It’s time for my yearly effort to run Boston Celtics.
Basketball Executive Chairman Brad Stevens has been drafted JD Davison in the second round of 2022 NBA Draft but still a lot of decisions to make this season. Who should Stevens prioritize in his group’s middle-class taxpayer exception? How should he use his team’s trade exceptions? What adjustments should he make to a roster that made it to the NBA Finals last season and still has key players under contract?
Hoping to gauge what the Celtics front office could achieve, I pretended to be Stevens and wrote what I will do in his place. This exercise is not intended to simulate a dream season, but an exercise that is both practical and successful. Unlike some other recent summers, the Celtics should be comfortable with their core. With that in mind, I wanted to find a few additions to strengthen the squad depth without dramatically altering the identity that had formed over the past season. Because Boston is set to return everyone who played significant minutes during season after season, I feel encouraged to seek growth in the free agency market, as you will have. can be seen below. That said, it will be tough for Stevens to find new people who deserve regular minutes in the Boston rotation. The Celtics played great at the end of the season in part because their top 8 was so strong.
Whenever I do this exercise, I leave it with an even greater appreciation of how challenging running an NBA team can be. Even after using the two biggest roster tools at Boston’s disposal, I could have left the team with the same old playoffs. Anyway, here’s my attempt at a Celtics season. This won’t be the best possible outcome for the team but hopefully it represents a realistic preview of what’s to come.
Signal TJ Warren with the average taxpayer-level exception
Warren has played four games in the past two seasons. He missed last season completely. He has been facing some serious foot problems, which may not be completely resolved. Signing him would be a risk. If Warren is available at this price, it means that teams around the league are doubting his body. If he’s physically unwell, the Celtics could end up getting little or nothing from their biggest free agent acquisition.
I do not care. The increase in score will be worth the bet. At his best, Warren is an efficient goalscorer from anywhere on the pitch. He scored a ridiculous 57.5% with 2 pointers during his final season, plus a sparkling 40.3% from behind the 3-point arc. He’s not an adult in the whole “assist” thing, but he will give the Celtics a legitimate third-scorer. They could have used one of the playoffs. At the highest level of basketball, teams need people who can withstand any defensive caliber.
I don’t know all the details of Warren’s health, but I would expect the Celtics to show interest if he is present with the middle-class taxpayer exception. This signing will be surrounded by question marks, but, as the Celtics’ acting president of basketball operations, I’m willing to take that bet and sign Warren to a one-year, valid contract. for $6.3 million. If at all possible, the Celtics should try to sign him to a two-year contract so they will eventually have his Bird rights if he does well. For the sake of this exercise, I assume he would prefer a shorter contract if he needed to accept this price.
Besides Warren, other strikers like Atlanta‘S Danilo Gallinari, Golden status‘S Otto Porter Jr. and Orlando‘S Gary Harris would make sense if they were within the boundaries of Boston. All of those people are pretty decent, but Warren has the highest ceiling. That’s why he will be my choice.
Got it, got it Luke Kennard with TPE of $17.1 million
According to Stevens, the Celtics are given the green light to spend this summer. If they allowed their biggest trades player exception to expire, it would be a waste of a valuable resource. I fully expect them to use it even though it means going deeper into the luxury tax.
Before making this move, I will call San Antonio Spurs About Dejounte Murray. I will ask about Duncan Robinson and Jordan Clarkson. I will explore the markets for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and some other wings. I’ll do all my homework to decide which player Slippers will be fine with the move. They have so many wings – and incur a hefty tax bill – that they have to deal with at least one solid player. Even Steve Ballmer wouldn’t want to pay that much luxury tax (I think).
Given their circumstances, it would make sense for Luke Kennard to be present. Other players will be more attractive additions. He can be the seventh best wing show up on Clippers. Even so, the transaction price for him should be minimal enough for Boston to endure the pain with his $14.8 million guaranteed in 2023-24. By using TPE for him, I will also retain all future Celtics first-round picks to upload for a beginner level player when the right one is available. Future flexibility will be a priority for me. It will push Kennard through other options that I believe will do more to help the team next season.
Kennard can handle a bit of the game. He led the NBA on 3-point shooting this past season. He has shot 44.8% from behind the arc over the past two seasons combined. He has some defensive problems. However, he is at least a decent size for a guard at 6 feet-5 (just don’t check his wingspan). The Clippers only allowed 106.6 points out of 100 possessions with Kennard on the field last season. That mark would have placed second in the league (behind the Celtics) all season long. So at least it is possible to defend at a high level with him in court. Kennard also rarely makes sales. With his elite shooter touch and oddly low usage rate, he’s a crime-prone guy.
Kennard doesn’t necessarily have to be in Boston’s regular playoffs, but his shooting will give Udoka another option when post-season arrives. More importantly, Kennard will also help the Celtics survive the regular season whenever Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown need to miss time. After exhausting themselves in the finals, the organization wanted to build a deeper roster to lighten the load on those guys. Kennard would buy the Celtics that luxury. His salary, while not ideal, could at least be wrapped up in a larger contract someday.
As the man in charge of this theoretical operation, I will hand the Clippers’ second round pick to Kennard. For the most part, that would be a pay slam for Los Angeles. I wouldn’t be happy to use this TPE on someone who isn’t likely to be of much help in the knockout stages, especially considering the amount of future money I’ll be adding to the team roster. However, Kennard is a 26-year-old goalscorer who is having a solid season with his stellar abilities ahead.
Offer Jaylen Brown a three-year contract extension
The Celtics can offer Brown a contract extension starting this season but will be restricted from offering him a 120% pay rise for the first year of the deal. He will be eligible for a three-year extension, paying him around $111 million in base salary, plus about $12 million in incentives, while keeping him on contract through the end of the 2026 season- 27.
In this fake world, Brown would turn down my renewal offer because he could make significantly more money by waiting until he was a free agent. If he wants to lock in financial security on a contract extension and still pay him close to $40 million in base salary in his senior year, the Celtics will be lucky to have him for that price.
Signal Grant Williams four-year contract extension, worth $44 million
I’m not sure Williams would accept an extension at this price. However, it should at least be close to where he would consider it. And this is my world. In it, Williams would say yes.
He’s made great progress in his third season, emerging as a valuable takedown shooter and defender. His limitations matter to the Warriors, but, before that, he made things difficult. Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bam Adebayo. Williams can help in the playoffs with good players. He proved it.
I doubt he will ever be a major player, that’s why I don’t want to give more than that. If he refuses to renew at this price, I would feel free to let him into a limited free agency next summer with the intention of matching any offer in this range. Williams would be good value – and a tradable contract – at this price.
Round the end of the bench
Based on discussions with several Celtics figures, forward Sam Hauser appreciated around the team. While his contract is not fully guaranteed, I fully expect him to be on the list. He will be above mine. He could even be a threat to the bench for a few minutes if he is really as good as some in the organization believe.
As Stevens said on draft night, the Celtics have the kind of squad that can afford to develop one or two at the bottom of the bench. Davison would choose one of those positions in this scenario. Boston also has NBA rights to recent draft picks Yam Madar and Juhann Begarin, but I’ll leave them abroad to continue learning on someone else’s payroll.
That would get me a spot on the roster for a veteran’s minimum contract. I fully expect there will be limited picks as my team won’t have much game time for anyone at the bottom of the list. In situations, keep Luke Kornet on a one-year contract would make sense. He will provide my team with an emergency striker option who can secure the rim and shoot a few 3-pointers on the rare occasions when he actually steps on the pitch.
Evaluation of the final lineup
In this case, my depth chart would look like this:
Protect points: Smart Marcus, Payton PritchardJD Davison
Guard: Jaylen Brown, White DerrickLuke Kennard
Small progress: Jayson Tatum, TJ Warren, Sam Hauser, Aaron Nesmith
Power forwarding: Al HorfordGrant Williams
Center: Robert Williams, Daniel TheisLuke Kornet
It’s a good, deep group. The Celtics will have a lot of flexibility in the squad. They will be building on the same identity that has worked so well for them this past season with a bit of shooting skill, scoring and depth sprinkled on top. Assuming reasonable health, Boston should have enough contributors to give Tatum and Brown fewer minutes throughout the season.
As mentioned earlier, I likely didn’t upgrade the playoff rotation. However, some of those who return will have room to grow. Warren would be a candidate to close the game if he can be nursed back to form (probably big if). I will have a lot of avenues to look for future deals. Opponent front offices will need to get used to my calling to float a deal package of Theis, Nesmith, Kennard, and some first picks. I don’t know how far that will take me, but I am intently looking for a player with athletic prowess to succeed Horford, whose age doesn’t match the rest of the Celtics.
Will my team win the title? Who knows? But this roster will be on the shortlist of Eastern Conference favorites with a chance to build on last season’s promising playoffs series.
(Jaylen Brown top photo: Paul Rutherford / USA TODAY Sports)