- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Brandon Bass is Boston's only starter from last season not secured yet.The Celtics have about five roster spots left to fill (as we noted in Tuesday's Roster Reset) and we know that Ray Allen and Brandon Bass are at the top of the team's priority list. But what about the eight other free agents from the 2011-12 roster? With limited rights to each of those players, Boston might be interested in retaining some of those bodies at the right price. But Danny Ainge has made it clear that the final spots are not the priority at the moment.
"I think that you have to get your best five to seven guys first, then you have to see what’s left," Ainge said Monday. "There’s a lot of managing payroll, managing the (salary) cap and the (luxury) tax -- and future years in the cap and tax that come into play. Timing is very important in going through this process."
With that in mind, here's a quick rundown of where the Celtics stand with their remaining unsigned free agents, including Allen and Bass:
Ray Allen: In what may be one of the league's top remaining free-agent storylines, the question is whether Allen will choose Boston's offer of familiarity and a big paycheck ($6 million) over other intriguing options such as playing for the world champion Heat ($3 million per season to offer) or the Los Angeles Clippers (full $5 million mid-level to offer). Allen will visit both teams later this week and it would seem his decision will become clearer after that. Owning Allen's Bird rights, the Celtics can go over the cap to re-sign him and have positioned a two-year, $12 million offer that's more than any other contender can spend. But will losing his starting job -- and the addition of Jason Terry -- lead Allen to flock elsewhere?
Brandon Bass: Bass' agent said there are a handful of teams in the mix for his client -- Boston's only unsigned starter -- and the question is whether the Celtics are interested in offering the sort of long-term deal that Bass is seeking after opting out of the final year of his last mid-level contract. Crunching the numbers, Boston seemingly can offer something akin to the four-year, $26 million deal that Glen Davis inked before being swapped for Bass in a sign-and-trade last season. But is Boston willing to commit that sort of length or money for Bass, essentially determining that he's the power forward of the future for this team? If not, Ainge has to investigate potential sign-and-trade options in order to bring back an asset for next year's squad given their cap/tax constraints.
Greg Stiemsma: Coming off an overachieving rookie season, the Celtics have a $1.05 million qualifying offer on Stiemsma, making him their lone restricted free agent. He visited the Minnesota Timberwolves this past weekend and was awaiting a potential offer sheet. Stiemsma would be a nice luxury as a depth center (he was first off the bench late last season), but the Celtics are limited in what they can pay if another team makes even a modest offer (they do have the biannual exception available, which would provide roughly $4 million over two seasons). Best-case scenario for Boston is Stiemsma coming back at the bargain price of the qualifying offer (then worrying about a longer-term deal with the team down the road).
Keyon Dooling: It's somewhat noteworthy that the Celtics told rookie center Fab Melo that his preferred No. 51 (his college digits) were not available when he picked out his jersey earlier this week. That seems to hint that the team is keeping it warm for clubhouse leader Dooling. Acquired in a swap with Milwaukee last offseason, the Celtics hold Dooling's Early Bird rights, allowing them to offer a modest raise (anywhere from the $2.2 million he earned last season up to roughly $3.9 million next season). The one hitch: The Celtics have to ink him to a two-year deal if they use the Early Bird rights (or they can renounce him and either use the biannual to sign him or offer a minimum contract). His locker room leadership and strong play by season's end would seemingly make him a desirable option to fill out the backcourt, particularly if Allen departs.
Mickael Pietrus: After undergoing surgery on his right knee last month, Pietrus continued to rehab in Boston. He's expressed a strong desire to return to the Celtics, the question is if the two sides can make the money work (the addition of Terry and the potential return of Allen also clog up the shooting guard spot a bit). Coming off a minimum contract deal, the Celtics hold Pietrus' non-Bird rights and could only offer about $1.44 million next season. Again, the biannual exception might be available to provide a modest salary bump, but the Celtics clearly are limited in their options to retain Pietrus unless he's willing to take a bit of a discount for another title quest.
Marquis Daniels: After three consecutive one-year deals, it's hard to imagine a fourth go-round in Boston (though few of us expected a second or third year, so never say never). This would almost certainly be a minimum contract deal to add depth.
Sasha Pavlovic: His always-ready, defensive-minded approach makes him a minimum-contract option around the league, but a return engagement seems unlikely.
Ryan Hollins: Depending on how the situation with Stiemsma plays out, the Celtics might be interested in bringing back Hollins based on the glimpses of potential we saw after being added late last season. Again, it would likely be a minimum deal, but he'd make a solid depth option and he knows the system.
Jermaine O'Neal: Let's just move on... the Celtics surely have.
Chris Wilcox: The question is whether Wilcox will be ready for the start of the 2012-13 season. Ainge has expressed interest in bringing him back after last season was cut short by detection and repair of a heart ailment. This would seemingly have potential for a midseason addition if Wilcox needed more time to get into playing shape. Regardless, it's a low-risk, high-reward situation if Wilcox could get back to playing like he was right before the ailment was detected in March. Last season, he earned the taxpayers' mid-level of $3 million, but would seemingly be in line for a minimum contract with a chance to reestablish his value.
The Celtics have about five roster spots left to fill (as we noted in Tuesday's Roster Reset) and we know that Ray Allen and Brandon Bass are at the top of the team's priority list.