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If the first domino gently tipped with Doc Rivers' departure at the start of the week, then the Boston Celtics dropped a wrecking ball on the rest of the track with Thursday night's blockbuster swap with the Brooklyn Nets.
Now we know which direction the Celtics are going in this summer: Grab your hard hat, it's a full-fledged rebuild.
Yet this trade only leads to a new batch of questions about Boston's offseason. Let's try to make sense of what's happened and what lies ahead by tackling eight lingering questions (one for each player involved in Thursday's trade):
1. What does Boston's roster now look like with free agency approaching?
Here's a quick roster/cap reset after this potential Celtics-Nets swap, which won't be official until the moratorium lifts on July 10:
Guards: Rajon Rondo ($12 million), Courtney Lee ($5.2 million), Avery Bradley ($2.5 million), Jordan Crawford ($2.2 million), MarShon Brooks ($1.2 million), Keith Bogans ($1.2 million**), Terrence Williams ($947,000*)
Forwards: Kris Humphries ($12 million), Gerald Wallace ($10.1 million), Jeff Green ($9 million), Brandon Bass ($6.5 million), Kelly Olynyk ($1.7 million), Jared Sullinger ($1.4 million), D.J. White ($1 million*), Kris Joseph ($788,000*)
Centers: Fab Melo ($1.3 million), Shavlik Randolph ($1.1 million*)
Note: * = Nonguaranteed; ** = Estimate
That's 17 players, not including the expected signing of players like undrafted guard Phil Pressey, who will get a chance to compete for a roster spot at summer league. Something clearly has to give, and it will likely come from the four nonguaranteed contracts the Celtics now own. It makes you wonder if Boston might investigate a Courtney Lee-like path and bundle a couple of those nonguaranteed deals with the goal of getting back a single talent (would you take on Thomas Robinson's contract?). Or maybe even allow another team to simply dump salary. Heck, it was the Rockets who helped Boston do just that a year ago when the Celtics secured Lee as part of a three-team sign-and-trade that included three nonguaranteed deals.
2. What is Boston's cap situation?
Totaling the 17 contracts listed above, Boston is pegged at roughly $68.9 million. That's still over the salary cap ($58 million last season), but under the luxury-tax line ($70.3 million), which is a primary goal with repeater rates looming after this season.
Boston can use the next two weeks before the Nets deal becomes official to gauge other trade options, whether it be for the incoming talent or what's remaining on the roster from last season. The Celtics would seemingly still desire to cut salary, but that could be a multiyear process. Humphries is the only sizable salary that comes off the books after the 2013-14 season.
3. How are the Celtics going to rebuild with that sort of salary commitment?
|Do the Celtics have enough financial flexibility to build around Rondo, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger?|
Boston might be able to utilize its surplus of draft picks to help encourage other teams with cap space to take on some bloated deals. The three contracts that are likely to be in the headlights after the Nets swap are Brandon Bass (2 years, $13.4 million), Gerald Wallace (3 years, $30.3 million) and Lee (3 years, $16.4 million). If the Celtics desire to build around a core of Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo, it has to clear some of the bloat at the top of its salary structure in order to lay the foundation for building around that duo.
Those draft picks will help that process as Boston can use them and snag low-cost talent that's under the team's control for the first five seasons. Or the Celtics can use the picks as assets, encouraging teams to make moves by dangling those future first-round selections.
4. What exactly is Boston's draft pick situation over the next five years?
Here's the breakdown:
2014: 2 firsts (Boston, Brooklyn), 0 second; 2015: 2 firsts (Boston, L.A. Clippers), 2 seconds (Boston, Sacramento); 2016: 2 firsts (Boston, Brooklyn), 1 second (Boston); 2017: 1 first (Boston), 2 seconds (Boston, Sacramento); 2018: 2 first (Boston, Brooklyn), 1 second (Boston)
Forget those Sacramento picks, because the Celtics won't see them unless the Kings are a top 5 team in the league (yeah, that's not happening). But having two first-round picks in each of the next three seasons gives Boston a very good opportunity to accelerate this rebuild.
5. Will any of these players the Celtics just acquired actually make an impact moving forward?
Humphries is an expiring deal and unlikely to be part of the future, but the 28-year-old was a double-double player two seasons ago (13.8 points, 11 rebounds per game in 62 appearances). The guess here is Boston would explore another destination for him due to a bloated salary and the potential to accumulate other future assets, although he's just as valuable coming off the books next summer.
The 30-year-old Wallace is a former All-Star (2010) who has been on the decline ever since. Clearly the Nets were looking to get up from under him. Maybe the second trade in 15 months will push Wallace back on track and he can be a valuable player. But chances are the Celtics are trying to figure out a way to get him off their books before the end of the three years and $30 million he's owed.
6. What about Rondo? Is he the new centerpiece or could he be dealt as well?
Even before we learned that the Celtics-Nets swap had been agreed upon, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said at the draft that the team views Rondo as a potential centerpiece and that they were not currently seeking to trade him.
This is a big year for Rondo, even as he works his way back from ACL surgery. This is a chance to show that he can be the leader of the team and pair with Green to be the foundation upon which the next iteration of the Celtics' core will be built. For the last six years, Rondo has had the security blanket of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to help guide the way. We'll find out a lot more about Rondo's ability to lead this year. If Boston doesn't believe he's a long-term block, he'll be a pretty attractive trade asset if Boston elected to deal him next summer entering the final year of his contract.
7. Wait, who's Colton Iverson?
Lost in the shuffle of all the chaos on Thursday night is that the Celtics actually bought a second-round pick (from Indiana) to select Iverson at No. 53. He's another raw 7-footer who should get a look at summer league.
The Nets trade really hijacked the spotlight from Kelly Olynyk, too, after Boston shuffled up to No. 13 to grab the Gonzaga big man who has some awesome hair. Here's the quick scouting report on Olynyk from Ainge.
"We watched him play a lot this year," said Ainge. "He's a 7-footer that can shoot, pass, think [and] has a great feel for the game. We think he's a very, very good complementary player. A decent rebounder. Looks like he's from Eugene, Ore. in 1977 [with his] hippie hair. For those of you who don't know, that's where I grew up. He's a really good kid, high-character kid, with really big upside."
8. Who coaches the Celtics next season?
Only one of Doc Rivers' former assistants remains under contract in Boston and that's Jay Larranaga. The 37-year-old joined the team last season as a behind-the-bench assistant (specializing in big men), but has head coaching experience after spending two seasons at the helm of the Erie BayHawks of the D-League. He'll get strong consideration for the top gig in a rebuilding process.
If the Celtics elect to stay young, you wonder if they might consider another former Rivers assistant like Ty Lue, who is set to follow Rivers to Los Angeles in the absence of a more attractive gig. There are some other intriguing assistant coaches around the league like Miami's David Fizdale, Houston's J.B. Bickerstaff, and San Antonio's Brett Brown (though he's been heavily rumored as a frontrunner for the 76ers job, the only other vacancy in the league at the moment).
Ainge has preached patience in the coaching search. Larranaga is set to coach Boston's summer squad in Orlando next month and will get a chance to demonstrate how he can work with younger players, the sort that might make up much of Boston's roster in the coming seasons.