After Gordon Hayward agreed to terms with the Charlotte Hornets on a four-year, $120 million contract, it was logical to look for ways the Boston Celtics could get something out of that deal for themselves. Instead, the Hornets are going to eat some money for Nicolas Batum and the Celtics will lose Hayward for nothing in return.
After losing Hayward for nothing, Danny Ainge is left to pick up the pieces. The Celtics roster is surprisingly full. Here’s who is still under contract (including those likely to be signed and re-signed) for Boston:
· Ballhandlers – Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Tremont Waters, Payton Pritchard
· Wings – Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Semi Ojeleye, Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith, Carsen Edwards, Javonte Green
· Bigs – Daniel Theis, Robert Williams, Grant Williams, Tacko Fall
That leaves the Celtics with two open roster spots and a glaring need for bench depth. Fortunately for Boston, by virtue of the recent roster maneuvering, they now have the full Non-Taxpayer Midlevel Exception of $9,258,000 available. The Celtics also have the Bi-Annual Exception available of $3,623,000 available. In addition, Boston has a couple of Trade Exceptions of about $5 and $2.6 million. Reminder: Exceptions cannot be combined, nor can they aggregated with player salary to bring in a bigger salary.
Both of those exceptions can be used on one player, or split to bring in multiple players. Boston could free up additional roster spots, if they were to move on from Semi Ojeleye or Javonte Green, who both have non-guaranteed contracts.
Where does Boston have needs? They seem fine at the ballhandler spot. Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, and the two youngsters Tremont Waters and Payton Pritchard should be able to hold down that spot. Carsen Edwards can also slide over and do some ballhandling in a pinch. Maybe a veteran could be added, but it’s not a pressing concern.
That leaves wings and bigs and boy does Boston need both.
The Celtics starting wings in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are as good as anyone’s. Behind them? It’s pretty shaky. If he’s back, Semi Ojeleye provides defense, but not much more. Romeo Langford has potential, but is going to miss the start of the year as he recovers from wrist surgery. Aaron Nesmith looks promising, but trusting a rookie to play a big role is worrisome.
Up front? There is some depth. Daniel Theis is solid. Grant Williams proved he can be a rotation player. Robert Williams potential remains tantalizing. And Tacko Fall is probably back for another year as a developmental player.
That means the Celtics are probably on the hunt for at least a veteran wing and a veteran big man. If they move on from Javonte Green or Semi Ojeleye, Boston could also add an experience ballhandler.
While players have come off the board quickly in the first not-quite-a-day of free agency, there are lots of quality options left. Here are some players who could make sense for Boston:
· Paul Millsap – big
· Serge Ibaka – big
· Aron Baynes – big
· Harry Giles – big
· Tristan Thompson – big
· Nerlens Noel – big
· Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – wing
· Glenn Robinson III - wing
· Austin Rivers – ballhandler/wing
· Evan Turner – wing
· Isaiah Thomas – ballhandler
· Wayne Ellington – wing
· Taj Gibson – big
· Elfrid Payton – ballhandler
· Rajon Rondo – ballhandler
· E’Twaun Moore – wing
· Bryn Forbes - wing
How Danny Ainge responds to losing Gordon Hayward for nothing will go a long way towards the success of the 2020-21 Boston Celtics.