Danny Ainge continues to take the long view in rebuilding the Boston Celtics, and his new target might be the summer of 2016.
That’s when Kevin Durant becomes an unrestricted free agent and the NBA salary cap is expected to explode, thanks to the league’s lucrative TV deal going into effect. Ainge, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations, could find himself with a lot of money to throw around, with the team reportedly positioned to be about $50 million below the projected $89 million cap.
That would be enough room to sign two maximum-level free agents, and according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, the old assumption that big-name free agents won’t sign with Boston might be dated.
“LaMarcus Aldridge turned down the bright lights of Los Angeles for San Antonio, a very nice place, but not exactly Hollywood,” Bulpett writes. “Greg Monroe said no to L.A. and New York to play in Milwaukee, thinking the Bucks were more ready to win than the Lakers or Knicks.
“In fact, the Lakers struck out on Aldridge, Monroe and Kevin Love. The last two major free-agent moves involving that storied franchise were Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol — wait for it — leaving.”
At the moment, the Celtics only have two players — Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas — with guaranteed contracts beyond next season, but the recently agreed upon deal with Jae Crowder and team options for Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk and James Young, as well as dedicated money for draft picks, would add to the amount on the books. Still, there could be plenty of space to sign Durant, Eric Gordon or any of a number of stars who could find themselves on the market.
Boston doesn’t boast the beaches or bright lights of some other NBA locales, but if this offseason is any indication, that’s starting to matter less and less to free agents focused on winning.
Thumbnail photo via Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY Sports Images