The Boston Celtics are entering NBA free agency in a better place than anticipated when their 2020-21 season ended.
But a lot has changed since they were eliminated in the first round by the Brooklyn Nets.
Danny Ainge stepped down from his role as president of basketball operations. Brad Stevens was promoted to be his successor and Ime Udoka now is Boston’s new head coach.
Stevens’ first move? A deal that dumped Kemba Walker’s supposedly immovable salary to free up salary cap some space ahead of the 2021-22 season. Here’s how things stand for the Celtics roster entering free agency:
— As things stand, the Celtics have $128.7 million committed to 12 roster spots, up against a projected salary cap of $112.4 million and the luxury tax at $136.6 million. That includes Tatum, whose deal won’t be finalized until the salary cap is. Moses Brown’s and Parker’s deals aren’t fully guaranteed. The Celtics saved some money swapping Walker’s salary for Horford’s, but it left them with no depth in the backcourt.
— Evan Fournier is one of the biggest question marks surrounding this year’s free agency in Boston. In giving up assets for the veteran wing, the Celtics own his Bird Rights. Save for another team coming in with an offer Fournier can’t refuse and the Celtics not being able to afford it, they’d be wise to re-sign him or at least try to slip it into another sign-and-trade (i.e. Gordon Hayward last summer.)
— Semi Ojeleye and Luke Kornet also are unrestricted free agents this offseason. Two-way contract players Tremont Waters and Tacko Fall both are unrestricted free agents. Waters reportedly is looking for an opportunity to crack a rotation elsewhere, and Ojeleye wasn’t expected by many to return last season until the team scrambled to make signings in the aftermath of Hayward’s departure. The Tacko experience was fun at times, but if Boston holds on to any of the four free agents, Kornet probably has the most potential to pan out.
— There was a lot of talk about traded player exceptions this season. It’s not going away yet, as Boston has four to use: $11 million left from Hayward’s deal, $6.8 million after Walker’s trade, $5 million from dealing Daniel Theis and $4.7 million after moving Enes Kanter. They can’t be combined, and the Hayward and Kanter exceptions expire before the summer ends.
— Tatum not making any of the All-NBA teams saves the Celtics a $5 million incentive for this season alone.
We’ll revisit the roster in a few weeks following the NBA draft July 29 and free agency, which opens Aug. 2.