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What’s next for the Celtics roster?

The big moves are done, but Danny Ainge still has work to do

Boston Celtics Media Day Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics offseason hasn’t been the blockbuster that the 2017 summer was, but it was still efficient and productive. The Celtics re-signed key rotation players Aron Baynes and Marcus Smart. The team also re-signed Jabari Bird, after he impressed while playing on a Two-Way contract as a rookie. Boston added Robert Williams III at the 2018 NBA Draft. And they’ve inked Walt Lemon Jr. to a Two-Way contract and reportedly will sign P.J. Dozier to their second Two-Way spot.

While none of those moves makes headlines outside of Boston, they were all necessary. The Celtics needed to bring back Smart and Baynes, as both are major contributors in the backcourt and frontcourt respectively. Bird is well-worth the minimum contract he signed. Williams was considered a lottery talent, so he was a worthy flyer late in the first round. And Lemon and Dozier both offer some upside as Two-Way players.

All of that said, the Celtics still have some roster moves to make between now and the start of the season (and slightly beyond). Below is a chronological (more or less) outline of what Boston still has to do.

Now and late-September (pre-Training Camp)

Fill out the training camp roster with three more signings

The Celtics have historically carried the maximum of 20 players into training camp. This year that might be more important than usual, with players recovering from injuries and some veteran players on the roster who won’t be pushed very hard in the preseason. Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis will all be worked in slowly following their recoveries from season-ending injuries last year. Al Horford, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes are all veterans that have earned the right to a lighter training camp workload.

Because of this, Boston is likely to add three more players for camp. In addition, the players added for the preseason, are probable to be targeted as Affiliate Players for the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Gatorade League. Each NBA team is allowed to designate up to four players who were on the preseason roster as Affiliate Players. These players are then assigned to the NBA team’s NBAGL affiliate, as opposed to being subject to the NBAGL Draft or free agent pool. It’s a way to fill out the Red Claws roster with players the team already has some level of interest in continuing to work with.


Cut roster down to 15 NBA players and 2 Two-Way players

All NBA teams are required to meet the same roster requirement of a max of up to 15 NBA players and up to 2 Two-Way players. This date is usually the Friday before Opening Night, which is reportedly going to be Tuesday, 10/16/18 this season. Given the Celtics have 15 players on fully guaranteed NBA contracts and 2 Two-Way players, someone will have to really surprise to make the roster out of camp.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Seven Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images


Rookie Scale Extension deadline for Terry Rozier

Between now and opening night, Boston and Terry Rozier can come to an agreement on an extension of his current Rookie Scale contract. If sides cannot agree to terms on an extension, Rozier can be made a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019.

With Marcus Smart inked to a new deal and Kyrie Irving eligible to be an unrestricted free agent next summer (assuming the likelihood he declines his player option), Boston has some level of flux with the point guard position. Rozier may be unwilling to sign an extension, knowing he’s not guaranteed the starting spot in Boston. It is unlikely either side will find terms they can both agree to for a new contract. That means Rozier, like Smart was this summer, will be a restricted free agent in 2019. That isn’t a bad thing, as it extends the window for each side to find a workable deal, should they wish to remain in partnership.

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports


2019-20 Team Option deadline for Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Guerschon Yabusele

When players are on a first round Rookie Scale contract, the deal is structured as so:

  • Year 1 – Fully Guaranteed
  • Year 2 – Fully Guaranteed
  • Year 3 – Team Option
  • Year 4 – Team Option
  • Year 5 – Qualifying Offer (Restricted Free Agent)

Approximately one year out, teams must make a decision on picking up the appropriate team option. For the Celtics, this means Jaylen Brown’s fourth year team option and the third year team options for Jayson Tatum and Guerschon Yabusele.

Outside of something wildly unexpected, it’s a guarantee that Brown and Tatum will have their respective options picked up. Both are rising stars and Boston isn’t relinquishing a single year of team control over either player.

Yabusele is more of a mixed bag. He’s shown flashes at times, but remains wildly inconsistent. He’s still a major work-in-progress on the defensive end, while having lots of room for improvement on offense. Yabusele is still young enough to be considered a good prospect, but not so young that a contender like Boston can continue to invest years in him.

There are two other factors working against Yabusele. The first is that tag of prospect. The Celtics just drafted another young big man in Robert Williams III. Boston may not be in a position to devote a lot of development time in two somewhat similar players. Not when they are a title contender, who may be better served by having veterans at the end of the bench.

The second knock against Yabusele has nothing to do with him as a player. It’s simply a matter of money. Boston is poised to be a taxpayer in 2018-19. That would start the clock on the punitive repeater tax. Much has been written (all over this very site even!) about how much being a taxpayer matters for the Celtics. While opinions remain split on that subject, no team is paying the tax to keep a player that they may not need. Because of this fact, Boston may be up in the air on Yabusele’s 2019-20 option.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

There are other matters that could come into play for the Celtics, such as veteran extensions and sign and trade transactions, but none are really likely to matter. Irving has already stated, and rightly so, that he won’t be signing an extension. None of the other players who are eligible make much sense to sign an extension either. As for sign and trade deals, Shane Larkin has already signed a deal to play in Turkey next season. That leaves Greg Monroe and Jonathan Gibson as the lone players eligible to be signed and traded and no other NBA team is jumping at that opportunity.

For all intents and purposes, the Celtics major transactions are done. But we also thought that at this exact point last summer. Then Danny Ainge pulled off the stunning Kyrie Irving/Isaiah Thomas swap. This year, with a title contender already assembled, it’s going to be moves around the margins between now and opening night. A few camp signings, picking up team options and getting everything in place for what should be a run at the 2019 NBA Finals is all that’s left. And it can’t get here soon enough.

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