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It makes sense to keep the 15th roster spot open heading into training camp

Brad Stevens wants the Celtics to retain some flexibility, just like he did last season.

Boston Celtics Press Conference for Gallinari and Brogdon Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

Flexibility. If there were ever a keyword to describe Brad Stevens’ tenure in the front office, this would be it. Stevens likes to have options available to him. Sometimes, those options end in a trade. Other times, it’s a sneaky good pick-up from the free agent market (think Sam Hauser.) And then, there are times when nothing comes of it at all.

As a franchise, it’s logical to remain flexible. You never know when a trade opportunity might rear its head or when you can facilitate a move between two teams and get something back in return.

So, you can imagine my unruffled demeanor when Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe reported that the Celtics don’t have any plans to fill their 15th roster spot before the start of the new season.

“According to a league source, there are no imminent plans to fill the opening, and the team may wait to see which other players become available as cuts are made around the NBA during the preseason,” Himmelsbach wrote. “They may target some extra frontcourt help, but also could simply seek a good developmental piece regardless of position.”

Boston is approximately $2.1 million under the second tax apron. They also have a $5.2 million trade exception from the Grant Williams sign and trade earlier this summer. A key point to note here is that a TPE can be used to sign a player off waivers, which could give Boston an edge later in the season.

Stevens has done this before. Last season, armed with a sizeable $17.2 million trade exception, the Celtics’ President of Basketball Operations kept his options open. Nothing came of that TPE; it simply fell into the singularity and became a dream that never saw the light of day. The logic was there, though.

The Celtics also have three players on partially guaranteed deals, with the details looking like this:

  • Dalano Banton (two years, $4.2 million) - $200 thousand guaranteed, $1 million guaranteed on opening night, and fully guaranteed on January 10.
  • Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (one year, $2.36 million) - $200 thousand guaranteed, $1.17 million guaranteed on opening night, and fully guaranteed on January 10.
  • Luke Kornet (2nd year of a two-year deal $4.54 million deal) - fully guaranteed on January 10.

If your roster is maxed out at 15 players, you either need to cut somebody or trade somebody before you can make a move, which is why non-guaranteed contracts can be so valuable. However, those types of precursors can take time, enough time that you miss out on a target.

Hence, an open roster spot.

If you want to contend for a championship, you need flexibility at the back end of your roster. Having elite top-end talent will always keep you in the hunt, but a squad's depth makes the difference during the postseason.

Last season, the lack of wing depth was a big issue for Boston, and it showed during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Jayson Tatum got hurt in the early stages, and there wasn’t a high-level or even mid-level-but-reliable replacement on the bench.

Stevens is still learning. Last season was his sophomore season in the front office. Understanding the need for flexibility and how to maximize it are two different things. The 15th roster spot doesn’t necessarily mean the player Boston acquires will be the 15th man. Boston has a chance to play the long game, hoping a veteran shakes loose and becomes the final piece in a championship puzzle.

After all, it’s all about Banner 18.

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