What Could Be Next for the Celtics After Trading Their No. 1 Pick?

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Update (6/28/17):

The Boston Celtics clearly have two max salary players squarely in their sights: Gordon Hayward and Paul George.

The Celtics don’t have enough salary-cap space to offer Hayward a full max right now — they need to make some small maneuvers, but it’s imminently doable. If they were able to land Hayward in free agency, they could then execute a trade with the Indiana Pacers for George. He makes $19.5 million next season, which means they could pull the deal off by trading out as little as $14.5 million in salaries. That’s likely two players. Perhaps Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder (among numerous other potential combinations).

Of course, there’s the issue of George being on the last year of his contract.

I have proposed a theory below that George may be willing to renegotiate and extend his contract, if the payout is equivalent to what he could get if he were to simply allow his contract to expire and sign a free agent deal next summer. I have proposed to analyze a three-year deal in either case, which gets Paul George to super-max eligibility in summer 2020.

If George went the free agency route, he’d get the $19.5 million remaining on his current contract for this season, and then he’d sign a new contract next summer that starts at the $31 million max (at a $102 million projected 2018-19 salary cap), with a raise (of 5%, assuming no Bird rights) to $32 million in 2019-20 — that’s $82 million total.

To make a renegotiation plus extension scenario financially worthwhile for George, then, the Celtics might only need to match that payout. For that, George would only need to renegotiate his 2017-18 salary to $24 million. Adding 20% for the first year of the extension would come to $29 million, with a rise to $30 million in 2019-20 — that’s the same $82 million total.

The Celtics are already on the verge of clearing a max slot for Hayward (if they renounce all of their free agents, waive all players with non-guaranteed contracts, and forgo the right to sign former first-round draft picks Yabusele and Zizic). Could you then clear another $24 million for George?

In practical reality, clearing the extra $24 million likely means trading either: (i) Al Horford or (ii) a combination of players including Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder (perhaps the two players you’ve already agreed to trade just to get George) and at least two other players among Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Jason Tatum.

The widespread feedback from Celtics fans seems to be that they would not be prepared to sacrifice two among Thomas, Brown, Smart and Tatum.

But what if I could make it just one? Would your mind change? Is that even possible?

Let’s take a look.

By rule, a player is not allowed to renegotiate his salary in conjunction with a trade. The theory being presented therefore contemplates a simultaneous renegotiation and extension just after the trade; a perfectly legal scenario with lots of precedent to serve as support. But what if he renegotiates and extends just before the trade? Such a scenario has no precedent (as far as I know), but it would theoretically be legal.

(Note: There is no rule in the CBA that specifically prevents a renegotiation and extension just prior to a trade. But I have not been able to confirm with the league office if they would consider this circumvention. And, by the way, it would also mean the Pacers would not be obligated to honor any supposed agreement to trade George after he signed his renegotiation and extension. Wouldn’t that be fun!)

In my proposed scenario, George’s 2017-18 salary gets renegotiated from $19.5 million to $24 million(which would bring the total three-year value of his contract to the same $82 million he could get in free agency). If he completes the renegotiation with the Pacers, Indiana would need to create the $4 million of cap space necessary to give it to him (which, given their roster construction, they could potentially do). But it would also mean, by default, that the Celtics would not need to create cap space to give it to him.

If the Celtics clear enough cap space to land Hayward in free agency, they could then simply utilize the Traded Player Exception to acquire an already renegotiated and extended George. He’d be making a renegotiated salary of $24 million next season, which would require them to send back as little as $19 million in trade (vs. clearing $24 million of cap space).

In practical reality, trading away $19 million likely means trading either: (i) Al Horford or (ii) a combination of players including Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder (perhaps the two players you’ve already agreed to trade just to get George to Boston) and just one other player among Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Jason Tatum.

If you’re a Celtics fan, how does that sound?

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Update (6/23/17):

I presented an idea in my original post below — the Boston Celtics could potentially acquire Gordon Hayward AND Paul George. That idea has since gained traction!

Now, a new twist has emerged — Adam Kaufman is reporting that the Celtics are in position to trade for George with a three-year extension in place, but that it would depend upon signing Hayward first.

If I had to guess the Celtics’ intentions, I would suggest that the extension to which Adam is referring would actually be a renegotiation and extension to be signed shortly before or shortly after the Celtics have acquired him(1), whereby George would increase his 2017-18 salary from $19.5 million to maybe as much as the $30 million maximum (at a $99 million salary cap), and thereafter extend for the maximum allowable two additional years – that’s three years, up to $94 million total.

(If he were to wait for six months after the trade, he could extend for four additional years – that’s five years, up to $169 million total. But read the next sentence to see why he might not want to do that.)

Why would George sign a renegotiation and extension now if it only adds two additional years, when he could play out his current contract and sign a new deal for up to five years with Bird rights (or four years without them) next summer? Get this: Those two extra years would add a whopping $74 million! And, when it was over (as a 30-year-old in the summer of 2020), he’d be a 10-year veteran – eligible to sign a 35% super-max contract. Financially speaking, that’s not just better than any other of George’s options — it blows them away!

But there are challenges around which the Celtics would need to work to make that happen.

To renegotiate George’s 2017-18 salary would require the Celtics to preserve cap space equal to the increase – at the max, that’s $10 million. That’s in addition to the cap space their other plans would require.

For the Celtics to sign Hayward to a maximum salary contract starting at $30 million this summer, then trade for George AND renegotiate his salary to the same $30 million maximum, would require the team to free up at least $59 million of cap space. They could potentially get to as much as $29 million completely on their own, without any outside help from a trade partner (by renouncing all of their free agents, waiving all players with non-guaranteed contracts, and forgoing the right to sign former first-round draft picks Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic(2)). That’s nearly enough to acquire one maximum salary. But it still leaves them about $29 million short. Which would need to come from trading players with guaranteed contracts for next season. Unless one of them is Al Horford, that’s highly unlikely.

So… what could Adam’s report — that George may have the parameters of an extension worked out, but that it would depend upon signing Hayward first — actually mean?

Well… It could mean that if Hayward doesn’t sign with Boston, that George would get his full renegotiation and extension.

But what if Hayward does come?

Well… Let’s take this scenario in two steps, to see what it could mean.

The first step is just getting both Hayward and George to Boston.

That’s the easy part.

The Celtics, as stated above, can just about create the cap space necessary for a max slot for Hayward as it is right now, with virtually no outside help. And if they can sign Hayward outright, trading for George wouldn’t be much harder. According to trade rules, the Celtics would only need to send out $14.5 million in salaries to acquire his $19.5 million salary. That’s likely two players. Perhaps Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder (among numerous other potential combinations). Done!

Boston would then have both Hayward under long-term contract, and George (along with his full Bird rights for free agency next summer) secured!

The second step is getting George to commit long term.

You don’t need this step, but you may want it! And if you do, it becomes the tricky part!

You’d likely need to pay George at least something comparable to what he could get as a free agent to get him to commit. To analyze that possibility requires an understanding of two things:

First, George wouldn’t need to renegotiate his 2017-18 salary to the $30 million max. He could renegotiate to any amount upon which he agrees. The resulting cap space the Celtics would need to free up would be dictated by whatever amount he takes.

Second, the new CBA will bring with it new salary cap rules that could be very relevant to George’s situation — they allow for the first year salary in a veteran extension to be an amount up to 120% of the player’s previous salary, but no more than the player’s maximum salary for that season. That’s far higher than the 7.5% in the current CBA!

Combining those two together produces one powerful result: Paul George could always renegotiate and extend his contract with the Celtics for less than the absolute max and still get as much as, or even far more than, he could get in free agency next summer.

What could his contract look like in such a scenario?

To know what it would need to look like, the Celtics would need to know exactly what they would need to match or beat. To compare fairly, let’s deal with the next three years in any case… which gets Paul George to super-max eligibility in summer 2020.

So let’s analyze what he’d get if he were to opt for the free agency route: He’d get the $19.5 million remaining on his current contract for this season, and then he’d sign a new contract next summer that starts at the $31 million max (at a $102 million projected 2018-19 salary cap), with a raise (of 5%, assuming no Bird rights) to $32 million in 2019-20 — that’s $82 million total.

To make a renegotiation plus extension scenario financially worthwhile for George, then, the Celtics might only need to match that payout. For that, George would only need to renegotiate his 2017-18 salary to $24 million. Adding 20% for the first year of the extension would come to $29 million, with a rise to $30 million in 2019-20 — that’s the same $82 million total.

The Celtics are already on the verge of clearing a max slot for Hayward (if they renounce all of their free agents, waive all players with non-guaranteed contracts, and forgo the right to sign former first-round draft picks Yabusele and Zizic). Could you then clear another $24 million for George(3)?

The lower projected 2017-18 salary cap, reduced from $101 million to $99 million, really hurts here! In practical reality, clearing the extra $24 million likely means trading either: (i) Al Horford or (ii) a combination of players including Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder (perhaps the two players you’ve already agreed to trade just to get George) and at least two other players among Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Jason Tatum.

Here, then, is the question you’d need to ask yourself: Would you be willing to trade Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder, plus two of Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum in exchange for Paul George and Gordon Hayward? If so, then that very well could be the framework. If you think that’s too much, then keep in mind that all these players don’t need to be traded to the Indiana Pacers for George directly. Some could be traded to other teams, possibly in exchange for future draft picks. Potentially valuable ones!

It may well be exceedingly painful to trade away two additional young, reasonably-compensated players with huge potential, in addition to Bradley and Crowder, just to renegotiate the salary of a player whom the Celtics can acquire this summer and sign in free agency next summer without giving up either, but here are the upshots: You might be able to get back some meaningful draft assets. You’ve have George committed for the long-term (at least three years). You’d still likely avoid the luxury tax this season.  And you’d likely save significant tax dollars in the following two seasons (because George’s extended salary would be lower than his $31 million projected maximum salary in free agency)(4). That last one is critical, because as you start to project out beyond the 2017-18 season, you may start to realize just how expensive this team could be! And you may start to realize that, to keep the costs manageable, you may need to sacrifice the very same two additional players you refused to trade in order to execute a George renegotiation and extension this summer (but, at the same time, be stuck with George’s higher salary)(5)!

So… what does it all mean?

Adam is reporting that the Celtics are in position to trade for Paul George with a three-year extension possibly in place, but that it would depend upon signing Gordon Hayward first.

Could that be true?

Could it be that the amount of the extension would depend upon whether Hayward signs?

Could it be that George’s extension would be for three years and up to the $94 million max if Hayward doesn’t join?

Could it be that George’s extension would be for three years and up to $82 million if Hayward does join? Would the Celtics attempt to clear the $23 million in cap space to make it happen, given the players it would mean sacrificing? Would thinking about the team’s long-term financial viability make that an easier decision? Would Hayward take less than his $30 million max if not? Would George take less than his $24 million?

If teams were hesitant to trade for George because he has an expiring contract(6), these types of renegotiation-and-extensions would certainly alleviate all of those concerns.

And if this report proves true, it could cause reverberations throughout the entire NBA — including to the Lakers (who have declared their goal to create maximum cap space for a run at George and LeBron James next summer), Jazz (who could lose Hayward, which could prompt them to keep restricted free agent Joe Ingles), Heat (who could lose their shot at Hayward and Ingles, and possibly face competition for their own free agents from a Lakers team whose goal would need to be altered), Cavaliers (who could face intensifying pressure from Kyrie Irving to be traded and from LeBron James to walk away in free agency next summer), Clippers (who will have fended off a primary pursuer of their own free agent Blake Griffin, but who could see intensifying pressure for him from the Heat, particularly if the Lakers shift gears and pursue James Johnson), and more.

Oh… and by the way, none of this would disqualify the Celtics from also pursuing a trade for Kristaps Porzingis(7)!

This would all technically be happening after Moratorium in July, so the next couple of weeks should be fun!

Notes:

(1) A player contract can’t be renegotiated in conjunction with a trade, so the renegotiation and extension would technically need to come just after the trade.

(2) The cap holds of Guerschon Yabusele and/or Ante Zizic can be excluded from the Celtics’ cap sheet if they agree not to sign for the 2017-18 season, or if they’re renounced or traded.

(3) The idea for this post is to show you a premise. If you like that premise, there would be countless permutations. If Gordon Hayward would take less than the max to join the Celtics, it could leave more money for Paul George… or a lower total amount of salary the Celtics would need to trade away. If George would take less than what he could otherwise get in free agency, it could mean the same thing. The player accompanying George doesn’t even need to be Hayward; it could be Blake Griffin, who might be inclined to take less money. I can’t possibly address every permutation. But I hope I’ve given you the tools to create your own!

(4) This post does not deal with the luxury tax consequences of the potential structure proposed, which, depending upon the structure, could become substantial. For you Boston fans, I will leave that to your local cap guys (or maybe I will get to it later).

(5) I would suggest that before you dismiss the possibility of trading away so many valuable players that you analyze the Celtics’ team salary scenario beyond just the 2017-18 season. You might come to the conclusion that, financially speaking, the Celtics cannot afford the players that this scenario suggests be traded (which could leave you in the position of losing them to free agency in 2018-19, while having not not secured a (below-max) extension for George. 

(6) Paul George would technically need to cancel or decline, as the case may be, his player option for his contract to become expiring, which could be done in any scenario described above.

(7) If you trade any two of Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Jason Tatum, that would mean you have two left. Any one of the two, along with future draft considerations and/or any draft considerations you might acquire clearing the cap space for the Paul George renegotiation, could theoretically serve as the basis for such a follow-up trade for Kristaps Porzingis.

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Original Post (6/19/17):

The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers have officially completed the summer’s first blockbuster trade, and it could very well transform the balance of power in the Eastern Conference.

The Celtics traded the No. 1 pick in the upcoming 2017 NBA draft to the Sixers in exchange for the No. 3 pick and a future first-round pick. The future-first round pick will be sent in 2018, which the Sixers own via the Los Angeles Lakers, if it lands within the No. 2 to No. 5 range. If not, the Sixers will instead send either its or the Sacramento Kings’ first-round pick in 2019, whichever is more favorable; however, if either of these 2019 picks would result in the first overall selection, Boston would instead receive the other first-round pick.

For the Sixers, the rationale for the trade is clear.

Philadelphia will use its newly acquired No. 1 pick to draft Markelle Fultz. They believe Fultz is an All-Star caliber point guard. They believe Fultz is a perfect fit for the Sixers organization. They believe combining Fultz with Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid will form a monster Big Four with crazy potential.

Fultz wasn’t going to be available at No. 3. In fact, nobody who fits nearly as well as Fultz within the Sixers’ vision for their future is likely to be available at that level. So, for the Sixers, giving up a future first-round pick – which, while it certainly won’t be No. 1 overall, has the potential to be very high (Won’t it be hilarious if the Lakers improve this season without any reason to tank, and the Celtics wind up hoping their potential 2019 Kings pick does not land first overall? ) – was a reasonable price to pay. And if their vision proves correct, the Sixers could potentially become an Eastern Conference powerhouse for the next decade!

For the Celtics, the rationale was perhaps more subtle but equally compelling.

The trade may be a sign that the Celtics aren’t as confident about Fultz’s future prospects, or that they prefer the certainty of what they have with an already-loaded backcourt that includes Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart.

In fact, it has been suggested that the Celtics may actually prefer Josh Jackson (the Kansas wing) or Jayson Tatum (the Duke wing) to Fultz. One is guaranteed to be available at No. 3, and likely both depending upon the Lakers’ selection at No. 2 (which most assume will be UCLA guard Lonzo Ball). If that’s the case, trading down is a no-brainer for the Celtics: they get a guy they always wanted, but at a lower price tag… and they pick up a significant future asset for their trouble!

Both could potentially become quite valuable for the Celtics this summer and in the years ahead. 

Impact of Lower Price Tag

The Celtics have long been rumored to be zeroing in on one particular All-Star in free agency this summer, as they try to narrow the talent gap between themselves as the Cleveland Cavaliers for Eastern Conference supremacy: Gordon Hayward.

Before the trade, however, they didn’t project to have enough cap space to sign either one. At the league’s current $99 million salary cap projection for 2017-18, each would qualify for a max salary of $29.7 million.

The Celtics were technically poised to start the summer well over the salary cap. But if they were to have done absolutely everything (realistic) in their power to maximize their cap savings – renounce all free agent cap holds, waive Tyler Zeller ($8.0 million non-guaranteed salary), waive Jordan Mickey ($1.5 million non-guaranteed salary), waive and stretch Terry Rozier after declining his team option (producing a cap hit of $663K per year over three years), waive and stretch Demetrius Jackson (producing a cap hit of $93K per year over seven years), and forgo the chance to sign former first-round draft picks Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic(1) – they could’ve produced as much as $28.0 million of cap space. But, even with all that, it’s still about $1.7 million short.

Swapping the No.1 pick (which comes with a $7.0 million cap hold and projected starting salary) for the No. 3 pick ($5.6 million) instantly saves $1.4 million — leaving the Celtics just $275K short.

So… in essence, the trade gets the Celtics closer to their desired max salary space without having to sacrifice the player they were targeting!

That’s a powerful position in which to be. But it doesn’t necessarily need to be Boston’s end game. The possibilities could get infinitely more powerful when contemplating potential follow-up trade scenarios.

Impact on Future Trade Scenarios

The Celtics now add an additional likely-high first-round draft pick to its arsenal of potential trade assets. They have now accumulated the following first-round draft picks over the next seven years:

That’s seven first-round picks in the next three years alone, of which as many as six can potentially be utilized in trade. And if the Celtics are targeting anyone in trade, it likely starts with Jimmy Butler or Paul George.

If the Bulls or Pacers want to trade Jimmy Butler or Paul George, respectively, no other NBA team can reasonably offer a better package of draft picks and player assets than can the Celtics, if they choose to do so.

If you’re the Celtics, you may or may not classify turning the No. 1 overall pick in the draft into a trade for Jimmy Butler or Paul George as a success. But what if you could turn it into Butler or George while still maintaining the flexibility to create a max salary slot for Hayward?

Is it even possible? Let’s take a quick look.

Acquiring Jimmy Butler or Paul George While Maintaining a Max Salary Slot for Gordon Hayward

Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler is set to earn $17.6 million next season. He was also paid a $4.6 million signing bonus upon executing his contract in the summer of 2015, of which $1.1 million will get allocated to next season. That brings his total 2017-18 cap hit to $18.7 million.

Butler’s contract also contains a 5% trade bonus – which would pay out $1.8 million if he’s traded this summer. The trade bonus would be paid by the Bulls but impact the cap sheet of the team which acquires him. Trade bonuses can only be waived to make a trade work within the confines of trade rules in the current CBA, but can be waived at will in the new CBA (which takes effect July 1).

It is not clear as to whether Butler wants to be traded. While certain trade destinations could possibly present him with better chance to win, he may prefer Chicago. Then there’s the financial considerations.

Butler would lose his Designated Veteran Player (super-max) contract eligibility if he were to be traded. While the team to which he is traded would acquire his Bird rights, he’d still be losing out on some serious money. A Designated Veteran Player contract — for which he would qualify if he were to make first-, second-, or third-team All-NBA in either of the next two seasons — could pay out a starting salary of up to $37.5 million in 2019-20 and a total of up to $217 million over five years (at a $107 million projected 2019-20 salary cap). The highest first-year salary he could get from the team to which he is traded would be $32.1 million, which would pay out up to $186 million over the same five years – still massive money, but a not inconsequential $31 million less. And nearly $80 million less if he were to leave that new team for the team of his choosing.

Butler doesn’t have any direct power to block a trade from happening. The most he could do would be to refuse to reduce his trade bonus. In the grand scheme, however, that’s not all that big a deal, given the relatively small size. It could be structured around. If a potential trade would be completed this salary cap year (i.e., before July 1), the $1.8 million bonus would be allocated $604K to the 2017-18 season — bringing his cap hit to $19.3 million. If the traded were to be completed next salary cap year (i.e., after July 1), it would be allocated $906K to the 2017-18 season – bringing his cap hit to $19.6 million.

Butler would therefore consume anywhere between $18.7 million and $19.6 million of cap space for next season if he were to be traded, depending upon the circumstances.

Paul George

Paul George has informed the Indiana Pacers that he does not intend to re-sign with the team when he becomes a free agent after next season, and that his preferred destination would be to his hometown Lakers. That has led to a firestorm of activity and speculation that the Pacers will trade George to the team that makes the so-called “best available offer.”

That’s unlikely. The Pacers aren’t just going to give George away.

If the return (plus the likely improved draft pick of losing him) isn’t significantly enough better than losing him in free agency for nothing at all, Indiana may simply hang onto him.

Why? Two reasons.

First, there’s still an off chance that he’ll either change his mind. After all, George declaring his intention to leave now is not the same as doing it next summer. Not when he could qualify for a Designated Veteran Player contract if he earns All-NBA honors next season, which would pay him $207 million over five years. The most any other team could pay in free agency next summer: $132 million over four years. That’s a $76 million difference, from which he’d have to walk away!

Second, even if he’s made it perfectly clear he won’t return to the Pacers, you never know what better offers may come in the future. You never know what a team that feels they can convince him to stay will do. You never know what a team that strikes out in free agency will do. Or a team on a playoff push during the season. As a long as the alternative isn’t enough to make a difference, strategically speaking, the potential reward for waiting to trade George could far outweigh the risk of losing him for nothing.

Therein lies the conundrum: The Pacers are sure to want a material return in exchange for trading George, but potential suitors aren’t likely to want to offer one up unless they feel they can convince him to re-sign for the long term.

If you were the Celtics, would you offer up one of your prized assets in trade for a potential one-year rental? Perhaps not.

But if you could sign Hayward in free agency, would you then offer real assets in trade for George? Would you bet that your resulting All-Star-heavy team, your conference, your city, and your access to his Bird rights (with which you can offer him $178 million over five years, vs. $132 over four for all others) would convince him to re-sign?

George would consume $19.5 million of cap space for next season if he were to be traded.

***

So, if you’re the Celtics, how do you add create enough room for a $29.7 million max salary slot for Hayward and still be able to acquire a salary of up to $19.5 million (George) or $19.6 million (Butler)?

Well… Let’s take it in two steps.

Since Hayward can’t sign a free agent contract until next season, let’s assume it all starts next season.

The first step is generating enough cap room to sign Hayward.

We already reviewed that. If the Celtics were to do absolutely everything (realistic) in their power to maximize their cap savings – renounce all free agent cap holds, waive Tyler Zeller ($8.0 million non-guaranteed salary), waive Jordan Mickey ($1.5 million non-guaranteed salary), waive and stretch Terry Rozier after declining his team option (producing a cap hit of $663K per year over three years), waive and stretch Demetrius Jackson (producing a cap hit of $93K per year over seven years), and forgo the chance to sign former first-round draft picks Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic(1) – they’d be about $275K short.

So… a trade of single player with guaranteed salary for 2017-18 gets you all the way there. It could be a trade of a player with a salary as small as Rozier ($2.0 million), or a player with a larger salary (which, if high enough, could enable you to retain Zizic, Yabusele, etc.).

From there, you could utilize the Traded Player Exception to acquire either George or Butler. By rule, you’d need to send back no less than $5 million of his incoming salary. That’s $14.5 million for George, or $14.6 million for Butler. That’s probably two of the following three players: Avery Bradley ($8.8 million), Tyler Zeller ($8.0 million – nonguranteed) and Jae Crowder ($6.8 million).

If you were the Celtics, would you do it?

***

What about acquiring both Jimmy Butler and Paul George?

What if you could sign Butler and George, and retain all of your upcoming free agents?

Is that possible? Let’s take a quick look.

Acquiring Jimmy Butler and Paul George

The beauty of this approach is that, unlike with Hayward, it doesn’t necessarily require any cap space all.

Let’s assume the Celtics utilize the Traded Player Exception to acquire each of Butler and George.

Since both of these transactions can be completed this season, and time is always of the essence, let’s assume it all starts this season.

Butler’s cap hit this season was $17.6 million. Adding his full trade bonus allocation takes it to $18.2 million. You’d therefore need to send back $13.2 million in salaries if you complete the trade this salary cap year.

George’s cap hit this season was $18.3 million. You’d therefore need to send back $13.3 million in salaries if you complete the trade this salary cap year.

So… Can you create two trade packages – one for at least $13.2 million and one for at least $13.3 million – with the following combination of players(2)?

  • Al Horford: $26.5 million
  • Avery Bradley: $8.3 million
  • Tyler Zeller: $8.0 million
  • Isaiah Thomas: $6.6 million
  • Jae Crowder: $6.3 million
  • Jaylen Brown: $4.7 million
  • Marcus Smart: $3.6 million
  • Terry Rozier: $1.9 million
  • Demetrius Jackson: $1.5 million
  • Jordan Mickey: $1.2 million

Zeller’s contract could really help. He has an $8.0 million salary for next season which is completely non-guaranteed. If neither the Bulls nor Pacers want him, he could be included in one package just to make the math work. He could then subsequently be waived by the receiving team at no cost.

Given the quality of the names listed above, do you think it would be possible?

If you were the Celtics, would you do it? Would you then re-sign Kelly Olynk as well?

Do you think that, say, an Isaiah Thomas or Marcus Smart – Jimmy Butler – Paul George – Al Horford – Kelly Olynk starting five could compete with the likes of the Cleveland Cavaliers for Eastern Conference supremacy? What if you add in whichever of the above names you didn’t trade on the bench, and whatever draft assets you have left over to keep building for the future?

(This team could ultimately wind up being exceedingly expensive, but I don’t have the time and you likely don’t have the patience for a dive into that right now.)

***

For the Celtics, trading down from No. 1 to No. 3 in the draft adds valuable cap space for the summer of 2017, and creates another valuable draft asset for the summer of 2018 or 2019. If general manager Danny Ainge truly didn’t want to draft Markelle Fultz, the trade should presumably already be considered a success. The question now becomes: How can he use them to capitalize further?

He can choose to utilize the 2017 pick for the player of his choosing, and still create a max salary slot if he were able to convince Hayward or Griffin to sign, and utilize his future picks to build around its new core.

He can also choose to utilize the player and draft pick assets to pursue any number of hypothetical (but immediately realistic) trade scenarios.

Which will he choose? Will he be able to execute?

Only time will tell.

Notes:

(1) The cap holds of Guerschon Yabusele and/or Ante Zizic can be excluded from the Celtics’ cap sheet if they agree not to sign for the 2017-18 season, or if they’re renounced or traded.

(2) There are countless ways to structure this. For example, if they wait until next year, the Celtics could include one or more of its potentially signed-and-traded free agents (e.g., Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko). But I’m simplifying.

2 Responses

  1. Alan says:

    You’re remarkable.

    You’re also clearly someone to ask my question.
    Could the pacers renegotiate and extend pg, then the celts s & t olynyk and one contract piece to match? Thereby only having to clear gh’s contract while keeping olynyks cap hold…? (The order of operations would obviously be reversed. Sign gh, trade for pg.)

  1. June 28, 2017

    […] financial motivation is trickier, but cap expert Albert Nahmad outlined the benefits of him inking a long-term deal with Boston upon his arrival, beginning with a renegotiation of his […]

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