybe not even then.
The Celtics could potentially use Kris Humphries and his expiring contract in a trade to a team looking to cut costs. The reality is, however, that the Celtics are now one of those teams looking to cut costs. So he may be here for the year (or perhaps even bought out at some point) so his $12M cap number will come off the books next summer.
So don't worry too much about this free agent spending frenzy. The good news is that the Celtics won't be overspending on some free agent that will ultimately disappoint them on the court. If Ainge is going to build a contender in the future years, it will likely be done via trade rather than a splashy free agent signing. So like it or not, our future hangs in the balance of more trade rumors and cap experts. So there's that.