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How Much Money Do We Have For Free Agents, Anyway?

With Dwight Howard on the mind of a lot of Celtics fans, it's time for the return of the Salary Cap FAQ, in abbreviated form. Today, we'll be focusing primarily on next off-season, to estimate how much we'll have to spend in free agency.

1. How much do we currently have on the books in committed salaries?

Player 2011-2012 2012-13 2013-2014 2014-2015 2015-2016
Kevin Garnett $21,247,044 n/a n/a
Paul Pierce $15,333,334 $16,790,345 $15,333,334
n/a n/a
Rajon Rondo
$10,045,455 $11,000,000 $11,954,545 $12,909,091 n/a
Ray Allen
$10,000,000 n/a
n/a n/a
Jermaine O'Neal
$6,226,200 n/a
n/a n/a n/a
Brandon Bass
$4,250,000 $4,250,000 n/a n/a n/a
Chris Wilcox
$3,000,000 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Keyon Dooling
$2,246,400 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Avery Bradley
$1,524,480 $1,630,800 $2,511,432 $3,581,302 n/a
JuJuan Johnson
$1,042,320 $1,089,240 $1,136,160 $2,049,633 $3,039,605
Sasha Pavlovic
$854,389 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Mickael Pietrus $854,389 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Marquis Daniels $854,389 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Greg Stiemsma $762,195 n/a n/a n/a n/a
(Rasheed Wallace) $491,109 n/a n/a n/a n/a
E'Twaun Moore $473,604 $762,195 n/a n/a n/a
Jeff Green
Bird Rights
Nenad Krstic
Bird Rights

Totals with options: $79,205,308 $35,522,580 $30,935,471 $14,958,723 $3,039,605
Totals without options: $78,518,113 $30,510,385
$15,954,545 $12,909,091 $0

Team options are in red and qualifying offers are in green. Salaries shown in orange represent non-guaranteed / partially guaranteed deals, while trade kickers and other owed salary obligations are in purple. Player options are listed in blue. Listed salaries are estimates only, and often fluctuate based upon whether players reach bonuses, etc.

2. What is the salary cap for this year? For next year? What about the luxury tax? What is the difference between these two numbers?

The cap for this year is $58,044,000, and for next year it's projected to be approximately $61 million. This year's luxury tax is $70,307,000, and it's projected to rise to around $74 million next year. I'll touch on the specifics related to the salary cap and luxury tax below, but if you have questions, please let me know in the comments section.

(More after the jump...)

3. How much cap room do we have next year? With a $61 million cap and only $30 million committed, does that mean we can spend $31 million?

Like with everything else related to the CBA, the answer is somewhat complicated.

First, to get cap room in the first place, we have to "renounce" each of our free agents. Essentially, until we do so, a "cap hold" is placed on our salary cap, representing somewhere between 105% and 250% of the player's previous salary. Jeff Green's cap hold, for instance, is $11,139,970, representing 250% of his last year's salary. Cap holds eat into available salary cap space until such time as a free agent is renounced.

Next comes our draft picks. We're in all likelihood going to have both our own and the Clippers' #1 pick next year. Each of these picks carries a cap hold, as well. As of right now, those picks would be 16th and 21st in the draft. For our purposes today, though, let's assume that the Celts improve a bit, and that those picks end up as 20th and 22nd. These two picks combined would have a cap hold of approximately $2.3 million.

Last comes empty roster spots. The salary cap presumes that teams have at least 12 players on its roster. For every player (or cap hold) below 12, the team is "charged" an amount equal to the rookie minimum salary, which will be right around $500,000 next year. Assuming that Bass opts out of his contract and that we renounce all of our free agents, we'd have Pierce, Rondo, Bradley, and Johnson under contract, plus two first rounders. That means we'd have six contracts, and six roster charges. These roster charges are at approximately $500k each, meaning another $3 million in salary.

So what does this all mean? In essence, we have to add approximately $5.3 million to our committed salary for next year to accurately reflect our cap situation. That brings our commitments to $35,810,385, leaving approximately $25 million in cap space.

4. With $25 million, can we sign Dwight Howard? Deron Williams? Both?

The most we can offer either Howard or Deron in the first year of a new contract is 30% of the cap, or around $18.3 million. Each could earn slightly more in their first year via a sign-and-trade, but it's pretty safe to say that both will earn between $18 million and $20 million on a max deal.

Therefore, it's possible that we could sign one, but it's unlikely we could get both. The only way that is realistically possible is if we included Rondo in a sign-and-trade to either Orlando or New Jersey.

5. Okay, so we sign Howard, and have $5 million in cap room. Now what?

We would be able to fill out our roster with that $5 million. In addition, we'd be able to sign a free agent with a "room exception" of $2.5 million per year, for up to two years. Also, we could sign players to minimum salary contracts.

6. Once we've spent up to the cap, can we sign our own free agents with Bird Rights?

No. Once a free agent is renounced, Bird Rights are permanently extinguished. At that point, you can only sign free agents with cap room, or to minimum contracts. That means that if we signed Dwight Howard, it's likely that we wouldn't have the money to afford either Jeff Green or Brandon Bass.

7. What about the MLE? The bi-annual exception?

Teams with cap room have to renounce the MLE / LLE just like they would a free agent. We wouldn't be able to use either of these exceptions next year.

8. What about Paul Pierce? Can he renegotiate his contract? Could we waive him? If so, how much additional money would we have?

Pierce is under a guaranteed contract of $16,790,345 next year. Contrary to media reports, there is no right to re-negotiate this salary downward.

However, we could waive Pierce subject to the "amnesty" provision. Under that scenario, Pierce would be cut from the team, and he wouldn't count against either our salary cap or our luxury tax. We would still have to pay the majority of his salary, minus whatever any other team was paying him. Pierce would then be posted through a bid process, where teams with cap room would bid on picking up a portion of his salary (and thus his rights). Pierce would not be eligible to re-sign with the Celtics until his original contract would have expired (in 2014).

If Pierce was amnestied, we'd have the benefit of another $16,290,345 in cap room (his salary, minus one additional cap charge). That would give us in excess of $41 million in cap space, which would be enough to sign two max free agents, or one max free agent and a couple of mid-level types.

9. How much of Pierce's deal is guaranteed in 2013-14?

Pierce is guaranteed a minimum of $4 million, and a minimum of $5 million if he plays in at least 50% of our games this year. I believe the deal becomes fully guaranteed on July 1, 2013.

10. What other teams could offer as much or more money than us?

New Jersey could potentially sign Howard to pair with Deron. Similarly, rumors are that Dallas' "Plan A" is to clear enough room for both players. Other teams with $38 million or less in committed salary next year include Cleveland, Houston, Indiana, Phoenix and Washington. Some of those teams will want to re-sign their own free agents, however, while other teams may be able to create significant cap room via trades or the amnesty process.

11. Wait, what? We're still paying Rasheed Wallace?

Yep. As part of his retirement we bought out his contract. That resulted in us having a $491k hit against our salary cap and luxury tax the past two seasons. And no, this contract can not be traded.

12. What if I have additional questions?

Ask them in the comments section below, or look for an update of this FAQ before the start of free agency next season.

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