The Celtics will have a number of different paths they can go down this offseason, but nearly all of them start with the future of Kyrie Irving. The odds continue to lean against the free-agent-to-be returning to Boston, which will put the team in a tough position as free agency begin if he does indeed walk.
If Irving does decide to depart, the first course of business Danny Ainge would likely pursue is finding some reinforcements at the position. Terry Rozier could certainly be retained to help fill that void in restricted free agency but it’s unclear whether the team wants to go down that road given his lackluster play this year and offseason comments. Point guard is one of the deepest positions around the league and the C’s can certainly do better than Rozier at the position, if they choose.
If the Celtics decide to move on from Rozier, they could look to trade or free agency to find some starting level talent to bring in to play alongside or behind Marcus Smart at the spot. Today, we are going to go through a host of possibilities for the C’s based on a specific scenario: the creation of an Irving trade exception for $20.1 million after he finds a new home on a team with cap space. A trade exception is far from a guarantee to happen if Irving walks since Irving and a new team would have to agree to a sign-and-trade and Boston would have to add enough sweetener (i.e. draft picks) to make it worth their while. A division rival like Brooklyn or New York may just prefer not to do business with Boston altogether and leave them in a tougher spot to improve.
If Ainge manages to pull off an Irving sign-and-trade, however, the C’s would be able to absorb a salary of $20.1 million or less (for one player) for one year, assuming they receive no salary back as part of the deal. While they would not necessarily have to use that to trade for a point guard, there are a number of point guards that could be available for discount prices in that price range. Since Boston’s front office would have to include draft compensation to complete a sign-and-trade with Irving (in order to get the other team to go along with it), trading for an overpaid guard would be an easy way to fill the void without giving up much more in the way of compensation. So what type of names would be available for the Celtics if they go down this win-now path after Irving’s departure? Let’s break down some trade options for a potential exception:
Would cost Celtics an asset
Contract: Player option for $19.2 million (By July 1st)
Overview: This will only be a possibility for the Celtics if Dragic opts in, although some type of sign-and-trade could be negotiated as well if Dragic is pursued by Boston as a free agent. While the 6-foot-3 guard is coming off an injury-riddled season (36 games), he’s just one year removed from an All-Star season. He’s an above-average 3-point shooter, gets to the free throw line at a good clip and is a strong floor general for an offense that is predicated on pace and space like the Celtics. His durability and defense are the biggest concerns at this stage of his career but playing him alongside someone like Smart could help ease those issues.
The Heat are already loaded with bad contracts and are nearing luxury tax territory, so they could be looking to flip Dragic for an asset (protected first round pick?) in order to help clear their books. With no real chance of contending in Miami anytime soon, their best bet back to prominence is to start opening some salary cap space, which makes a 33-year-old Dragic an unlikely candidate for a long-term deal in Miami, even if he opts out.
Dragic is certainly a downgrade from Irving but he would provide a lot more of a scoring punch than anything the C’s could get on the open market at the position with this exception. If the Celtics front office is intent on winning now even while Irving departs, Dragic is the type of player that fits the bill.
Point guards Celtics could target on while also gaining an asset as part of the deal