Looking at the Celtics salary situation, and why another trade is likely coming

The guy in the foreground is gone, the guys in the background could be next
The 2012-13 Lakers finally won something.

The luxury tax numbers are out for this past season, and the Lakers are the winners (or losers), as they will have to pay a luxury tax bill of $29.26 million, the most of any team. The other five teams to have to pay the tax? That would be the Heat ($13.35M), Nets ($12.88M), Knicks ($9.96M), Bulls ($3.93M), and your Boston Celtics ($1.18M).

What does this all mean? Well, for one it means that these teams went above and beyond the NBA's luxury tax threshold of $70.31M and had to pay a "tax" to the league.

Secondly, and much more importantly with the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement, it means that these six teams now enter the 2013-14 season in danger of being "repeat offenders" of the tax. When the NBA came out of it's lockout in 2011, they put new rules in place to discourage crazy spending by the same teams year after year. This is the first year that those rules come into play.

For teams like the Lakers, that means making decisions like amnestying Metta World Peace. MWP only makes $6 million, but with the crazy new tax rules, cutting him saves LA nearly $13 million. Miami is reportedly thinking about doing the same thing to Mike Miller, who's $5.5 million salary will cost them $17 million next season.

It's a new NBA landscape, and even the richest teams need to respect the tax (Well except Brooklyn, who will pay nearly $70 million in tax this upcoming season and show no signs of slowing down. Prokhorov gives no f**ks).

What does this mean for the Celtics? Well the fact that they paid only $1.18 million in tax is pretty insignificant on it's face. After all, this is the NBA, and money gets thrown around all the time. However, whether you're over the tax by a dollar, or $50 million, it all counts the same when it comes to the repeater rules.

This means that the Celtics will likely do everything in their power to avoid going over the tax in 2013-14, which the NBA recently set at $71.1M. Considering the team will not be in contention, paying the tax, and also insuring that they will continue to be repeaters in the future (when they very well may be contenders), is foolish.

That means the team is going to need to make another move. According to HoopsHype, the C's are currently at $74,102,972 in salary. Subtract the numbers for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry (a combined $32,090,802) and you get $42,012,170. Then you add in the deals for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Marshon Brooks (a combined $23,382,415) and that brings the C's number to $65,394,585.
What lasts longer: the marriage? Or his time in green?

Now is where things start to get a little murky. Part of the Celtics/Nets deal is that the Celtics will be acquiring Keith Bogans in a sign-and-trade to make the money work. Exact terms are not known, but reports are that Bogans will make about $5.1 million next season, which brings the Celtics updated cap number up to $70,494,585, dangerously close to the leagues $71.1M luxury tax threshold.

Making things even trickier are that Kris Joseph (acquired in the Nets deal), Shavlik Randolph, D.J. White and Colton Iverson's contracts are not guaranteed. That means their money has yet to count against the cap. Without accounting for these players, the Celtics have only 13 players on the roster, meaning that two of them are likely to make the team (or they will be replaced by other players who will make similar money). When you add in their salaries, the Celtics are taken above the tax line.

That means you can expect a trade from Danny Ainge at some point to dump some of this money, and ensure that the C's avoid going over the tax for a seventh straight season. If Boston can avoid the tax in both 2013-14, and 2014-15 (which should be much easier with Humphries $12M deal expiring and Bogans $5.1M deal being non-guaranteed in 2014-15), they will re-set themselves in the repeater category, and be able to go over the tax if they want as they (hopefully) re-enter contention.

Who are the most likely candidates? Well if a team would take Humphries or Wallace (without the C's throwing in a pick(s)), I'm quite certain the Celtics would oblige. But that's not happening. Any deal involving those guys will have salary coming back, or multiple picks heading out.

That's why the most likely candidates are Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee. Especially Bass, who's 2 years and $13.7M remaining isn't exactly crippling for a team interested in his services. To make it work without salary coming back in return, Boston would either need to match-up with a team below the cap, or a club that has a trade exception at their disposal.

But with Ainge, it's never wise to get too specific in guessing his moves. Anyone could go at any time, and because of that, expect the next few months to be interesting. But one way or the other — something's got to give. Somebody has got to go.

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