NBA Notebook: How a reduced salary cap in 2020-21 could change the Celtics offseason plans

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The NBA world is at a standstill for the time being, with more uncertainty than ever regarding if and when the remainder of the 2019-20 season will resume amid the coronavirus pandemic.

While NBA league owners and Adam Silver remain hopeful that the league will be able to resume at some point (even if it comes in the late summer) to complete the 2020 season, a dramatic loss in league revenue over the upcoming months is all but a certainty. While that situation won’t have any impact from a fan standpoint when play does return, there will be a trickle-down effect to the 2020-211 salary cap and how both teams and players will approach the 2020 offseason (whenever it does occur).

A reminder on where things stand for the Celtics payroll picture heading into this offseason.

Under contract for 2020-21

Kemba Walker ($34.3 million)
Gordon Hayward ($34.1 million – player option)
Jaylen Brown ($23 million)
Marcus Smart ($13.4 million)
Jayson Tatum ($9.8 million once team option is picked up in October)
Daniel Theis ($5 million – team option)
Enes Kanter ($5 million – player option)
Romeo Langford ($3.6 million)
Vincent Poirier ($2.6 million)
Grant Williams ($2.5 million)
Robert Williams ($2.0 million once team option is picked up in October)
Semi Ojeleye ($1.8 million non-guaranteed)
Carsen Edwards ($1.5 million)

Guaranteed money committed if Hayward opts out: $95.8 million to ten players

Guaranteed money committed if Hayward opts in: $129.9 million to 11 players

Guaranteed money committed if Hayward and Kanter opts in: $134.9 million to 12 players

Projected salary cap for 2020-21 as of January: $115 million

Projected luxury tax for 2020-21 as of January: $140 million

The current salary cap and luxury tax numbers are certain to go down ahead of the offseason, the question by how much. It’s far too early to tell specifics given how much of the number is dependent on final season revenue numbers but a drop in the $5-10 million dollar range down to a cap between $105-110 million range is a fair guess according to NBA cap expert Albert Nahamd.

Based on those revised numbers, let’s visit again some of the scenarios that both players and the team will have to grapple with in a changing financial environment for the league.


Gordon Hayward ($34.1 million)

BSJ reported last month that the Celtics were interested in a long-term relationship with Hayward and it’s more likely than ever now (close to 100 percent) the 30-year-old will exercise his max player option for next season. A reduced salary cap combined with a very limited list of teams with significant cap room already this summer makes the odds of Hayward turning down that type of money minuscule for the open market.

The Celtics may consider offering him a long-term deal for a smaller annual salary to help reduce what could be a hefty tax bill (more on than later) but finding middle ground there that’s appealing to both sides could be a challenge, especially if the Celtics are facing a higher squeeze over the long-term financially.

The odds were always in favor of Hayward opting in this year barring an All-Star season for the swingman. While he’s played some of the best basketball of his career in stretches this year, injury issues have prevented him from putting together a huge bounce-back campaign. A standout postseason (if there is one) may lead to a last-second change of heart but Hayward’s best financial gameplay will be to stay put in Boston for one more year.

Impact: Almost certain to opt-in

Enes Kanter ($5 million)

The big man signed a modest two-year deal with a player option last season for the room-level exception with Boston, likely largely with the intention of securing a bigger deal for himself this summer. He was well