CelticsBlog has confirmed that Shane Larkin’s contract for the 2017-18 season is fully guaranteed:
Confirmed today that Shane Larkin's deal with Boston is fully guaranteed. Celtics are carrying 16 fully guaranteed deal into camp/preseason.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) August 13, 2017
As a veteran with three years of NBA service, Larkin carries a cap hit equal to the two-year veteran minimum amount of $1,471,382.00. His actual salary is the three-year veteran minimum amount of $1,524,305.00. Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NBA pays the difference between the actual salary and the cap hit. This is a mechanism to give teams incentive to sign veteran players.
With Larkin’s signing, the Celtics now have 16 fully guaranteed contracts, or one more than the maximum allowed of 15 for the regular season. Boston has also signed Kadeem Allen to a two-way contract and will reportedly do so with Jabari Bird as well. Each NBA team is allowed to carry up to 15 players on standard NBA contracts and up to two two-way contracts for a total of 17 players on the regular season roster. In the offseason, all the way through preseason, NBA teams may carry up to 20 total players. Oftentimes, teams will add players on partial or non-guaranteed contracts for training camp and preseason.
What does it mean that Boston has 16 fully guaranteed contracts? It must mean a trade is imminent right? As Lee Corso would say “Not so fast my friend!”
In each of the last three seasons, the Celtics have eaten at least one fully guaranteed contract. Some have come in the preseason at roster cut down, others have occurred in the course of the season. Below is the breakdown of the fully guaranteed deals Boston has eaten by year:
2014-15 – Will Bynum (preseason), Chris Douglas-Roberts (in season) and Nate Robinson (in season)
2015-16 – Zoran Dragic (preseason), Perry Jones III (preseason) and David Lee (in season)
2016-17 – R.J. Hunter (preseason)
Some of those contracts were set up to be eaten in order to acquire an asset in the form of draft picks or as Boston shed salary in other trades. Others simply lost out on roster spots during the preseason. But this aggressiveness shows that Danny Ainge has the full support of Celtics’ ownership to swallow salary for players who aren’t on the roster. Not all ownership groups are as supportive, especially when you consider each of these deals ranged from right around $1 million up to as high as $15 million.
The most painful of that bunch is probably R.J. Hunter. The Celtics invested a first-round draft pick in Hunter, only to waive him after just one year in green and white. Hunter caught on briefly with the Chicago Bulls and then finished his second professional season in the NBA G-League. Cutting ties with a first-round pick before his contract ends is always painful, but moving on after just one season is even more so. Despite that pain, it seems Ainge made the right choice, as Hunter seems to be a fringe NBA talent at best.
With as many as six NBA rookies (Abdel Nader, Semi Ojeleye, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis, Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic) on the roster, as well as holdover veterans and new additions, it is hard to see where Boston eats a guaranteed deal this time around. Tatum, Yabusele and Zizic are all on first-round rookie scale contracts. Nader and Ojeleye were paid more than the minimum as second-round picks. And Theis was a targeted signing that the Celtics have had their eyes on for a while. It isn’t exactly a lock all will make the roster, but it’s just about close to a lock as you can get.
With Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier returning as capable point guard options, Larkin, despite the fully guaranteed deal, may be facing an uphill battle to make the roster. In previous years the decisions at cut down were a lot clearer. Bynum, Jones III and Hunter were all at least somewhat obvious choices to go. This time around, the choices aren’t so clear.
This situation could lead to a trade in which Boston would give up a player to gain yet another asset in the form of a future draft pick. There are a few dates to keep in mind. Per Basketball Insider’s Eric Pincus, incoming rookie Abdel Nader isn’t eligible for a trade until today, Ojeleye on August 17th, Yabusele on the 19th, and Marcus Morris can’t be packaged in a deal until September 7th.
A trade could spice up the summer before the team heads into training camp in a month, but don’t count on it. If the last three years have taught us anything, Ainge has adopted a Bill Belichick-like approach, where you cut ties and move on when you have to. There isn’t time for sentimentality when building a championship-level roster—especially not for players on the fringes of that roster.