2014 NBA Free-Agency Primer: What You Need to Know for Boston Celtics' Offseason
The NBA's free-agency period started with a bang in July, leaving little time for teams focused on the draft to re-group and prepare offers.
However, the time to land some of the league's more desirable players will continue, and the Boston Celtics should be near the top of that list of suitors.
Boston will be in play with quite a few names—big and small—this summer. The Celtics have some money to play with, though not a ton, and are looking to rebound from a 25-win 2013-14 season.
The Celtics also have some decisions to make in-house with guys like Avery Bradley.
From top to bottom, let this be the primer that guides you through Boston's free-agency days, leading up to the 2014-15 season.
The first thing to know when venturing into the NBA's free-agency period is how much money your team has available, where the money is tied up, and if any guarantees have been made beyond next season, especially raises.
Currently, the Boston Celtics have about $48.5 million tied up, according to Basketball Insiders, in Rajon Rondo ($12.9 million), Gerald Wallace ($10.1 million), Jeff Green ($9.2 million), Brandon Bass ($6.2 million), Joel Anthony ($3.8 million), Vitor Faverani ($2.09 million), Kelly Olynyk ($2.07 million) and Jared Sullinger ($1.4 million).
Boston also has two first-round picks that it will likely sign soon.
Marcus Smart (No. 6 overall) could make in the neighborhood of $3 million, given that last year's No. 6 pick, Nerlens Noel, made $3.1 million as a rookie.
James Young, Boston's No. 17 pick, is compared to Dennis Schroder (No. 17 in 2013), who made $1.3 million. So, that should tack on around $4 million to the $48.5.
The NBA's salary cap saw a bump this offseason and is projected to be set at $63.2 million, with a tax level of $77 million, according to Larry Coon.
So, still at $52.5 million or so, the Celtics have some room to spend. Likely, barring the availability of a major free agent, they would prefer to stay under the cap if this is to be another rebuilding year.
The other important factor to remember, though, is Bradley. Boston tendered him a qualifying offer of $3.58 million, which will allow the team to match any offer he receives as a restricted free agent. If that offer is matched at $6 million to $8 million, most of Boston's available cap room will be eaten up.
The other important thing to remember is that Rondo, Bass and Anthony come off the books next summer. Right now Boston has no major raises laying in wait for any current players. Faverani's contract is not guaranteed after this season, and Green will have the player option ($9.2 million) to decline and become a free agent.
However, if Boston is to keep Rondo, he will come with a lucrative new deal.
There are some other things to keep in mind as the Boston Celtics try to fill out their roster this summer—the first of which is slightly pressing.
Unfortunately, that exception has come due and will expire on July 12. Boston also has trade exceptions from Fab Melo ($283,816, expiring August 15) and Courtney Lee ($2.09 million, expiring January 6). Given Boston's proximity to the salary cap, especially if Bradley is re-signed, these exceptions could come in handy.
The Celtics must act quickly, though.
This summer, the Celtics also potentially have the ability to use their mid-level and bi-annual exceptions to sign players, per Basketball Insiders.
The mid-level exception is worth about $5.3 million, while the bi-annual can net a player $2.08 million.
With these types of deals, you are looking at ways to skirt the salary-cap issues and still sign either a young player with potential or a veteran looking to stick around another couple years.
The Roster as It Stands
The Boston Celtics haven't immediately improved a ton from last season's 25-57 finish.
Certainly the wins should increase with a full year of a healthy Rondo. Smart and Young will also provide more young talent. However, it is doubtful that, as currently constituted, this team gets a playoff spot.
In the Eastern Conference, a large portion of those eight spots are still very much up for grabs. However, is this very basic depth chart (assuming Bradley is back) enough to get one?
- PG: Rondo, Smart
- SG: Bradley, Young
- SF: Green, Wallace
- PF: Sullinger, Bass
- C: Olynyk, Anthony
Boston can and should expect some sort of individual leap from Sullinger and Olynyk in their third and second seasons, respectively. However, Green and Bass are what they are at this point. Anthony, and to a lesser extent, Wallace are close to dead-weight contracts.
Bradley is a question mark as to whether he will be back in green, obviously. But he is also a question mark beyond that. Even if Boston is able to bring him back, he has yet to show he is capable of staying on the court for a full season.
With a strong ACL, Rondo will certainly guide this team to a brighter year than 2013-14, but team president Danny Ainge has some work to do to bring him permanent, solid help.
As with most free-agencies past, the Boston Celtics have something good going for them inside their house and on the open market.
Boston has a very solid, assured front office and management staff. There was the hiccup last season of head coach Doc Rivers' departure, but Boston was able to get a first-round pick out of the deal and hired a well-respected coach in Brad Stevens to a six-year contract in the aftermath.
This summer, the hiccup has already occurred with top assistant Ron Adams heading west to serve as assistant head coach to Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors. But the Celtics will recover.
They will do so because of that core front office and how much trust there is involved there. Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca have co-owned the franchise since 2003, with little, if any, problems. Almost immediately, they hired Ainge as president of basketball operations, a position he has held since.
Ainge is sometimes unpopular, but he has always had the full backing of the owners and has had success because of that.
Ainge isn't one of those general managers around the league who are constantly in fear of losing their job and making desperate moves because of it. Instead, he can do as he sees fit without immediate concern for his livelihood.
In the past, that has included somewhat unpopular decisions like trading Antoine Walker and Kendrick Perkins, and deciding when to cut bait with Pierce and Kevin Garnett last summer.
Ainge's strategy is a major asset for Boston. The team may not be a top destination for free agents due to weather and celebrity proximity, but players who come to the Celtics know for the most part who their owner, GM and head coach will be any given season.
For how highly touted this summer's draft class was—and it is looking mighty good—the Boston Celtics weren't able to draft based on need.
The center crop for this class was particularly weak, given how stacked it was elsewhere. Unfortunately, that was Boston's most glaring need, and the one most desired by its fanbase. No. 3 overall selection Joel Embiid didn't fall to Boston, and he is injured right now anyway.
Instead, Boston drafted a combo-guard in Smart and a perimeter wing slasher/shooter in Young.
The center spot is still very much a position of need for Boston. Olynyk is tall (7'0") but doesn't have the skill set—especially defensively—to play center on a regular basis. Beyond him, Boston is very undersized, with Bass (6'8") and Sullinger (6'9") checking in at south of 6'10", with power-forward bodies.
Boston could really use a defensive anchor in the middle. It has built a very good defensive perimeter, especially if Bradley is re-signed. He will pair with Rondo and Smart, all three of whom are plus-defenders. Green is athletic and capable on the wing defensively, as long as he is interested. That is also one of the last remaining assets Wallace brings.
In the paint, though, Boston needs some help.
The other spot of need right now is shooting, particularly of the long-range variety. By making Smart its No. 6 overall pick this summer, Boston may have put together three guards with shooting question marks.
Smart shot just 29.9 percent on 5.1 three-point attempts as a college sophomore last season. While Bradley and Rondo have certainly worked on their shot-making, there is still a long way to go before defenses respect that part of their games.
Young, for lack of a better term, is young at 18 years old, but he had the makings of what could become a silky outside shot as a college freshman. Green is also a capable shot-maker, but inconsistencies in effort or aggression remain.
Ideally, Boston would like to get another outside shooter on its roster, either as a backup guard or on the wing.
Players Boston Is Talking To
The Boston Celtics have already been active in seeking out members of this free-agent class.
Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald reports that the Celtics were in contact with a great many players, including shot-making wings Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward.
Hill stands at just 6'10" but brings the athletic versatility that Boston lacks in its middle. Sullinger, Bass and Olynyk are fairly grounded players, while Hill would increase Boston's pace and aggression. He had a fantastic end to the season in L.A., really showing what he could do when finally given regular minutes.
Parsons and Hayward were expected calls for Boston to make. Hayward has been involved in Boston rumors since his college coach, Stevens, was hired to helm the Celtics. However, he also fits Boston's mold as a do-it-all wing/shooting guard. He had a rough season for Utah last year as its primary option but has proven himself in years past as a reliable producer.
Parsons is intriguing as a true surprise player since entering the league. He, more so than Hayward, is that outside shooter who would open things up for Boston. In his three NBA seasons, Parsons has shot 37 percent on 4.3 three-point attempts per game. He averaged 16.6 points per game last season.
Thomas is a bit more of a head-scratcher, considering where Boston went with its draft.
However, Rondo's contract expires after this season, and he has a lucrative deal on the horizon, so moving him will continue to be an option. If that were the case, Thomas is the scoring point guard who would give Boston a different look and balance Smart pretty well.
Thomas scored 20.3 points per game last season with the Sacramento Kings, posting a shooting clip of 45.3/34.9/85.0.
Where Else the Celtics Should Be Looking
If the Boston Celtics are looking to expedite this rebuilding process and give Rondo a surefire reason to stick around next summer, they should still be thinking big.
That means maintaining Kevin Love trade talks with the Minnesota Timberwolves, even though they appear out of the running. It means seeing what kind of offer it would take to pry restricted free agent Greg Monroe out of the Detroit Pistons' grasp.
Of those three, I still think Monroe is the most likely. Detroit has new management all around with head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy and general manager Jeff Bower, as well as a crowded frontcourt and future financial concerns with Andre Drummond.
The Celtics could definitely use Monroe, allowing him to control the paint more so than he can with Drummond on the floor.
With the likes of Lou Williams and Marcin Gortat—who re-signed with the Wizards, per Sam Amick of USA Today—already spoken for this summer, the wells are already being dried up and the table picked over. Both were players who could have thrived in Boston and filled needs.
Patty Mills, recent shoulder concerns aside, is a free agent after lighting it up with the San Antonio Spurs late into spring. In 18.9 minutes over 81 games last season, Mills hit on 42.5 percent of his 3.9 three-point attempts. After winning a ring, he'll likely want to stay in San Antonio, but he also hasn't made a ton of money thus far and could be tempted by Boston.
Other sources of shooting could come from Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young or New Orleans Pelicans sharp-shooter Anthony Morrow. Both players are free agents..
These are the types of players Boston could get if forced to use its mid-level exception.