Even though the Boston Celtics 2017-18 season just ended, one game short of the NBA Finals no less, the NBA never really stops. The off-season is now in full swing and the Celtics have some work to do. Danny Ainge never rests in his quest to give Brad Stevens the best possible squad to bring home Banner 18, and this summer will be no different.
Below is roster information for Boston, major decision points this summer and some key dates to be aware of. It might not be a summer full of fireworks, but there is work to be done.
Guaranteed Contracts (8): Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Kyrie Irving, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum, Guerschon Yabusele
Partial/Non-Guaranteed Contracts (3): Abdel Nader ($450,000 guaranteed), Semi Ojeleye ($901,965 guaranteed), Daniel Theis (fully non-guaranteed)
Two-Way (1): Kadeem Allen
Free Agents (6): Aron Baynes (UFA), Jabari Bird (RFA – Two-Way), Jonathan Gibson (RFA), Shane Larkin (UFA), Greg Monroe (UFA), Marcus Smart (RFA)
Marcus Smart Restricted Free Agency: Smart in a lot of ways is the heart and soul of the Boston Celtics. Unfortunately all that grit and hustle doesn’t come with a reliable jump shot. Smart is one of--if not the best—perimeter defenders in the entire NBA. He’s also a much-improved playmaker at the point guard position. But the question remains: How much money can you commit a player who can’t shoot? Recent reports are that Smart wants a big contract. The challenge for Smart is that this market won’t likely bear that out. Expect the Celtics to be patient with Smart. Boston isn’t using cap space this summer, so they have no reason to rush a decision.
Re-signing Aron Baynes: Baynes proved incredibly valuable both as a starter and reserve for the bulk of the season. He’s the perfect big for what Boston is shaping up to be. He doesn’t need, or even really want, the ball on offense. But he’s capable of knocking down shots or scoring inside when the situation arises. He’s a very good defender and rebounder. Expect him to be high on the priority list for the Celtics to retain this summer.
Contract extension for Terry Rozier: This isn’t important for the 2018-19 season, as Rozier is under contract for next year. But he’s coming to the end of his rookie scale deal and up for his first extension. A lot of how far the Celtics will go to keep Rozier is likely tied to Smart. If they re-sign Smart for multiple years, Rozier might be on the outside looking in. If Smart leaves, or signs a one-year deal, Rozier might stick around. Don’t expect any sort of early resolution to this one, as Boston has plenty of time to decide what do on an extension.
Who to draft with the 27th pick? Unlike previous years, Boston doesn’t have any extra picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. They’ve got just #27. With a pretty deep roster, it isn’t imperative that they select a player who can contribute this season. What is important is that Ainge tabs a player who can contribute down the road. Ownership will pay the luxury tax for a contender, but there are limits. This roster is going to get very expensive and it’s going to happen very quickly. Getting cost-controlled young players has been key to the rapid rebuild, and now that importance shifts to building the depth of the roster.
Re-signing Shane Larkin: Given the concerns that Marcus Smart or Terry Rozier could be on the way out this year or next, the Celtics should try and re-up with Larkin. He fought his way onto the roster in training camp and proved very valuable as a backup point guard. Boston ended up missing him quite a bit in the Eastern Conference Finals after he suffered a shoulder injury. He might have earned a bigger contract, or at least a bigger role, elsewhere with his play this season, which is something to monitor.
Re-signing Jabari Bird: Bird showed flashes while on a two-way contract. That should be enough to get him a deal to show what he can do in training camp. He played enough with the Celtics that he’ll be a restricted free agent, giving Boston the right to match any offers he might get.
Guaranteeing Daniel Theis, Semi Ojeleye and Abdel Nader: The first two are locks, given Theis and Ojeleye were rotation players for most of the season. Theis is a steal on a league minimum deal, while Ojeleye has such a high guarantee, Boston would save next to nothing by letting him go. Nader is a bit of a different story. He’s probably coming back too, but he has a relatively small guarantee. That will make him worth watching this summer.
Re-signing Greg Monroe: Early on in Monroe’s Boston tenure, this looked like it would be of higher importance. Now it looks like less of a concern. Monroe contributed a lot at times on the offensive end. He’s a good passer and one of the team’s better inside scorers. That said, he can’t defend a lick. If he does come back, it will be on a one-year, “make good” type of deal and it he’ll be lower in the pecking order in the rotation. He’ll probably find more money and a bigger role elsewhere.
Re-signing Jonathan Gibson: Maybe Gibson gets a camp deal, but probably not, as Boston has more than enough other guys in the back court and roster spots are getting tight. They’ll likely go with a younger developmental prospect for camp, in hopes of getting that player to Maine in the NBAGL.
Key Dates to watch for the Celtics
May 30th: NCAA Early Entry Withdrawal deadline: This is the date NCAA players, that did not sign with an agent, must decide if they are returning to school. Keep an eye on some of your favorite late-first round prospects (where Boston is picking), as some may choose to go back to school to boost their stock.
June 11th: International Early Entry Withdrawal deadline: Same as above, but for international players.
June 21st: 2018 NBA Draft: Boston has just one pick this year at #27 in the first round. Boston does have plenty of extra picks in the treasure chest and is always active in moving up and down the board if there are players they like.
June 30th: Qualifying Offers due for restricted free agents: The Celtics have three potential restricted free agents this summer in Marcus Smart, Jabari Bird and Jonathan Gibson. The first two are locks to get a qualifying offer, which allows Boston to retain match rights for them as restricted free agents. Gibson is a bigger question mark and the Celtics will likely choose to non-tender him a qualifying offer and let him become an unrestricted free agent.
July 1st: 2018-19 league year begins/free agency opens: Unlike the last two years, the Celtics will be functioning as an over the cap team. They’ll be limited to using exceptions, such as the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception and the Bi-Annual Exception to add talent to the roster. The Non-Taxpayer MLE projects at $8.6 million, while the BAE will come in at $3.4 million. The Luxury Tax Apron, or Hard Cap, is something else to watch for Boston. If they sign Marcus Smart to a big contract, or are forced to match a big offer sheet, it could change the dynamics of available exceptions for the Celtics.
July 6th-17th: Las Vegas Summer League: Boston is playing in just Las Vegas this year, after multiple years in both Utah and Las Vegas. Jayson Tatum may make a cameo appearance and play 2-3 games in Vegas, but this one will be about the other kids like Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele and Abdel Nader.
July 10th: Daniel Theis’ contract becomes fully guaranteed: Theis is a lock to become fully guaranteed, as he’s one of the best bargains in the NBA and Boston needs big man depth.
July 15th: Semi Ojeleye’s contract becomes fully guaranteed: Ojeleye is guaranteed to make over $900 thousand of his $1.4 million deal. That alone means he’s sticking around. The bigger reason he’ll be fully guaranteed is the potential he showed as a defender and his room for improvement on offense.
August 1st: Abdel Nader’s contract becomes fully guaranteed: Nader could be part of a roster crunch. He might be a player where Summer League means a lot. If he’s not dominant or close to it, Nader could see his roster spot up in the air heading into training camp.
October 31st: Terry Rozier’s rookie scale extension deadline: This is the date to watch for Rozier. If Boston and Rozier can’t agree to terms on an extension, he’ll play out the final year of his rookie scale deal and head into restricted free agency in the summer of 2019 just like Smart did this season.
October 16th: NBA Opening Night for the 2018-19 season: Went out of order, as this one isn’t a transactional date. But this is the next, some would say first, chance to see the Boston Celtics playing meaningful basketball while presumably fully healthy. Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward will be back. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will have a year more experience. The Boston Celtics are good candidates to play on opening night once again and it can’t get here soon enough. Until then, watch these clips to tide you over and get you excited for 2018-19 and the continued quest for 18!