With Jaylen Brown signing his supermax extension on Tuesday coupled with Kristaps Porzingis’ two-year extension earlier this summer, the Celtics have seemingly locked in their core for this Big 3’s championship window.
Over the next two seasons, Boston should be able to navigate the new, more punitive collective bargaining agreement with few changes to the roster to avoid spending over the second apron and the restrictions that come with it, especially after trading Grant Williams to the Mavericks already.
Next year, Kristaps Porzingis will be the highest paid Celtic on the roster. Yeah, that’s right. It’s not the two-time All-NBA First Teamer Jayson Tatum or the newly minted $304 million man, Jaylen Brown. With all three players wrapping up their rookie extensions in consecutive seasons, it’ll be the #4 pick’s in the 2015 NBA Draft that expires first.
This is where Porzingis’ discounted new deal makes a big difference. Because of the haircut he took reupping in Boston, he’ll only account for roughly 20% of the salary in Year 1 and Year 2 after leaving $17 million on the table in July. In the game of salary cap Tetris, that’s important because that hometown discount lines up with the first year of Brown’s extension in 2024 and (presumably) Tatum’s in 2025.
At that point, nearly 100% of the salary cap will belong to Porzingis (20%), Tatum (35%), Brown (35%), and Williams (10%). And while that sounds like a daunting premise, there will be avenues for Brad Stevens to take when they cross that bridge.
Celtics Salary Cap Projection
|Jaylen Brown||27||$31,830,357||$52,368,085 / 36.9%||$56,557,532 / 36.2%||$60,746,97 / 35.4%||$64,936,425 / 34.4%||$69,125,872 / 33.2%|
|Kristaps Porzingis||28||$36,016,200||$29,268,293 / 20.6%||$30,731,707 / 19.7%|
|Jayson Tatum||25||$32,600,060||$34,848,340 / 24.5%||~57,000,000 / 35%||~61,000,000 / 35%||~$65,000,000 / 35%||~$73,000,000 / 35%||~80,000,000 / 35%|
|Robert Williams III||26||$11,571,429||$12,428,571 / 8.8%||$13,285,713 / 8.5%|
|Malcolm Brogdon||31||$22,500,000||$22,500,000 / 15.8%|
|Derrick White||29||$18,357,143||$19,571,429 / 13.8%|
|Al Horford||37||$10,000,000||$9,500,000 / 6.7%|
Let’s first consider what’s already in the cupboard. Unless this Big 3 experiment is a complete bust, the biggest issue will be finding players to complement them and as it stands, a trio of vets’ contracts are set to expire at the end of two-year window in 2025: Al Horford, Malcolm Brogdon, and Derrick White.
For Horford, the two-year, team-friendly extension he signed back in December is most likely his swan song. The now 37-year-old will be completing his 18th season at age 39. Maybe he refills the tank with whatever fountain of youth he’s found at North Station, but don’t expect a big hit to the spreadsheet if he sticks around into his golden years.
White and Brogdon are more curious cases. White is extension eligible and proven to be the perfect complement to the Jays. He’s in the same age bracket of the core and could sign a Marcus Smart-esque contract in the $20-25 million per range. And despite recent reports that suggest that Brogdon is no longer available in trades, you have to think that if Stevens can break up his contract into smaller, longer-term deals for effective role players, he’d trade the reigning Sixth Man of the Year for a solid Seventh and Eighth.
A savvy move like that plus some combination of drafting “win now” players — the Celtics will also have their own first round picks in 2024 and and 2025 plus Golden State’s in 2024 — and utilizing the taxpayer’s mid-level exception next summer and the following offseason could still keep them under the supertax line.
However, in the immediate, this two-year contention window is wide open. Our friends at DraftKings have the Celtics second behind the defending champion Nuggets at +500 to raise Banner 18. It’s been a summer of what many might consider dramatic change and down the road, whether it’s about fit or financials, we could see the plates shift again. The new CBA was always going to make it difficult for contenders to wrap their arms around talent and keep them. Dynasties would become extinct. Opportunities would be more fleeting. For now, after weeks of uncertainty and waiting on “will he or won’t he,” this offseason is a wrap.