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Updated Celtics salary cap outlook

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Boston could have upwards of $20 million in space this summer

Boston Celtics Introduce Brad Stevens Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images

As the season is now three-plus months old, it is time to take another look at the Celtics’ future cap situation. This update includes changes with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, including increases to minimum salaries and Rookie Scale contracts. This update also uses the NBA Standings as of 2/1/17, so the Celtics have the #1 overall pick courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets factored into their available cap space.

2017-2018

Roster

Fully Guaranteed (7): Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder, Al Horford, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas

Partial/Non-Guaranteed (3): Demetrius Jackson ($650k guaranteed), Jordan Mickey (fully non-guaranteed), Tyler Zeller (fully non-guaranteed)

Free Agents (5): Gerald Green (UFA – Non-Bird), Jonas Jerebko (UFA – Bird), Amir Johnson (UFA – Bird), Kelly Olynyk (RFA), James Young (UFA – limited to paying Rookie Scale amount)

Draft Picks

2017 First Round Draft Picks: Own or Brooklyn (via Boston swap for Brooklyn), Guerschon Yabusele (Draft Rights), Ante Zizic (Draft Rights)

2017 Second Round Draft Picks: Own (if Boston swaps 1st round picks AND if this pick falls from 31-45, this pick goes to Brooklyn), Cleveland, LA Clippers, Minnesota

Cap Space

Minimum Cap Space: None. $9.9 million over

Maximum Cap Space: $37.1 million

Projected Cap Space: $20.4 million

Analysis

The Celtics will cash in yet another Brooklyn chip, as they are almost guaranteed to finish with a better record than the Nets. Despite the Nets’ solid start to the year, they have fallen way off and the pick projects to be in the top 3 pre-Lottery. With Rookie Scale amounts having changed in the new CBA, the cap hold for this pick will lessen Boston’s available space by a decent chunk.

As for free agents, Kelly Olynyk will almost certainly get a Qualifying Offer, as Boston would like to retain the right to match any Offer Sheet he might sign. Olynyk’s cap hold remains the original amount, as cap hold increases with the new CBA will not take effect until the summer of 2018.

The other free agents are all veterans that Boston could probably go either way on. Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson have been good soldiers and productive players, but the Celtics will likely prioritize cap space over either veteran. They could bring them back on team-friendly deals after the bigger shopping is done. James Young’s fate was probably sealed with the team declining their option for him for 2017-18. And Gerald Green is a minimum contract guy at this point in his career.

No matter what happens, the Celtics have options this summer. They can stay over the cap and gain the larger exceptions available. Or they can go under the cap and look to make another splash in free agency, for what might be the last time for a little while. And, of course, a big trade could completely change the picture.

2018-2019

Roster

Fully Guaranteed (2): Jae Crowder, Al Horford

Partial/Non-Guaranteed (2): Demetrius Jackson (full non-guaranteed), Jordan Mickey (fully non-guaranteed if Team Option is picked up)

Free Agents (7): Avery Bradley (UFA – Bird), Jaylen Brown (UFA – Team Option), Jordan Mickey (RFA – if Team Option is declined), Terry Rozier (UFA – Team Option), Marcus Smart (RFA), Isaiah Tomas (UFA – Bird), Tyler Zeller (UFA – Bird)

Draft Picks

2018 First Round Draft Picks: Own, Brooklyn (unprotected)

2018 Second Round Draft Picks: Own if 31-55, to Oklahoma City if 56-60

Cap Space

Minimum Cap Space: $4.9 million

Maximum Cap Space: $63.2 million

Analysis

This is the year when things get a little tricky. The entire backcourt could be free agents at the same time. Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart are all bargains on their current contracts. That won’t be the case when they sign their new deals. The Celtics could also come to agreements with each player on extensions in the summer of 2017, especially with the extension rules changed for veteran players in the new CBA.

It is almost a virtual lock that Team Options for Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier will be picked up, unless something goes horribly wrong. This is important, because with so many free agents to take care of, the Celtics will need a source of cheap, cost-controlled talent, which is what Brown and Rozier provide.

This will also be the Celtics’ last bite at the apple with a Nets pick. It is hard to project just how good Brooklyn will be in 2017-18, but Boston should have a chance at another impact player.

2019-2020

Roster

Fully Guaranteed (1): Jae Crowder

Partial/Non-Guaranteed (1): Demetrius Jackson (fully non-guaranteed if Team Option is picked up)

Free Agents (5): Jaylen Brown (UFA – Team Option), Al Horford (UFA - Bird - Player Option), Demetrius Jackson (RFA – if Team Option is declined), Jordan Mickey (UFA – Bird), Terry Rozier (RFA)

Draft Picks

2019 First Round Draft Picks: Own, LA Clippers (if 15-30 AND if Clippers convey a 1st to Raptors in 2017), Memphis (if 9-30 AND if Grizzlies convey a 1st to Nuggets in 2017)

2019 Second Round Draft Picks: Own if 31-55, to Memphis if 56-60, Detroit

Cap Space

Minimum Cap Space: $39.8 million

Maximum Cap Space: $96.2 million

Analysis

By this point the Celtics will have re-signed or added several new pieces. Jaylen Brown will have completed three years of his Rookie Scale contract, and Boston will know if he’s a star, a role player or a bust. Al Horford will be a more-than-savvy veteran by this point and could opt in for his final year to get that last big paycheck. Free-agent decisions will have been made on Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart. And Boston will have had two more Nets picks to work with. In addition, Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele could be heading into year three in the NBA.

Overall, the Celtics continue to have a lot of moving pieces. The number of draft picks in Danny Ainge’s war chest continues to be impressive. The roster has one more year of bargain-scale contracts before it is likely to start getting expensive. For many reasons this makes the summer of 2017 critical for setting up the future of the franchise. With the CBA changes, Boston will likely be looking at veteran extensions for Thomas and/or Bradley, as well as a rookie extension for Smart. The Celtics should have a first-round pick (courtesy of the swap with Brooklyn) that could deliver an impact player. And they’re likely to have cap space for what might be the final time for the foreseeable future.

This all means that while we enjoy this season and chasing the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference, it is important to keep any eye on the future. Any moves Danny Ainge makes in-season to bolster this year’s run could have a long term impact, either in terms of the roster, future cap space, future draft picks or any combination of the above. But, as always, the most important thing is giving yourself options. The Celtics have done a wonderful job of maintaining as much flexibility as any team in the league. It is almost time for that to start paying off.

Information used in the creation of this article can be found at the following sites:

Salary Information: Keith Smith's NBA Salary and Roster Sheets

Draft Pick Information: http://basketball.realgm.com/nba/draft/future_drafts/team