Could a delay in signing Greg Monroe signal a big move is in the works?

With the Super Bowl behind us (mercifully), the focus in New England sports shifts to the Boston Celtics, who are in the midst of beefing up the roster in an effort to make a run on another banner.
Many of you may have started wondering why we haven't seen official news about the Greg Monroe signing, never mind a press conference. According to the Boston Globe's Adam's Himmelsbach, it could be because Danny Ainge is timing the signings for maximum flexibility. This certainly fits Danny's M.O., but what does that mean in terms of what he's got up his sleeve?

If you're looking for names, I can't help you.

However, what changes for taxpayers could give us a hint. Right now, as a non-taxpaying team, Boston can make moves in the lower end of its roster with a relative degree of ease, as the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) allows such teams the latitude to make deals within 175% of salary and $100,000 for players making $0 to $6,533,333, and to trade players earning $6,533,334 to $19.6 million. 

It also lets teams move guys making more than to be dealt at 125% of the outgoing salary, plus $100,000, but the moment you cross that taxpaying line (which the Cs are currently about $8.6 million under), this becomes the only option you have for deals, no matter how much they earn. Given that all of Boston's star players fall into this last designation save Kyrie Irving, and nobody else makes more than Jayson Tatum's $5.6 million deal, the first two trade categories represent real options for a team trying to deal with Danny.

It's worth noting that the coming cap crunch next season will make it very hard for free agents to move to new teams, and being able to resign role players on cheap salaries now will provide teams tools to avoid paying the tax in a fiscally constrained environment, and, perhaps more importantly, limit teams who go far into the tax pursuing a title from being able to be on the receiving end of a sign-and-trade, which means the most important tool a team can have in such a cap environment would be off the table.
How could that happen with Boston, you ask? Well, if they did just sign Monroe for the reported $5 million, they would either have to "settle" for Tyreke Evans (who is basically a rental given he's only able to be resigned at 120% of his current deal), who will likely require a first round pick and a young player to secure, or maybe Rodney Hood (like Marcus Smart, a re-signable restricted free agent alluded to above), who would make more sense for a team seeking to avoid the repeater tax, which adds heavy penalties to teams who end up in the tax several years in a short period of time.

It would also likely eliminate Lou Williams as a trade target, though he may be off the table just because of what he'll cost now and later. 

Lou, while maybe the best option this year currently being thrown about in the NBA media, is 32 and will want to cash in on his next deal. This would mean the full Mid Level Exception would be the very most Boston would think about offering, and even if the Celts did offer it to him (unlikely), he'd likely prefer both more money and more years. Signing him would likely both send Boston into the tax this season and risk sending them over the apron in future seasons, or at the least, eliminate resigning one or more of the younger guys on the roster even if they can be had for relative value deals. If they signed and retained Lou next year, landing the La-Kings pick might actually create almost as problems as it might help with.

This is usually the part where the writer offers up a curve-ball option - I don't have one.

There could be some three-team deal Ainge is currently trying to orchestrate, or he could just be maximizing flexibility, as he is wont to do. I tend to think it's the latter, as a player like Hood or even yet another guy in the lower tiers of salary trade governance outlined above can be brought on with those golden Bird rights in tow, adding some scoring while keeping flexibility. So my money's on that - young, flexible scoring who can be resigned.

If it isn't, I have no idea what might come down the pike, but like you - I'm already itchy to find out.

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Image: Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY
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