The NBA season is often said to be a marathon, not a sprint. The 2020-21 NBA season felt like sprinting a marathon. With games basically every other day, the season zipped right by, from its start in late-December to the playoffs topping off in late-May.
For the Boston Celtics, this season was a frustrating and disappointing one for many. Even if you saw the Celtics slipping some, no one predicted a .500 record and being bounced in five games in the first round.
The good news? The offseason is right around the corner! New President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens will have a chance to put his stamp on building the roster for the first time. He’s got a lot of work to do, including replacing himself on the sideline as the first order of business.
But those articles will continue to be written over the coming weeks. This article is more of a primer of key dates around the NBA and the Celtics in particular. Add them to your calendar, because the offseason will be in full swing before we know it!
· June 21 – 27 – 2021 NBA Draft Combine: The impact for the Celtics is this will be the first look at many of the players eligible for the 2021 NBA Draft. Teams will get to work out players, as well has have in-person meetings with prospects for the first time. NBA front office personnel all say this event was sorely missed in 2020.
· June 22 – 2021 NBA Draft Lottery: For the first time in a while, this date has relatively little meaning for the Celtics. No more Nets, Kings or Grizzlies picks to monitor for Boston!
· July 7 – NCAA 2021 NBA Draft Early Entry Candidate Withdrawal Deadline: This is the date college players have to decide to return to school or stay in the draft. For the first time, this includes several college seniors who are on the fence of taking advantage of the NCAA’s “re-do” policy for players whose senior seasons were impacted by COVID-19.
· July 19 – 2021 NBA Draft Early Entry Candidate Withdrawal Deadline: As with the above, this is more of a “good to know” item than anything will definitely impact Boston.
· July 22 – Last possible date for NBA Finals: Clearly, Boston won’t be there. But it could be the last NBA game that counts for a while!
· July 23 – August 8 – Olympics: The last time Team USA took the court, the Celtics had Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker wearing the red, white and blue. Brown and Walker won’t play on Team USA due to injury recovery. Smart wasn’t a part of the initial player pool for the Olympics, after being a late addition for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Tatum said “It’s something to think about” as far as his participation goes.
Celtics free agent wing Evan Fournier has already said he’ll be suiting up for France. Boston big man Tristan Thompson is part of the player pool for Team Canada. For Thompson, that could mean playing in Olympic Qualifiers as early as late-June, as Canada does not have an automatic berth like USA and France do.
· July 29 – 2021 NBA Draft: The Celtics hold pick #16 in the first round and pick #45 in the second round. No extra picks for Boston this time around. It will be interesting to see how Brad Stevens approaches his first draft.
· July 31 – Jabari Parker’s contract becomes guaranteed for $100,000: The first sign of how serious the Celtics are about keeping Jabari Parker will be if they allow his contract to hit its first trigger date. If Boston waives Parker prior to the guarantee kicking in, they’ll be off the hook with no money on the books for 2021-22. Following the initial guarantee, Parker’s deal then becomes 50% ($1,141,517) guaranteed on opening night of the 2021-22 season. And then fully guaranteed at $2,283,034 on the league-wide guarantee date, which is projected to be January 10, 2022.
· August 1 – Qualifying Offer deadline for restricted free agents: For Boston, this deadline impacts Two-Way players Tacko Fall and Tremont Waters. The Celtics can make both players restricted free agents by offering them a Qualifying Offer for another Two-Way contract. This would the third, and final, year either player could play for Boston as a Two-Way player. While Boston would retain match rights, Fall and Waters will both be able to negotiate with other teams as well. If the Celtics decline to issue a QO to Fall or Waters, they’ll be unrestricted free agents.
· August 2 – 6:00 PM ET – Free Agent negotiations open: This has become a holiday on the NBA calendar in recent years. This year, it will fall on a Monday. On the east coast, you’ll be able to finish up the work day and settle in for what is historically a fairly fast-moving open to free agency.
Unrestricted free agents for the Celtics include Evan Fournier, Luke Kornet and Semi Ojeleye. Restricted free agents could include Tacko Fall and Tremont Waters.
· August 6 – 12:01 PM ET – Free agents can officially sign: The NBA moratorium will run about three-and-a-half days or so. Then, as the work week is wrapping up, all the deals we’ll have heard about starting on Monday evening (or some even back to the draft) will start becoming official.
· August 8 – August 17 – NBA Summer League: We’ll get our first look at 2021 draftees, as well as some holdovers as Summer League returns following a one-year hiatus due to the pandemic. It’s fair to expect the Summer Celtics to feature 2020 first round picks Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard, their 2021 draftees (Picks #16 and #45) and possibly 2020 second round pick Yam Madar. It’s also possible that 2019 first round picks Romeo Langford and Grant Williams and 2019 second rounder Carsen Edwards, will play as well. It’s relatively rare for players entering their third season to play Summer League. However, Langford, Williams and Edwards missed out when 2020 Summer League was cancelled and could use the reps. If Tacko Fall or Tremont Waters are still a part of the roster, they could also play for the Summer Celtics, as well.
· Late-September – 2021 NBA Training Camp begins: This one isn’t official, but the NBA, NBPA and their broadcast partners all agreed that they want the 2021-22 season back on as close to the regular calendar as possible. That means camps will likely start in late-September, with preseason games starting shortly thereafter.
· Any time before the start of the 2021-22 season – Rookie Scale contract extension deadline for Robert Williams: Boston can come to an agreement on a contract extension for their talented, but often-injured big man at any point before opening night of next season. This will be Brad Stevens first extension negotiation. Danny Ainge was adept at getting players at a team-friendly number, aside from max candidates like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. How Stevens approaches negotiations with Williams could be a clue as to how he’ll prioritize building the roster.
· October 31 – Deadline to pick up 2022-23 team option for Rookie Scale players: For the Celtics this will include fourth-year team options for Romeo Langford and Grant Williams and third-year options for Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard.
· Late-October – 2021-22 NBA season starts: Like the above, this isn’t official yet, but it’s likely the season will tip in late-October. That will get the NBA back to its regular October-June calendar.
(Note: The Celtics have several Traded Player Exceptions ranging from $1.6 million to $11 million that have varying expiration dates. Traded Player Exceptions created last offseason (such as the remaining $11 million from the Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade with Charlotte), are expected to expire during this offseason versus the one-year expiration usually attached to such exceptions. As those date have not yet been confirmed by the NBA, they aren’t included on this list.)