The whispers surrounding the likely departure of Kyrie Irving have continued to grow louder in recent days. While nothing is set in stone just yet, the noise around the Brooklyn Nets is very much real, with one Boston Herald report coming out Thursday saying he's preparing to join the Nets (albeit with several caveats). Barring a major change to the free agent landscape (which is possible at the draft), the Celtics are certainly going to be looking hard at their best team building options without the All-Star point guard in the coming days.
So what exactly do the Celtics have to work with? We took a first look at the possibilities back in March but a lot has changed since then when it comes to players, draft picks and options. Let's take an updated look at the type of debates the front office is having behind closed doors as they take a crucial next step for the franchise this offseason.
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
Aron Baynes: $5.4 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
Guaranteed money committed: $80.7 million to eight players and three draft slots and a mandatory cap hold.
NBA Salary Cap Projection: $109 million
Luxury Tax Projection: $132 million
Tax Apron: $138 million
Midlevel exception: $9.2 million (Team can only use if they stay under tax apron)
Taxpayer exception: $5.7 million (Team can use instead of mid-level exception if they want to go well into tax)
Bi-annual exception: $3.6 million (Team can only use if they stay under tax apron for full season)
What can the Celtics do without Irving?
The team has made Baynes no promises about his future according to sources, so while it’s fair to assume that he is part of the roster plan, his salary could be used to help orchestrate a trade as well.
We already covered the full reset option for the Celtics and there doesn’t hold much appeal there for the franchise. Losing assets like Al Horford for nothing does not help a team compete in the short term so the team will look to keep him or try to move him for compensation at the least if he decides he wants to play elsewhere. League sources told BostonSportsJournal.com that the team remains optimistic that they can retain Horford and that Baynes opting in is a good sign on that front.
The AD trade option
We’ve covered the possibility at length here at BSJ but it still stands as a distinct possibility when you factor in the C’s competitive mindset for ownership and the front office. With Kevin Durant and now Klay Thompson now sidelined for a large chunk (if not all) of next season, there is a window of opportunity for any contender in 2019-20. Anthony Davis (when engaged) is a top-10 NBA player and checks a whole host of boxes the Celtics could use (rebounding, rim protection, getting to the free throw line, athleticism). Despite his agent’s comments (from March, despite the SI piece being released this week), pursuing Davis is a route the team will continue to explore if the price tag is not overly prohibitive. Ownership would take one title over 10 years of playoff mediocrity and that’s all that might be guaranteed right now for the C’s if they stand pat. With that said, potentially disastrous fallout awaits if Davis walks and the Celtics fall short with him in 2019-20. The developments of the past week though make this is a more realistic option though for Boston.
Point guard trade options
We’ve covered the possible point guard replacement options here if the Celtics managed to create a trade exception in conjunction with Irving’s departure. That may be a long shot depending on Brooklyn’s openness to help Boston despite gaining an asset in the process. If a team that has cap room signs Irving (like Brooklyn), they are under no obligation to participate in a sign-and-trade.
Free agent PG options
If the sign-and-trade option is shut down, the best bet is on the Celtics looking towards free agency to fill the gap. They can hand the reigns to Marcus Smart and re-sign Terry Rozier as a backup. If the team elects to move on from Rozier or sign-and-trade him, there are a number of possibilities on the free agent market to look at.
George Hill (expected to be waived, but Bucks are likely to re-sign)
The Jazz already told Rubio they are moving on from him, but all of these other names should have plenty of competition for their services. More appealing names that are on the restricted market (Malcolm Brogdon, Tyus Jones, Delon Wright) won’t be available for mid-level money due to their matching rights.
Options for a portion of mid-level or veteran’s minimum