Wednesday, July 05, 2017

What Is Next Move For Celtics?

After a July 4 that nearly shut down Twitter and the Internet simultaneously, Gordon Hayward agreed to a four-year contract with the Celtics.  The news of Hayward's decision broke around 2pm but then there were conflicting reports that he had not yet made up his mind.  Finally, after 7pm, he made his announcement to leave the Jazz for the Celtics on The Players Tribune.

Hayward joins a team coming off of a 53 win regular season and a trip to the Conference Finals.  It is a franchise that has quickly gone from trading away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in 2013 and then being a Lottery team in 2014 to becoming one of the best up-and-coming teams in the NBA.  That Pierce and Garnett trade to the Nets gave Boston four first round draft picks and two of them have produced potential stars in Jaylen Brown, #3 overall in 2016, and Jayson Tatum, #3 overall in 2017.

The core of the Celtics right now is Hayward, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Brown, Tatum, and 2016 first round picks Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele.  Zizic is signed for next season but Yabusele may spend another year overseas for financial reasons.  Daniel Theis, a 25-year-old German signed to a two-year mimimum contract, will also be with the team to add depth in the front court.

After that, the rest of the roster has the potential to be traded because the Celtics need to create the necessary salary cap space to absorb Hayward's new contract.

That means that Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier are all candidates to get traded.  It also means farewell to free agents Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko, Gerald Green (who can be brought back for a minimum contract if he's let go), and James Young.  Jordan Mickey and Demetrius Jackson are also likely cap casualties.

It will be interesting to see what Danny Ainge does with Bradley, Crowder, Smart, and Rozier.  At least one of the group of Bradley/Crowder/Smart looks like they'll be gone in the next few days to create the cap room to officially sign Hayward.  Whether it's a move for a future draft pick or a player making less money is to be seen.

The interesting thing will be to see if Ainge uses those players, as well as the last of the Nets picks and the Lakers or Kings pick owed to Boston from Philadelphia, and looks to make a move for another impact player.

I'm not sure who the target would be but even with a "Big 3" of Thomas, Hayward, and Horford, the Celtics are not a legitimate threat to beat the Warriors in 2018 and they may still end up as cannon fodder for the Cavaliers in the Eastern Finals.

One possible move could be to help facilitate the rumored Carmelo Anthony-to-Cleveland deal as the third team.  Ainge could package Bradley, Crowder, Smart, and two future first round picks that are not the Nets or 76ers picks to help Anthony unite with LeBron James and in exchange the Celtics would get Kevin Love.

Whatever Ainge does, keep in mind that the Celtics will have both the Mid-Level and Bi-Annual salary exceptions to add veteran depth to their roster and players will likely want to come to Boston for the chance to compete for a title.

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