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Looking At Celtics Salaries Over Next Few Years

Still a bargain.
Still a bargain.

The Celtics came into this summer with tons of theoretical cap flexibility. If they wanted to, they could have cleared the deck and had enough room to offer a max contract to someone. But nobody was worth that and Ainge did a fine job bringing back most of our own guys and adding a couple of big free agents from elsewhere. He also ensured that he will not have this kind of cap space for at least another couple of years. So, hopefully it all goes well.

The Jeff Green deal still has to be officially signed but we know it is for 4 years at around $36M. The team doesn't officially release contract terms, but the NBA writers typically get most of the details and there are a number of sites that try their best to cobble together the news and rumors into spreadsheets. Hoopshype is probably the most popular one while Shamsports might be the most detailed and accurate. There are others too, like this one and this one. In their effort to be accurate, however, they don't update until the deals are made clear to the public. So there are lots of gaps and holes.

Chris Forsberg did an admirable job cobbling together the official numbers while adding in some reasonable assumptions. I think he rounded off a bit and flat lined contracts that we can assume actually escalate over time, but in general it is a good enough representation of the Celtics salary situation over the next few years.

The upshot is that the Celtics won't have cap room next year to chase free agents, except with the Mid-Level exception and perhaps the bi-annual exception (if they don't use it sometime this year).

One interesting reminder is that Paul Pierce's salary is not fully guaranteed.

Pierce's nonguarantee (he must be waived before June 30 next year or his salary is fully guaranteed) offers an intriguing question about how the Celtics might proceed next season. Boston is committed to around $70 million for its top 10 players, leaving it hovering around the tax line without filling out its bench.

I don't think there's much of a chance of the Celtics simply cutting Pierce for cap reasons, but rather this is in place if he decides to retire or if he gets hurt badly enough that he'll be forced to hang it up. It makes me wonder if there are any such out clauses in Kevin Garnett's deal as well. Note: the Celtics never used their amnesty provision, so they could still use it on Pierce, Rondo, or Avery Bradley, but again, I don't see that happening without a major injury situation.

Obviously if things go well, we've got a solid team in place and they are currently under the luxury tax, so everyone is happy. However, if things don't go so well, if players underperform or get hurt or whatever, there's still some room for optimism. Next summer Ainge could chose to shop around some of his middle tier guys. Terry or Lee could match salaries on another mid-level exception type sign and trade without having to cobble together players and picks to make it work. If there are bigger fish on the market (Josh Smith?) then Jeff Green's $9M salary would get you a long way towards matching salaries.

On the flipside, assuming they continue to develop and perform at a high level, the Celtics will have to start thinking about re-signing Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley. In addition, a couple years from now, some new, harsher penalties will kick in for luxury tax payers, which the ownership group has always been willing to pay if the team is still competing for a Championship. We'll see if that's the case in 2014 or not, but that's still a few years away.

In fact, all of this is at least a year away from becoming something we need to concern ourselves with. We just got done with the bulk of this offseason. There's just too many plausible scenarios that could play out to make an accurate assessment of the future salary decisions. But any time you guarantee a contract to a player, you are inherently taking on the risk that they will stay healthy and perform up to their contract (or in some cases, like Rondo, exceed it).

So, so much for cap space. I wouldn't want to spend the next year hoping that Dwight Howard would choo-choo-choose us over other suitors anyway. I like our team now and for the future. Some of the contracts might be a concern a year or two from now, but that's the price you pay (literally) to play the game.

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