In typical Ainge fashion, he stuck to his script all week. We heard everything from "we have some [Celtics] players we value more than we value the Brooklyn pick" to nobody is untouchable on the roster. There were rumors that Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, Al Horford, Kevin Love, and Thaddeus Young were all possible trade targets before the deadline.
But then nothing happened. Some fans will be disappointed with yet another trade season passing without a superstar move (ahem, we got IT4 last year), but it's a blessing in disguise. Like the old adage goes, some of the best trades are the ones you don't make. This summer is where it's at. It's not an entirely rosy picture, but the Celtics have options.
At $92M cap, a somewhat reasonable "no deadline trades" offseason starts with ~$42.5M in cap to fill 2 roster spots pic.twitter.com/8qgrXOP9ru— Ryan Bernardoni (@dangercart) February 16, 2016
Check out the rest of Ryan Bernadino's Twitter timeline, but in summation, he comes to the conclusion that the Celtics could be looking at a pile of money to spend but potentially too many players going into next season. I'm paraphrasing here, but the issue come July won't be cap space. With the new TV contract coming into play and the last expiring contract from the Brooklyn trade finally coming off the books (David Lee), Boston will have cap dollars to spend for the first time since before the Big Three era. The problem will be roster space.
Going into next season, the Celtics will have Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, James, Young, Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, and Jordan Mickey under contract. That's already nine. Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko will have team options, Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller will be restricted free agents, and Evan Turner will be unrestricted. Ainge is also sitting on three first round picks (Brooklyn's, Dallas', and their own) who will be owed guaranteed deals and five second rounders (including Philadelphia's and Minnesota's that will land in the low-30s).
In dangercart's calculation, the Celtics re-sign Sullinger, keep Jerebko, and sign two players from the draft (trading and Eurostashing the other picks), leaving about $42M for two free agents, presumably max or near-max level players. That's not bad at all. Adding a lottery pick and two big free agents to this team would make them contenders. Ainge's shrewd patience has paid off over the last three seasons, and this summer it will come to fruition.
For fans who have fallen in love with this team (*raises hand*), it's a tough spot. We have gotten used to Amir's steady presence on the floor and seen flashes from Zeller. It would be hard to part with those guys just because of a numbers crunch. Take for example Evan Turner. During Tuesday's ceremony in Columbus where Ohio State retired his number, Turner called out to Danny Ainge saying, "this July, you can pay me all you want." Turner is a player that came to the Celtics as a reclamation project and has blossomed under Stevens. However, he could command a deal in the four years, $55M range, and that just might be too much for a team bloated with younger players that need playing time to grow.
But those are the tough decisions Ainge will have to make this summer. You have to take the good with the bad, and in July the good will outweigh the bad. Going after Horford as a free agent makes more sense than renting him over the next two months. Holding on to Brooklyn's pick and drafting a scoring wing like Brandon Ingram or Jaylen Brown could shore up one of the team's biggest weaknesses. Brad Stevens has built a player-friendly, winning culture with the Celtics, and this summer Ainge will capitalize on it. Despite the lack of movement today, the future is still bright.