Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens has had a lot of late nights at the Auerbach Center this month, but there is still work to be done as the Celtics reshape both their roster and coaching staff after falling short of championship expectations last season.
So what exactly is on Stevens’ to-do list moving forward? Let’s start with a reset on where Boston stands in the aftermath of acquiring Kristaps Porzingis in a pre-draft blockbuster:
Depth chart and payroll check
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Boston sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
The Celtics have 11 players under contract for next season and can add a 12th if No. 38 pick Jordan Walsh is signed to the parent roster. A look at Boston’s potential depth chart:
- Bigs: Kristaps Porzingis, Robert Williams III, Al Horford, Luke Kornet
- Wings: Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Sam Hauser, Jordan Walsh, Justin Champagnie
- Ball-handlers: Derrick White, Malcolm Brogdon, Payton Pritchard
The Celtics could add another ball-handler if 2022 second-round pick J.D. Davison is elevated to the parent roster after being a two-way player last season. Kornet is on a nonguaranteed deal, while Champagnie, picked up at the end of last season, would see a good chunk of his salary guaranteed on opening night if he were stick on the roster.
With Porzingis and his team-high $36 million salary now on Boston’s books, the Celtics are committed to roughly $175 million. That leaves them about $7.5 million away from the second apron ($182.5 million).
Boston could use the $5 million taxpayer midlevel but would be hard-capping itself at the second apron line, potentially handcuffing the team as part of any in-season maneuvering. The Celtics would probably prefer to add without immediately using that path.
Boston almost certainly will extend an $8.5 million qualifying offer to Grant Williams this week, but it’s hard to see any realistic pathway to the Celtics matching any offer Williams receives in restricted free agency.
The Grant Williams conundrum
The Celtics are no longer in position where they can easily afford to splurge to retain Williams (at least not without first moving Brogdon’s salary). The reality is that if head coach Joe Mazzulla was reluctant to play Williams at times last season -- including in the postseason -- the team cannot afford to pay $12-plus million for a depth piece.
Boston can help a team land Williams by facilitating a potential sign-and-trade, but don’t expect much of a return. A team with cap space doesn’t necessarily need the Celtics’ assistance. What’s more, Williams’ status as a base-year compensation player complicates sign-and-trade deals.
If Boston viewed Williams as a must-have piece of its core and someone who might eventually elevate to a starting role, it would be worthwhile to splurge to retain him and simply pay a hefty luxury tax bill. The addition of Porzingis simply makes it hard to see the team matching what others might offer.
The Malcolm Brogdon situation
After the initial three-team iteration of a Porzingis deal fell apart, Stevens phoned Brogdon in hopes of making sure the player knows he’s still valued in Boston.
"Malcolm's really important and that was tough," Stevens told NBC Sports Boston. "He certainly doesn't deserve that. I feel for him and we've talked, obviously, since then.
"There are a lot of narratives out there because of [the failed trade] that certainly are inaccurate. The bottom line is, right now, he's going through a period of 4 to 8 weeks where he's resting and rehabbing [an arm injury], as suggested by our docs, as suggested by the third-party doc that he went to see.
"He feels good and we expect him to be back right [at the] start of the season and have the great year that he's had every year he's been in the league. So we're excited about that. But it's hard for him. That’s the other part, being in the rumors and stuff, that stinks."
The question is whether Brogdon will stick on Boston's roster or be dealt in a new trade. Reports suggested the Clippers couldn’t get a physical in time and a tight window to complete a Porzingis deal given his opt-in deadline prevented the possibility of Brogdon landing in Los Angeles. The teams could certainly revisit a deal, but the salary-matching gets more complicated.
The Celtics did stockpile second-round picks on draft night that could help facilitate a move, and Stevens joked that we might be waiting a while for him to actually utilize a first-round pick. He’s now traded away Boston’s first-round pick in each of the last three drafts.
Jaylen Brown and the supermax
It feels odd that such a monumental moment of the offseason gets tucked this deep in a story about priorities. But, barring the unforeseen, both sides should be motivated to put ink to paper.
The Celtics can put a $300 million supermax contract offer in front of Brown on July 1. Brown couldn’t be traded for at least six months, but the supermax is far grander than any other deal he could ink in the near term.
Stevens told NBC Sports Boston that he spoke with Brown in mid-June before Brown started some summer travels and suggested the player is eager to get back on the court after a disappointing end to Boston’s playoff run.
MORE CELTICS CONTENT
Pondering a Kristaps Porzingis extension
Porzingis arrives with only one season remaining on his own max contract. Initially, we wondered if that flexibility might aid the Celtics in examining options next summer when Brown’s supermax deal would start. But all indications are that Boston will instead explore extension options as early as July, when Porzingis would be eligible for a two-year, $77 million extension. A longer extension would be possible starting in December.
Why would Boston rush to secure an extension, particularly with an injury-prone player? Most importantly, you don’t want to lose an asset after one season, particularly after sending out a primary piece of your core (Marcus Smart) to facilitate the deal. While there is undoubtedly injury risk, Porzingis is coming off his healthiest and most productive season since his ACL woes. We also wonder if him opting in to facilitate the deal came with some sort of agreement that an extension would be explored. Now on his fourth team since 2019, Porzingis likely yearns to stop the constant transition.
Boston’s finances get complicated in a hurry as supermaxes for Brown and Tatum start to kick in, and adding a third bulky salary would be difficult. But Stevens seems to be putting the priority on building a championship-caliber roster and figuring out how to put the money puzzle together further down the road.
Still, it’s hard to see how Boston can have Brogdon’s bulky salary on the books next season, which makes it feel like there is still some shuffling to occur.