With Wednesday’s reported signings of Amir Johnson, Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko to a combined annual average value of $24 million, the Celtics have pushed right up against the projected $67.1 million salary cap for 2015-16.
Using Basketball Insiders cap guru Eric Pincus’ projections, the C’s now have roughly $66.1 million committed to 14 players, and that doesn’t include either of their second-round picks or non-guaranteed deals for Phil Pressey and Chris Babb.
On draft night, Celtics coach Brad Stevens gave us an idea of how he views a roster, which helps explain why the organization coveted versatile forwards Johnson, Crowder and Jerebko into the fold this week.
“Everybody starts with ones, twos, threes, fours and fives when they’re looking at a basketball team,” said Stevens. “I look at ball handlers, wings, swings and bigs. I’ve only got four categories. The more guys that can play the more positions the better. Right now when you look at our roster, I think we’ve got three of the four categories with a lot of depth. That swing area — where you can go three/four and play that way — that’s the area we’re going to have to address as we move into the next few weeks.”
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Celtics roster as currently constructed.
- Ball handlers: Isaiah Thomas ($6.91 million), Marcus Smart ($3.43 million), Evan Turner ($3.43 million), Terry Rozier ($1.82 million)
- Wings: Gerald Wallace ($10.11 million), Avery Bradley ($7.73 million), James Young ($1.75 million), R.J. Hunter ($1.15 million)
- Swings: Amir Johnson ($11.75 million), Jae Crowder ($6.10 million), Jonas Jerebko ($4.82 million)
- Bigs: Tyler Zeller ($2.62 million), Jared Sullinger ($2.27 million), Kelly Olynyk ($2.17 million)
It’s interesting to note that Johnson is currently the highest-paid member of the Celtics, and the team’s longest term commitment is now to Crowder, who is signed through the 2019-20 season.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge added on draft night: “We’ll finish our roster this summer, and obviously there are holes in the big spots. Our roster isn’t complete. If you’ve learned anything, that’s one thing you should know. What you see today is not what you’ll see tomorrow or next month. We’re a team that’s building for a championship, and we’ll continue to do that by trying to find the best players we can.”
While it would seem the Celtics are now all but done in free agency, the team has maintained its flexibility on the trade market. With a bevy of draft picks and trade exceptions, Gerald Wallace‘s expiring $10.1 million contract and a roster full of affordable deals, the C’s would be able to make any trade work on their end. The question is whether another team covets what the Celtics have to offer — a group of good but not great players and draft picks.
Otherwise, the C’s are banking on last year’s roster developing in order to improve from a borderline playoff team to one that can compete for the division crown. Will Sullinger be in shape? Did Young’s game mature as much as his body, which has an extra 20 pounds of muscle this summer? Can Smart, Olynyk and Zeller further develop? Will the success down the stretch carry over with the added benefit of a training camp together? We shall see.