Chris Forsberg

Should Celtics ponder a Derrick White extension? And more C's thoughts

Should locking up Boston's new starting point guard be Brad Stevens' next top priority?

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Jaylen Brown's supermax contract dominated the conversation around the Boston Celtics for much of July. With pen to paper, it’s time to start looking forward at the next batch of big decisions the Celtics have to make: 

Should the Celtics explore an early Derrick White extension?

Throughout his brief tenure as president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens has put a priority on long-term security. Stevens loves extensions maybe even more than he loves second-round picks.

Since taking over for Danny Ainge, Stevens has inked early extensions with Marcus Smart, Robert Williams III, Josh Richardson, Kristaps Porzingis and now Brown. These deals took the stress out of waiting until players reach unrestricted free agency and allowed players to focus more on the on-court product.

The Celtics do not need to rush to an extension with White given that he still has two years left on his deal, but it could be beneficial to strike now. Boston can tack on up to three years to the current extension that he inked with San Antonio.

Under the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement, White is eligible to sign an extension starting at as much as 140 percent of his final-year salary. Factoring in likely incentives, that would put White in line for a new deal starting at up to $27 million in the 2025-26 season. 

If the salary cap continues to grow by 10 percent each season, White’s first-year salary -- even at his max number -- would be about 16.5 percent of the cap for the 2025-26 season. That’s only a slight uptick from the 13.5 percent he’ll account for this season. 

White could be motivated to wait for unrestricted free agency, especially after Fred Van Vleet signed a three-year, $129 million deal with the Rockets, but both sides should have motivation to at least explore extension options. Waiting until next summer would allow Boston to tack an extra year onto any extension.

Derrick Flight

Speaking of White, shaving his head appears to have made him more aerodynamic:

Head coach Joe Mazzulla joked that it was only July when asked Wednesday who would be starting at point guard this season for the Celtics, but he made sure to note that White will be a big part of Boston’s backcourt.

"Derrick will be our starting point guard, or he will be one of our starting guards," said Mazzulla. "We have the ability to play in different ways. We have the ability to play small and play big, so with some of the changes that we've made it opens up a lot of opportunities for Derrick, Payton [Pritchard] and Malcolm [Brogdon].

"I think that's really important that those three have an opportunity to grow them and help them on both ends of the floor. Those three guys at the guard spot is a part of our identity and a part of what we need to get to on offense and defense."

Roster reset

The Celtics have 14 players signed for next season but the roster feels unfinished despite only one remaining spot (and another two-way slot). 

Boston still has some flexibility with multiple players on non-guaranteed deals, including Justin Champagnie, Dalano Banton, and Luke Kornet. Champagnie and Banton have partial guarantees for making the opening-night roster, while that trio's full salaries are not fully guaranteed until January 10.

The trade market has ground to a halt while waiting for action on Damian Lillard and James Harden. The free agent market has largely dried up, and Boston has only minimum salaries to offer at this point anyhow.

But the Celtics do have the $6.2 million Grant Williams traded player exception to ponder moves up until the trade deadline. Boston has operated like a team that yearns to stay under the second apron but has the flexibility to get bold if the right deal emerges (even then they might be able to stay under with the right maneuvering).

We’ve wondered out loud if a veteran like Blake Griffin might be brought back further down the road. Those sort of decisions probably need to wait until September when Boston players start trickling back to the Auerbach Center and the team starts pondering its biggest needs.

The big swing

The Celtics have some tough financial decisions to make as Brown and Jayson Tatum’s extensions hit the books starting next summer. The 2023-24 season might be one final chance to splurge before the new collective bargaining agreement really clamps down on big spenders.

Which is why we’ll just keep repeating: Boston has an ability to take one more big swing thanks to its draft pick accumulation and needs to find the right spot to take that swing. It probably has to be for player on a non-max salary whom the Celtics view as a long-term fit, but Boston can get frisky, especially with movable salary for an in-season deal that might still keep the team under the second apron for the year. 

Chris Forsberg joins BST with Felger & Holley to discuss what the Celtics salary cap situation looks like over the next few years after the team signed Jaylen Brown to the largest contract in NBA history.

The Brogdon question mark

Asked if Brogdon would be healthy for the start of the 2023-24 season, Mazzulla gave a somewhat lukewarm, "As far as I know." Stevens has said that Brogdon is on a rest/rehab plan with his injured arm this summer with hopes that will alleviate the discomfort he played through at the end of the playoffs.

Mazzulla admitted the team has to work to win back Brogdon’s trust after nearly dealing him in the Porzingis trade.

"The organization has had a few conversations. I think any time you are in a situation like that and you are in a relationship, you just have to take some small steps into it," said Mazzulla. "There is a healing process, there is a listening process and to see where we are at and where we have to get to.

"We've had some conversations as an organization but, at the same time, we understand that the situation and, as the healing process goes on, we will move forward as well as you can."

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