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Cleaning up the Celtics’ cap sheet

In a big summer, sequencing moves mattered for Boston

NBA: Boston Celtics-Media Day David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

As the NBA free agency period crawls to a close, the Boston Celtics have just about finished their offseason maneuvering. With so many transactions made over the last couple of weeks, it is worth checking in on exactly which moves happened and the order in which they happened. Below is a list of the Celtics’ transactions to date for the 2017-18 season, listed in chronological order. This actual order may differ with the order in which transactions were reported, but sequence matters. This is especially true in the case of Boston, where the team had to time all moves correctly to fit everyone in under the salary cap.

Official Transactions:

1. Gerald Green, Jonas Jerebko, Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and James Young became free agents

Significance: These five players made up the entirety of Boston’s free agent class for 2017.

2. Jayson Tatum and Ante Zizic signed Rookie Scale contracts

Significance: Tatum signed after being drafted 3rd overall in 2017 and Zizic signed after being drafted 23rd overall in 2016 and stashed overseas in Croatia in Turkey last year.

3. Waived Tyler Zeller

Significance: Zeller had a fully non-guaranteed contracted for 2017-18 at $8 million. After being unable to use him as a chip in a trade, the Celtics waived him with no cap hit.

4. Withdrew Qualifying Offer to make Kelly Olynyk an unrestricted free agent

Significance: Olynyk had previously been made a restricted free by virtue of Boston tendering him a Qualifying Offer. This meant the Celtics had the right to match any offer sheet Olynyk may have signed. With a verbal agreement from Gordon Hayward, the Celtics needed to clear cap space and agreed to let Olynyk become an unrestricted free agent to develop a better market for himself.

5. Traded Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris. A Traded Player Exception (TPE) of $3,808,989.00 was created in the trade.

Significance: This was one of the bigger moves of the summer. Even with plans to make all the rest of the moves possible, the Celtics were still short of the necessary cap space to sign Gordon Hayward to a max contract. Bradley, who is due a new contract in the summer of 2018, was the player Boston chose to trade. In return Boston got a useful frontcourt player in Morris and necessary cap space. The TPE was later renounced as a necessity for Boston to clear the cap space to sign Hayward.

6. Renounced free agent rights for Gerald Green, Jonas Jerebko and James Young.

Significance: Another step along the path to max cap space for Gordon Hayward. Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk had already signed new contracts with Philadelphia and Miami, respectively, so their cap holds were no longer on the Boston books. Green, Jerebko and Young had to be renounced to clear their cap holds.

7. Renounced Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception (MLE), Bi-Annual Exception (BAE) and Avery Bradley TPE.

Significance: Another step to clear max cap space was renouncing any exceptions that count against the cap. In doing so, the Celtics replaced these exceptions with the Room Exception (which does not count against the cap) of $4,328,000.00.

8. Picked up Team Option for 2019-20 season for Demetrius Jackson.

Significance: See below for the significance when Jackson was waived.

9. Waived Jordan Mickey

Significance: Mickey was signed for 2017-18 for $1,471,382.00 (the minimum for players with two years of service). His contract was also fully non-guaranteed. The Celtics also held a Team Option for Mickey for $1,600,520.00 for 2018-19, which was also a fully non-guaranteed contract, if the option had been exercised. Without a trade partner for Mickey, Boston waived him with no cap hit for either 2017-18 or 2018-19.

10. Signed Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $127,829,970.00 contract

Significance: Boston got their guy! Hayward was the object of desire for at least a full year, and the Celtics set everything up to make sure they got him. His contract is for three fully guaranteed years, followed by a player option for 2020-21.

11. Signed Abdel Nader to a four-year contract

Significance: Boston drafted Nader 58th overall in 2016 and then used him as a “domestic draft and stash” in the NBA D-League for 2016-17. Nader excelled there and was named NBADL Rookie of the Year. His efforts paid off with a four-year deal with the Celtics, which had to be signed using cap space.

12. Waived Demetrius Jackson via the stretch provision

Significance: Remember how Boston picked up the team option for 2019-20 for Jackson? Using the stretch provision is why. Unlike Tyler Zeller and Jordan Mickey, who were both fully non-guaranteed for 2017-18, Jackson was guaranteed $650,000.00 for 2017-18. In order to complete the rest of their signings, as well as clear a roster spot, the Celtics chose to waive Jackson. By picking up the team option on his fully non-guaranteed contract for 2019-20, the Celtics were able to stretch the cap hit over the next seven seasons. The rule is you can stretch any salary owed over twice the remaining years left on the contract plus one additional year. After the Celtics picked up his option, Jackson had three years left. This means Boston stretched his salary for the next seven years. The cap hit for 2017-18 is $92,858.00, followed by cap hits of $92,857.00 through the 2023-24 season.

13. Signed Paul Pierce to a one-year, fully non-guaranteed contract

Significance: The Truth gets to retire as a member of the Celtics! The Celtics will eventually waive Piece, and there will be no cap hit.

Transactions to come:

1. Sign Semi Ojeleye to a four-year contract

Significance: Ojeleye was drafted with the 37th overall pick in 2017. Ojeleye is reportedly signing a four-year deal. Expect it to be similar in structure to the deal Abdel Nader signed. Likely the first year will be fully guaranteed, followed by some amount of guaranteed money in the second year, then fully non-guaranteed for the final two years. There is the potential there will be a team option for the fourth year, as that is the structure Boston used in recent years for Jordan Mickey and Demetrius Jackson.

One other thing to note is that Ojeleye will be signed before another move is made. This is because teams have to use cap space to give a player anything longer than a two-year contract at the minimum. When you use the minimum exception (used when you are over the cap) you are limited to signing the player for two years. Ojeleye will get the last little bit of cap space left.

2. Sign Aron Baynes using the Room Exception of $4,328,000.00

Significance: Baynes has reportedly agreed to sign with Boston for one season at $4.3 million. The only way that is possible is using the Room Exception. The reason Baynes’s official signing has been delayed is to allow the Celtics to use the last of their cap space to sign Semi Ojeleye.

3. Sign Daniel Theis to a two-year contract using the Minimum Exception

Significance: Similar to Aron Baynes, Theis has agreed to a contract, and it has been delayed so Boston can use its remaining cap space. Theis is signing using the Minimum Exception, so he can only sign for two years. He’ll get the minimum for 2017-18 and 2018-19, and then he will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019.

4. Sign Guerschon Yabusele to his rookie scale contract

Significance: Yabusele was drafted 16th overall in 2016 and was stashed overseas for the majority of the 2016-17 in China. He came over to the United States at the tail end of the year and played a handful of games with the Maine Red Claws in the NBADL. Boston is reportedly bringing him over to the NBA club this season.

5. Sign two players to two-way contracts

Significance: A new rule for 2017-18 is that NBA teams can sign up to two players to a two-way contract. These players can be free agents or players for whom the team holds draft rights. Jabari Bird is rumored to be a candidate for a two-way deal. For more on two-way contracts and how they work, check out the FAQ from the guys at 2 Ways & 10 Days here.

6. Fill out camp roster with partially/non-guaranteed contracts or summer contracts

Significance: NBA teams are allowed to have up to 20 players under contract during the summer through training camp. They often do this to have extra bodies available for practices, as well as to get a look at players. Often NBA teams will give players a partially guaranteed contract as a way to entice them to stay stateside and play in the NBAGL. This year, to close a loophole related to two-way contracts, the NBA is limiting the amount an affiliate player (someone who camped with an NBA team and then plays for that team’s NBAGL affiliate) can make to $50,000.00. If Boston signs any player for more than $50,000.00, that player is ineligible to play for the Maine Red Claws this season.

A summer contract is a contract that is fully non-guaranteed and does not count against the salary cap or luxury tax. Should the player make the roster out of training camp, the contract then converts to a fully non-guaranteed contract for the upcoming season and begins to count against the salary cap and luxury tax.

(Note: Transactions 2-6 can happen in any order, as Boston will be operating as an over-the-cap team following the signing of Ojeleye and is using exceptions to sign the remainder of their players.)

One other decision the Celtics will have to make before October 31st is whether they will sign Marcus Smart to a rookie scale contract extension or let him become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2018. With Isaiah Thomas also due for a new contract in the summer of 2018, Boston is facing paying the luxury tax for the first time since the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett years. With designs on being title contenders, that is a sacrifice ownership has indicated they are willing to make.

The Boston Celtics have had a busy summer already, and there is still some work left to do to complete the roster. Several of the moves have already been reported, but as mentioned above, the sequencing is important. Danny Ainge and his front-office team, especially Mike Zarren, have set things to fall into place perfectly for everything to line up as necessary.

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