In the wake of what one of the most disappointing seasons in Celtics history, there has been a loud refrain from certain parts of the fanbase: Let Kyrie Irving walk. We’ve discussed the ramifications of such a move at length in recent months here at BSJ, but the questions keep surfacing about whether the C’s would have the ammo to do something splashy in the face of a complete reboot this offseason. In such a scenario, the Celtics would let Irving walk, pass on giving up the bulk of their assets for Anthony Davis and conceivably let Al Horford walk out the door as well (to open up cap room and since it would be tough to sell Horford on this group being a contender without Irving or Davis in the fold).
In such a scenario, could the Celtics have enough room to offer a contract to a max free agent this summer? In theory, yes. However, the steps they would have to go through to make that a reality would risk a serious step backward for the franchise in the face of years of building towards contending. Let’s walk through this scenario in greater depth to get a better idea of why the front office and ownership are still holding out hope that Irving wants to return and why a reset path presents more questions than answers.
Guaranteed Salaries for 2019-20 season
Gordon Hayward: $32.7 million
Marcus Smart: $12.6 million
Jayson Tatum: $7.8 million
Jaylen Brown: $6.5 million
Guerschon Yabusele: $3.1 million
Robert Williams: $1.9 million
Semi Ojeleye: $1.3 million
No. 14 pick: $3.45 million
No. 20 pick: $2.6 million
No. 22 pick: $2.38 million
No. 51 pick: (no cap hold)
Cap Hold 1: $897.000
Cap Hold 2: $897,000
Guaranteed money committed: $76.6 million to seven players, three draft slots and two mandatory cap holds (NBA requires a team have 12 cap holds on a roster even during an offseason. $897,000 is the minimum salary cap hold)
NBA Salary Cap Projection: $109 million
Luxury Tax Projection: $132 million
Even though it may appear that the Celtics have $32.4 million in cap room with this salary cap sheet, the front office would have to give up their ability to retain all of their current free agents with Bird Rights in order to gain access to that cap room. What exactly would that mean?