As the clock struck midnight, Phil Pressey joined a list of 14 Celtics under guaranteed contract, leaving only one roster spot for summer league standouts Chris Johnson, Chris Babb, Colton Iverson and Mike Moser.
Obviously, Danny Ainge could have a trade or 10 coming down the pike, but the Celtics president of basketball operations currently has more than enough players available to fill out another hodgepodge of a roster in 2014-15.
Barring another deal, here’s the current salary structure for the coming season.
Rajon Rondo: $12.9 million
Gerald Wallace: $10.1M
Jeff Green: $9.2M
Marcus Thornton: $8.6M
Avery Bradley: $7.2M
Brandon Bass: $6.9M
Keith Bogans: $5.3M (non-guaranteed)
Joel Anthony: $3.8M
Marcus Smart: $3.2M
Vitor Faverani: $2.1M
Kelly Olynyk: $2.1M
Tyler Zeller: $1.7M
James Young: $1.7M
Jared Sullinger: $1.4M
Chris Johnson: $0.9M (non-guaranteed)
Chris Babb: $0.8M (non-guaranteed)
Phil Pressey: $0.8M
TOTAL: $78.7M ($71.7M guaranteed)
While Ainge will do his darnedest to pair Kevin Love or another franchise-altering player with Rondo before conversely considering deals for his All-Star point guard, it becomes more likely with each passing week that the Celtics will enter the season with 15 of these 17 players under contract.
Even without the trio of Bogans, Johnson and Babb, the Celtics are $8.6 million over the salary cap and $5.1 million under the luxury tax level. (Ainge would love to deal Bogans’ attractive $5.3 million non-guaranteed contract before cutting ties with the veteran waste of cap space.) Unless the C’s somehow become playoff contenders, they’re not paying that tax, leaving only the mid-level exception, bi-annual exception or minimum contracts to add free agents.
Unless Ainge can work his magic on a sign-and-trade for Greg Monroe, the Celtics will whiff on the NBA’s impressive 2014 free agent class. That’s strike two after the lottery pick came up sixth in the equally remarkable 2014 draft class, by the way. The trade market is all that’s left before the C’s strike out looking this summer.
If all remains the same, however, here’s the most likely 2014-15 Celtics roster.
C: Tyler Zeller, Vitor Faverani, Joel Anthony
PF: Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Brandon Bass
SF: Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace, Chris Johnson, James Young
SG: Avery Bradley, Marcus Thornton
PG: Rajon Rondo, Marcus Smart, Phil Pressey
Zeller’s presence combined with a presumably healthy Faverani and Anthony’s expiring $3.8 million contract leaves little room for Iverson, even among a shaky center corps. The trios of power forwards and point guards seem solid enough. The salaries alone for Green and Wallace demand minutes and Johnson has proven more deserving of a roster spot than Babb, leaving Young bouncing back and forth between Boston and Portland, Maine. Young could also earn some playing time at shooting guard, but Bradley and Thornton will divvy up most of those minutes.
Considering Cleveland has all but locked up a spot in the postseason, it’s hard to imagine the additions of Zeller and Thornton transforming a 25-win team into a playoff squad, even with a healthy Rondo for the entire season. Unless the Love boat pulls into Boston Harbor, it might be time to start thinking about the 2015-16 salary structure.
Gerald Wallace: $10.1M
Jeff Green: $9.2M (player option)
Avery Bradley: $7.7M
Keith Bogans: $5.5M (non-guaranteed)
Marcus Smart: $3.4M
Tyler Zeller: $2.6M (team option)
Jared Sullinger: $2.3M (team option)
Vitor Faverani: $2.2M (non-guaranteed)
Kelly Olynyk: $2.2M (team option)
James Young: $1.8M
Chris Johnson: $1.0M (non-guaranteed)
Chris Babb: $1.0M (non-guaranteed)
Phil Pressey: $1.0M (non-guaranteed)
TOTAL: $50.0M ($23.0M guaranteed)
I’m not sure I’ve stressed enough the importance of landing Love now to convince Rondo remaining on this roster is worth the added millions he could command by staying on the Celtics — especially considering another free agent class largely ignored Boston — but one more look at this projected lineup should explain all you need to know.