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The Celtics cannot easily replace Ray Allen next season.Losing Ray Allen to the rival Miami Heat stings enough if you're the Boston Celtics, but here's why it really hurts next season's team: The Celtics cannot easily turn around and sign a comparable player to offset the loss.
The Celtics will be over the salary cap this season and therefore are at the mercy of their available exceptions to sign players above a minimum contract. While the deal won't be finalized until next week, it appears the Celtics will utilize their biggest chip -- the midlevel exception ($5 million) -- to sign Allen's primary replacement in Jason Terry.
But Boston owned Allen's Bird rights, which would have allowed them to go over the cap in order to bring him back. They could have had both Allen and Terry. But just because they had a $6 million offer on Allen, that does not mean the team can re-appropriate that money toward another free agent.
All Boston appears to have left to offer an outside free agent above a minimum contract is the biannual exception, which has a max value of $2 million per season for two years. It's only marginally more than the minimum and unlikely to attract an impact player.
Let's put it this way: An obvious move for the Celtics would be to turn around and consider re-signing Mickael Pietrus to add depth at the swingman spot. Pietrus played last season on a minimum contract after facilitating a buyout with the Phoenix Suns. Not owning Pietrus' Bird rights, the Celtics can offer only a marginal salary boost.
A source close to Pietrus said Friday that, at the moment, he was unlikely to accept the biannual exception given the interest that exists from other teams. Now, Pietrus has expressed a strong desire to return to Boston and -- without Allen in the picture -- he might reconsider, particularly coming off knee surgery with a chance to re-establish his value on a short-term deal.
But it just hammers home the difficulty the Celtics face in trying to add talent to their bench. They won't have Allen back, and they cannot easily add another bench asset in his place. Again, the addition of Terry takes some of the sting out of the loss, but the Celtics surely would have benefited from having overspent to retain Allen.
The only silver lining to Allen's departure: The Celtics will almost certainly be well under the luxury-tax threshold of $74 million, something they were flirting dangerously with if they added Allen's $6 million salary. That extra money allows them to spend a little bit more freely on the likes of Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green, without worrying about approaching that threshold.