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Tick tock, tick tock.

NBA free agency began at midnight, opening the floodgates on what should be an insane few weeks. It looks as though LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are ready to return to the Heat at slight discounts, allowing Pat Riley to add some talent around them. But we have no idea just how much cap space they'll have, nor who they'll target.

Carmelo Anthony is ready to go on a whirlwind tour reminiscent of what LeBron did in 2010, with trips to Chicago, LA, Dallas, Houston and others lined up.

Then there's Pau Gasol, Kyle Lowry, Chandler Parsons, Greg Monroe, Gordon Hayward, and Marcin Gortat -- the Level II free agents, all of whom will be getting somewhere in the $10-14 million range per season.

And that's just the big names. There are dozens of other useful players that are now available, including Celtics Kris Humphries, Jerryd Bayless and Avery Bradley (who is a restricted FA).

But before we can start dreaming up scenarios that bring a big (or even medium sized) free agent to Boston, we need to answer a simple question:

How much money does Boston have to spend?

We'll break it down in a few different scenarios, but before we do, here are two important numbers to keep in mind:

2014-15 salary cap: $63,200,000
2014-15 luxury tax: $77,000,000

Ok, let's start off with the "all-inclusive" cap sheet, listing every player the Celtics currently have.

Celtics current cap situation:

Rajon Rondo - $12,909,091
Gerald Wallace - $10,105,855
Jeff Green - $9,200,000
Brandon Bass - $6,900,000
Keith Bogans - $5,285,817 (team option)
Joel Anthony - $3,800,000
Avery Bradley - $3,581,302 (qualifying offer)
Marcus Smart - $2,736,100
Vitor Faverani - $2,090,000
Kelly Olynyk - $2,075,760
Jared Sullinger - $1,424,520
James Young - $1,395,400
Chris Johnson - $915,243 (team option)
Chris Babb - $816,482 (team option)
Phil Pressey - $816,482 (team option)

All inclusive total: $64,052,052
Cap space: $0

Oh, well this looks bad. The Celtics are already $852,052 over the cap with the above 15 guys. Only, not all of these players have guaranteed contracts. Bogans, Johnson, Babb and Pressey all have non-guaranteed team options. Bradley's number is based on a qualifying offer, and will be replaced either by his salary if he re-signs with Boston, or erased if he signs elsewhere this summer as a restricted free agent.

But for now, that Bradley number counts. I also think there is a great chance that both Johnson and Pressey are retained, but that Bogans and Babb are not (Bogans is literally 0% chance).

So let's give an updated look based on the most likely scenario:

Rajon Rondo - $12,909,091
Gerald Wallace - $10,105,855
Jeff Green - $9,200,000
Brandon Bass - $6,900,000
Joel Anthony - $3,800,000
Avery Bradley - $3,581,302 (qualifying offer)
Marcus Smart - $2,736,100
Vitor Faverani - $2,090,000
Kelly Olynyk - $2,075,760
Jared Sullinger - $1,424,520
James Young - $1,395,400
Chris Johnson - $915,243 (team option)
Phil Pressey - $816,482 (team option)

Total: $57,949,753
Cap space: $5,250,247

Ok, now we're getting somewhere. The Celtics have just over $5 million in space, allowing them to take a chance on a few guys they find interesting. However, they're still not in a position to lure one of the restricted free agents they may find interesting (Gordon Hayward or Greg Monroe) to Boston. But what if Bradley signs elsewhere, and the Celtics don't match? And on top of that, what if the Cs declined the options on Johnson and Pressey to create as much space as possible? Well, in this case the roster would look like this.

Rajon Rondo - $12,909,091
Gerald Wallace - $10,105,855
Jeff Green - $9,200,000
Brandon Bass - $6,900,000
Joel Anthony - $3,800,000
Marcus Smart - $2,736,100
Vitor Faverani - $2,090,000
Kelly Olynyk - $2,075,760
Jared Sullinger - $1,424,520
James Young - $1,395,400
2 roster cap holds - $1,000,000

Total: $53,636,726
Cap space: $9,563,274

You may notice the roster cap holds, as a team needs to have 12 guys on their roster, and get a $500,000 cap hold for every player short they are. In this case, that means a million against the cap for Boston.

As you can see, even in this extreme example the Celtics barely have enough cash to scrape together a moderate offer for guys like Hayward and Monroe. Offers that surely won't get the job done.

So what does this all mean?

That we're not going to see the Celtics bring in anyone big unless one of the following things happens:

1. The Celtics dump some salaries without picking up any in return

- This is going to be tough because there's not many guys the Celtics have that they'd dump but that other teams would want. They'd also need to find a team under the cap to make it work, which makes it even more unlikely. So don't hold your breath.

2. They work out a sign-and-trade

- Ok, now we're cooking. Between the Celtics plethora of expiring deals, Bogans unique team option that allows the team to release him at any point this summer and not pay him, and their allotment of draft picks, Boston definitely has the pieces to pull off a sign-and-trade for a free agent. For example, they could deal Bogans, Bass and their 2015 first round pick to Utah for Hayward, and then sign him to a 4-year, $52 million deal. Or they could trade Green, Bogans and a 1st to Detroit for Monroe and sign him to the same deal. Am I advocating either deal? Not really. But if those teams would rather not pay those guys, the Celtics have the bullets in the gun to make it happen, cap space or not.

Thinking a little smaller, the Celtics will have enough room to bring in a few guys they like on small money deals. They should have about $5 million in cap space, plus they will have their mid-level exception available to them should they choose to use it. I'd love it if they used this space to bring in a center with a pulse, as I detailed on Sunday.

Besides that, I don't have very high expectations for free agency. I highly doubt Monroe or Hayward will be coming to town, even though I expect Ainge to kick the tires on both. I think that the Cs are still internally debating what path to take, and until they make a decision on Rondo -- are they planning on giving him huge money, or would they like to trade him -- they're not going to do anything splashy. Danny has surprised me before, but I don't see it happening this summer, though I do expect the Celtics to be linked to a host of "minor" free agents to fill the last few roster spots.


Follow Mike on twitter - Mike_Dyer13

For more of my articles, click here

Michael Dyer 7/01/2014 12:44:00 AM Edit
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