As teams around the league gather in their home markets this week to start regularly testing for coronavirus and ramping up workouts ahead of training camp, the Celtics should find themselves in an unfamiliar spot when it comes to their roster: At full health.
Despite going 43-21 over the first 64 games of the regular season, the Celtics only managed to have their usual starting five in place for just 16 of those games due to injuries. Essentially every member of the starting five was out for a significant stretch at some point of the year, with Kemba Walker (knee) and Jaylen Brown (hamstring) sidelined once the regular season came to an abrupt halt in March.
A completely healthy C’s lineup looked like a pipe dream if the regular season and postseason continued on schedule in the spring. Walker was bothered by knee soreness that lingered for months and had caused a drop-off in his play. Other players like Gordon Hayward seemed snake-bitten with untimely injuries (broken hand, sore foot) that were a result of bad luck more than anything else. Others like Enes Kanter and Robert Williams hadn't fully recovered from injuries either.
Now, however, the Celtics are set to head into the Orlando bubble with a full complement of healthy, rested players, assuming every player of the roster notifies the C’s that their intent is to play (NBA deadline is June 22nd).
There was plenty of pressure on Danny Ainge and the Celtics front office at the trade deadline to boost their bench depth and put themselves in a stronger position to win in the present by adding a bench piece. However, the way the current season is projected to finish out makes the decision to stand pat this season look beneficial in hindsight. Let's take a closer look at why:
1. Shortened season
With the regular season trimmed by at least 10 games (depending on the team), there is only a limited impact that acquired players would have made in the standings following the trade deadline on February 5th. A second training camp next month in Orlando will help midseason acquisitions get better acclimated with their teams but giving up any kind of value for a shorter timeframe that this season became, looks like a bad bet. There is no guarantee that the season even reaches a conclusion if there ends up being an outbreak inside of the Orlando bubble as well that brings the year to a halt. That’s not a great feeling for any general manager that gave up a future draft pick or young player for a win-now piece this deadline.
2. Limited spending flexibility in offseason
Many of the C’s rumored trade targets at the trade deadline (Davis Bertans, Christian Wood) were set to become unrestricted free agents this summer. The Celtics already have over $130 million committed in salary next year, assuming the likes of Hayward and Kanter opt into their deals in an uncertain free agency climate with limited cap room around the league. Given the expected reduction of the NBA’s salary cap number for next season due to revenue losses, the Celtics would not be in a good position to retain any pricy free agent without shedding salary elsewhere. That would be a waste of Bird Rights acquired by Boston on any player they had added to the mix and make any asset that was given up for an expiring deal tougher to swallow. The Celtics are among the top-10 teams with salary committed already for the 20-21 season so they may need to do some salary cutting already based on how the league structures the cap and luxury tax rules next season in the wake of declined revenue. If it’s a sharp drop, it could be a tight squeeze for the C’s financial even with the current payroll. Keeping a mid-level free agent may simply not be doable in this climate beyond the current core.
3. Limited use for trade additions in the postseason: Outside of a few high priced players