Celtics centers past and present: Shaquille O'Neal vs. Darko Milicic.The addition of veteran center Darko Milicic brings the Celtics to 14 guaranteed contracts for the 2012-13 season, one shy of the regular-season limit. That leaves three young players competing for one final spot, but might further aid training camp competition throughout the roster as some veterans will likely be playing for their own jobs as well (albeit with guaranteed money in their pocket). Let's reset the Celtics' roster:
GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2012-13 (14)
Guards: Rajon Rondo ($11 million), Avery Bradey ($1.6 million), Jason Terry ($5 million), Courtney Lee ($5 million); Keyon Dooling ($854,389**)
Forwards: Paul Pierce ($16.8 million), Brandon Bass ($6 million), Jeff Green ($8.4 million), Jared Sullinger ($1.3 million*)
Center: Kevin Garnett ($11.6 million), Chris Wilcox ($854,389**), Jason Collins ($854,389**), Darko Milicic ($854,839**), 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)
TRAINING CAMP INVITES (1)
FREE AGENTS FROM 2011-12 SEASON (2)
Mickael Pietrus, Marquis Daniels
THE DEPARTED (8)
Ray Allen (Heat), Greg Stiemsma (Timberwolves), Jermaine O'Neal (Suns), JaJuan Johnson (Rockets), E'Twaun Moore (Magic; Waived by Rockets), Sean Williams (Waived by Rockets), Sasha Pavlovic (Trail Blazers), Ryan Hollins (Clippers)
Estimated total salary committed to guaranteed contracts: $71.4 million
(* = 120% of rookie scale; ** = League pays portion of veteran-minimum deal)
A handful of thoughts/reminders on Boston's roster status:
* Having utilized the full value of the midlevel exception ($5 million, spent on Terry), the Celtics must remain within a $4 million apron of the luxury tax threshold ($70.3 million), meaning they are hard capped at $74.3 million.
* If the Celtics keep all their guaranteed deals, get your popcorn, because the camp battle between Christmas, Joseph, and Smith should be highly entertaining. The three have bonded this summer, but there would only be one spot available for them and it could be a cut-throat competition. Christmas has to be the early favorite given that half of his first-year money is guaranteed ($236,802), while Smith ($25,000) and Joseph (completely non-guaranteed) are easier to cut ties with. Whoever doesn't make the roster would be eligible to sign with the now-Celtics-run Maine Red Claws, but the contract values are likely far less than what these players could fetch overseas. Boston will be able to assign three "affiliated" players to Maine out of camp (and it seems likely the team will bring in additional camp bodies with that in mind).
* Let's say the Celtics keep Christmas and the guaranteed contracts, they'll be on the hook for roughly $71.9 million in total salary to start the 2012-13 season. That doesn't leave much wiggle room, but it does appear to leave just enough space for the biannual exception ($1.9 million). The Celtics would have that chip available to them if they desire to utilize it later in the season, particularly after post-trade deadline buyouts. That little room under the apron could also be used to absorb slightly more salary at the trade deadline.
* What a crazy offseason. The Celtics had four players under contract at the end of the 2011-12 campaign. Danny Ainge and his staff hammered out 13 contracts this summer, including long-term deals with Garnett, Terry, Green, and Courtney Lee (maybe the most impressive of the group considering how a creative sign-and-trade deal nearly fell apart at the buzzer). As the Celtics prepare to open camp, they have a deep roster with newfound depth at the guard and center positions. If nothing else, the team has put itself in position to be competitive and build off what it accomplished last season.