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Celtics rookies like Jared Sullinger (7) showed they might be able to contribute immediately.The Boston Celtics trekked home from the Las Vegas Summer League, their 10-game aestival slate complete, with at least five players that will vie for a roster spot next season. Much of Boston's offseason work is complete as, including partially and non-guaranteed deals, the Celtics currently own a full 15-man roster (though more players could be added to promote competition when camp opens in late September and there's no guarantee Boston will carry 15 players). Let's start with a glance at where the roster/salary cap stands at the moment:
SIGNED FOR 2012-13 WITH SALARY ESTIMATES (12)
Guards: Rajon Rondo ($11 million), Avery Bradey ($1.6 million), Jason Terry ($5 million), Courtney Lee ($5 million*)
Forwards: Paul Pierce ($16.8 million), Brandon Bass ($6.8 million*), Jeff Green ($9 million*), Jared Sullinger ($1.3 million**)
Center: Kevin Garnett ($11 million*), Chris Wilcox ($854,389***), Jason Collins ($854,389***), Fab Melo ($1.3 million**)
NON- OR PARTIALLY GUARANTEED 2012-13 CONTRACTS (3)
Kris Joseph ($473,604); Jamar Smith ($473,604), Dionte Christmas ($473,604)
FREE AGENTS FROM 2011-12 SEASON (4)
Keyon Dooling, Mickael Pietrus, Marquis Daniels, Jermaine O'Neal
THE DEPARTED (7)
Ray Allen (Heat), Greg Stiemsma (Timberwolves), JaJuan Johnson (Rockets), E'Twaun Moore (Rockets), Sean Williams (Rockets), Sasha Pavlovic (Trail Blazers), Ryan Hollins (Clippers)
Estimated total salary committed to guaranteed contracts: $70.5 million
(* = Estimated salary; ** = 120% of rookie scale; *** = League pays portion of veteran-minimum deal)
A handful of thoughts on Boston's roster situation:
* The usual caveats apply here: We're still working with best-guess estimates on some salaries while awaiting official numbers. While Jeff Green's deal remains incomplete, that process should (finally) be hammered out soon, and we're running with the assumption that Greg Stiemsma's offer sheet from Minnesota goes unmatched (Boston doesn't have the necessary funds to do so).
* Sitting at roughly $70.5 million for 12 guaranteed contracts, the Celtics are straddling the luxury tax threshold ($70.3 million). In order to utilize the full value of the midlevel exception ($5 million, spent on Terry), the Celtics must remain within a $4 million apron of the threshold, meaning they are hard-capped at $74.3 million.
* It's our guess that the Celtics will strongly consider carrying just 14 bodies out of camp (unless they are floored by a camp invite). This will aid them in staying on the apron and still give them flexibility down the road. Let's say Boston decides to keep Joseph and Christmas as part of a 14-man roster, then Boston is looking at around $71.5 million in total salary commitment. That gives them a tiny bit of financial flexibility to work with during the season.
* Remember that Boston would not use its biannual exception in the scenario above and would have that as a chip to add salary later in the season (waiver wire addition or free-agent signing), or the Celtics could simply sit on that chip until next offseason. As the name implies, it cannot be used two years in a row.
* It also wouldn't surprise us if the camp invites that don't make the roster end up in Boston's new minor league of sorts with the Maine Red Claws. Those players would have to settle for less money than they could probably fetch overseas, but it puts them in position to get a big-league call-up should injuries ravage the Celtics again.
* Of Boston's remaining free agents, the only one that would seemingly draw consideration for a return is Dooling, whose locker room leadership was as valuable as his on-court performance. Boston could still seemingly benefit from another guard who can handle the ball (Dooling is capable, even if he performed better at shooting guard). The question is whether he'd play at a minimum deal. The Celtics own his right and can pay more, but with cap constraints, it's more likely they'd renounce their rights and re-sign him to a minimum deal. If Boston believes Christmas or Smith are more intriguing young options, Dooling might find a better opportunity elsewhere.
* While the Celtics could still float the biannual out there as an offer for Pietrus, it would seem he'd be more intrigued by contenders that can offer similar money and, more importantly, a larger role. It's no secret that Pietrus wants to play for a contender and you can't help but wonder if he'll be an intriguing option to others as the free-agent pool dries up. The Celtics will miss his defense, but are hopeful that Lee can emerge as a capable wing defender.
* The addition of Collins adds depth to the frontcourt. Remember that, at this stage of roster construction, Boston is not looking for game-changing players, but role players that can do a couple things well. Collins is a strong defensive presence who will frustrate opposing bigs. Yes, he offers little in the way of offense, struggles with rebounding, and doesn't block shots. But in Boston's system, he'll maintain a high defensive level even when the likes of Garnett come off the floor.
* Alright, armchair GMs, your turn. How do you think the Celtics should cap this roster? Are you comfortable with this group, or does the roster need another addition (remember the salary constraints)? Sound off in the comments.