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We're almost there, folks.

Whatever is going to happen is just hours away, and odds are, at least some of us aren't going to like it, at least not right away. That's OK, though, because you cannot please everyone, there's some hard choices to make, and time has run out on punting at least some of them down the road.

I think, anyways. You never can say for sure with Danny Ainge at the helm.


Rumor has it the Boston Celtics are seriously negotiating with the New York Knicks regarding a Kristaps Porzingis trade. You will hear lots of outrageous asks for the young center from Latvia. Don't freak out about the worst - you have to start in the stratosphere in case someone's dumb enough to give you the moon. But don't be upset if the deal goes down and has more in it than you'd like, too - let me tell you why.



The short version is C.R.E.A.M., the cap nerd's version of "ball don't lie"; TV money giveth (a super-frustrating Golden State Warriors squad and lots of bad contracts), TV money taketh away (the entire league's stability as owners scramble to unload taxpaying rosters that will never have a chance to win at the same time those contracts from the TV money spike year are looking especially onerous).

Didn't get all that? Let me try again:

A bunch of money came into the league a few seasons ago after the NBA signed a big broadcasting deal with ESPN and other outlets. That gave all the teams more money to work with, and because of internal politics, they chose to inject it into the league all at once, making it possible for teams to sign players for more than they otherwise might have. Not only did this give us the Warrior's current iteration, it also gave us players like Timofey Mozgov and Evan Turner making more money than Stephen Curry.


Turns out, the TV deal was a bad one, with people turning to NBA League Pass and other, questionably legal means of watching games. And having historically dominant teams tear through the playoffs hurt revenue, too, shrinking the available money which determines each team's cap. Teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers loaded up before they knew the cap would shrink below its $101 million dollar projections from this spring. They now face astronomical tax bills just to bring the bulk of their players back, and won't likely stand a chance at a title while the Warriors are together with roughly the same starting unit.

So expect craziness from them, the Toronto Raptors, the Washington Wizards, perhaps, and any team that loaded up in the hopes of contending, before it was laid bare to the world only one team will be for next season or four, depending on luck, health, and finances. Speaking of that last part, the Dubs may find THEMSELVES significantly impacted by new cap projections, coming in at about $99 million next season; they have several key roleplayers and one likely starter all hitting the free market, and very well could see a poison-pill offer from jealous GMs to foil their depth - or worse.


And we haven't even gotten to teams like the Portland Trailblazers, who went overboard when the league was flush with cash, and aren't even on the cusp of contention. With no path forward through free agency, and too much talent to truly tank and a boatload of contracts nobody wants, they will likely have to attach valuable draft picks and good, young players just to get to the point where tanking is even possible.

And then there's Boston.


The team's fiscal austerity has done wonders to position them squarely in the right place to be in all this, but the ground is very shaky given the fluidity of everything else I have mentioned in the league. They are poised to contend, especially given the recent instability shown by the Cavs since losing in the NBA Finals in just five games, but will have to make some tough decisions. The Warriors and Cavs could easily fall apart from the relative behemoths both teams were last season. Finances mean it's going to be very, very hard indeed to return to the levels we saw last season - nearly impossibly so for Cleveland, and difficult for the Warriors.

Boston, however, merely needs to shed some salary to sign a max player, and adding another via trade might just get them to the promised land WAY ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, most of its players are good ones we've grown attached to, but even if no trade goes down, the club will need about $2 million in space to sign a tier-two max player (6-9 years experience for a max deal of $30 million per year). That means one of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, or Jae Crowder - or a package of lesser deals like Terry Rozier and Guerschon Yabusele will have to go out with NO salary returning to make a guy at that level fit.


If we take back salary for a player like Porzingis, we need more to go out to counter the $4.5 million we'll be taking on. There's a lot of ways this could happen, so I won't go into it too much, but: if Boston sends out about $6.5 million in salary, well - two birds, one stone. if the #3 pick and its cap hold are on the move too, just $4.5 million needs to go. And having some cap left over means more room for the Mid-Level Exception as a team-building tool, too.


So, don't freak out if Smart (due $4.5 million next season), Crowder (due $6.8 million) or Bradley (due $8.8 million) end up packaged with the #3 and a potential future lottery pick like the Memphis or Clippers 2019 first-round picks. It'd set Boston up nicely to legitimately sign Gordon Hayward or some other targeted free agent, and position the team to fulfill the only goal the Celtics truly have:

Banner 18.


For more stories about the offseason on CelticsLife, click here. For more by Justin, click here.



Data via basketball-reference.com
Follow Justin at @justinquinnn

Justin Quinn 6/22/2017 05:02:00 PM Edit
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