The Boston Celtics got their man. Well…kind of. They have an agreement to sign Gordon Hayward. But getting there is going to be almost as interesting as the circus-like day leading up to Hayward agreeing to sign in Boston.
The Celtics, as currently constructed, do not have the cap space to sign Hayward to a maximum contract outright. Boston has several free agents who have cap holds that will need to be renounced in order to clear space for Hayward to sign. Chief among these is Kelly Olynyk, who as tendered a qualifying offer prior to free agency to make him a restricted free agent. Per several reports, the Celtics are rescinding Olynyk’s qualifying offer and will make him an unrestricted free agent. He’ll join Gerald Green, Jonas Jerebko, Amir Johnson (reportedly agreed to a deal with the 76ers) and James Young as unrestricted free agents.
Green is on a minimum contract and can be renounced and return later in free agency for the same amount as his cap hold. Johnson is leaving already. Young’s fate was sealed when the Celtics did not pick up his 4th year Rookie Scale team option. Olynyk and Jerebko will certainly sting, but it is a necessary evil to clear space for Hayward. Olynyk will receive a big offer as an unrestricted free agent, but Jerebko could potentially return for the Room Exception, which Boston will have when they drop under the cap.
But those moves alone aren’t enough. There are several combinations as to how Boston can clear enough space, but the most realistic involves some simple moves and some more difficult ones. They’ll waive Jordan Mickey and his non-guaranteed contract. The second is to reach an agreement with Guerschon Yabusele, drafted in 2016, to not sign for the 2017-18 season. Boston will stash him overseas once again and re-group with him in 2018.
The next move is where it gets complicated. The easy suggestion is to move Terry Rozier in a trade that brings back nothing, aka a salary dump. But even that doesn’t clear enough space. Same with trading Demetrius Jackson. Either of those moves would leave the Celtics still short of max space for Hayward.
So, that brings us to the tough decision. Most likely, both to clear space and return an asset or two, Boston will have to move on from one of their bulldogs: Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder or Marcus Smart. All three have become beloved in Boston for their defense, work ethic and hard-nosed attitude. Each embodies what Celtics fans love most in players. That makes it hard to envision trading any of them, but once again it is a necessary evil. You have to give to get. If it softens the blow any, think of it as trading one of these three for Hayward and whatever they get in return for Bradley, Crowder or Smart.
As to which one should go, you can make a case for each. Bradley and Smart are both heading into the final year of their contracts. The Celtics have depth at guard with Rozier and now Hayward. Jaylen Brown can also play some shooting guard as well. Crowder is now part of a crowd on the wing with Hayward, Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum. He can play up at power forward some, but isn’t a full time option there.
It is also worth noting that Hayward’s addition will not impact the Celtics plans to sign German big man Daniel Theis. He is likely to sign for the Minimum Exception after Boston completes their other moves.
Danny Ainge got his guy, but there is still work to be done. Not only does the team need to clear cap space, but they also need depth. The Celtics depth has been a big part of their success the last two seasons. A good amount of it will need replaced this summer. Brad Stevens has his former player, but he’ll have to figure out a new rotation that will feature lots of new places. But those are issues for another day. On the Fourth of July, Celtics fans finally got the fireworks they were promised years ago and that is something worth celebrating.