Kyrie Irving. Gordon Hayward. Al Horford. Jaylen Brown. Jayson Tatum.
That sounds like the star-studded cast of a summer blockbuster. You’ve got three All-Stars and two budding phenoms all on the same team at the same time. Danny Ainge has assembled a roster that rivals Oceans 11 or The Avengers. As exciting as the 2018-2019 season will be, however, there is a cloud of urgency that looms.
With Irving understandably noncommittal about his future with the franchise, the Celtics’ interest in trading for Kawhi Leonard, and the natural progression of contracts, it’s hard not to think about how long this team will last. The goal is to raise Banner 18 to the rafters, but if Ainge can figure out how to keep this core together, we could be talking about more than one championship. A handful of CelticsBlog writers chime in on the future of The Big Five:
Jeff Clark: Is twenty too much? I love this lineup even though we’ve only seen it for 5 minutes. I just have a feeling that all the pieces will fit beautifully well together. So call me an optimist, but I think they can make it work for 3-4 years (barring injuries).
I don’t even know who the first to go would be, in particular since I’m pretty confident that Kyrie will sign long term next off-season (or at least a short term deal that gets him to his next pay bump). Perhaps Horford will start slowing down soon, but I could see him taking an extension at a lower cap figure to stick around.
Sam Sheehan: I think this question depends pretty much entirely on Horford. Perhaps Kyrie bolts early or the Celtics deal Hayward, but I’m skeptical of those two outcomes happening, particularly with how cold and possibly damaging to a Brad Stevens relationship a Hayward trade would be. (That said, I was saying similar things about Isaiah Thomas getting traded last year.)
Horford’s contract is up first, and he’s the oldest. I genuinely don’t know if he opts out next year given the high level that he’s playing at. Re-signing Horford will likely come with stiff tax payments, and re-signing him for four years will almost certainly come with repeater penalties. I’ll say four years starting this year. But there’s an Anthony Davis-sized shadow hanging over the ‘one year’ bet that’s not totally insignificant.
Bill Sy: Kyrie will be entering his eighth season as an NBA pro and has a player option next summer that he’ll likely decline in order to sign a new long term max deal. Horford also has a PO of $30M+ to pick up. For Irving, the jump from 30% of the cap to 35% for a max deal happens in Year 10, so it’s conceivable that he doesn’t sign a full max deal and opts for a 2 + 1.
And like Sam suggests, much of this is on Horford. I doubt he leaves his player option on the table, but when he hits free agency, it’ll be that twilight contract that determines whether or not Celtics’ ownership can foot the bill. In 2020-2021, they’ll have to decide on Brown and then, subsequently, on Tatum.
I give it at least three years. If they can get to The Finals next June, win or lose, I think they’ll run it back out of spite or to defend their title, and Year 3 could be the rubber match with the Warriors. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end.