Two days removed from the NBA Draft, how are you feeling Boston Celtics fans? Has the sting of being unable to move up (not from a lack of trying) worn off a bit? Are you ready to embrace Boston's top pick Terry Rozier (Damian Lillard offered an All-Star's stamp of approval on Saturday) and the rest of the team's four-player haul?
We're only four days away from the start of free agency. So let's reset the roster, crunch Boston's current cap commitments, and set the table for what lies ahead:
Guaranteed contracts for the 2015-16 season
Gerald Wallace -- $10.1 million
Avery Bradley -- $7.7 million
Isaiah Thomas -- $6.9 million
Marcus Smart -- $3.4 million
Evan Turner -- $3.4 million
Tyler Zeller -- $2.6 million
Jared Sullinger - $2.3 million
Kelly Olynyk -- $2.2 million
Terry Rozier -- $1.8 million
James Young -- $1.7 million
RJ Hunter -- $1.1 million
Including Boston's two first-round picks (Rozier, Hunter) at 120 percent of the rookie scale (the Celtics almost exclusively give the max possible), Boston is currently committed to $43.2 million for 11 players. Remember that seven of those players are on reasonable rookie scale deals. Wallace clogs up nearly a quarter of the total commitment, but there's options to loosen that jam if cap space is needed moving forward. Sullinger and Zeller are eligible for extensions, but both would seem unlikely at the moment.
The main thing to remember here: The salary cap is projected to jump to $67.1 million next season. That means that, even with the current 11-player guarantee, the team has around $24 million to work with. That number will shrink a bit due to other commitments (but there's ways to clear more room with Wallace's situation).
The Crowder Conundrum
The Celtics will extend a $1.2 million qualifying offer to make forward Jae Crowder a restricted free agent to start the summer. It's likely they'll work hard to find a number that both sides are comfortable with and attempt to lock in a deal soon after July 1 (think Avery Bradley's speed negotiations last summer). Crowder's raise will bite into Boston's overall cap space, but the team has maintained that he's a priority and the Celtics will desire to avoid any sort of bidding war that could sap time and money for their summer efforts.
Nothing is guaranteed
Third-year guard Phil Pressey finds himself in an awkward spot after a draft in which Boston added three guards. His modest $947,000 contract for next season doesn't become guaranteed until July 15, which means the Celtics will get a chance to both examine their newcomers and explore free agency before deciding whether to carry Pressey. Babb is in a similar situation with no guarantee date on his deal. Both Babb and Pressey could be trade fodder with the receiving team able to waive them for slight salary relief.
Jordan Mickey, Boston's 33rd pick in Thursday's draft, will get a chance to play his way onto this year's roster (and a minimum contract would cost only $525,000 next season). Marcus Thornton, the Celtics' final draftee this year at No. 45, faces longer odds and seems more likely to spend a year overseas or in the D-League, but will also have a chance to introduce himself at summer league.
Finally, there is Colton Iverson, the 2013 second-round pick who has spent the past two years playing overseas (Turkey and Spain). The 7-footer will attend his third summer league with Boston looking to show he's made the strides necessary to warrant roster consideration. Boston's depth after the free agency process will likely dictate just how many players in this group will stick on next year's roster.
Free agents aren't free
As much as the Boston fan base would love to see Luigi Datome back, his fate might have been sealed with the addition of sharpshooting Hunter. Boston will enter the offseason with the rights to Brandon Bass and Jonas Jerebko, but prohibitive cap holds (to the tune of $18+ million) will force them to renounce those rights quickly if they pursue a big-ticket free agent. If the Celtics do elect to go the cap space route -- and there's always the chance they elect to stay over the cap -- they'll need to renounce a whole bunch of former players that linger on the books (and that the team hasn't had reason to otherwise clear).
Forgive us for repeating ourselves from earlier posts, but there are essentially three options with Wallace: (1) Endure his high cap hit for one more season and then clear him completely from the books; (2) Trade him to a team seeking future cap relief, but it will likely cost Boston a draft pick; (3) Utilize the stretch provision to stretch Wallace's $10.1 million hit over the next three seasons. Ultimately, Boston's decision will hinge on whether it needs additional funds to pursue free agents. If the Celtics elect to stay over the cap, it might be better to ride it out with Wallace.
So let's assume the Celtics keep Crowder; Pressey and Babb are squeezed out by the roster crunch; Iverson and Thornton remain in limbo with likely stash status; and Wallace hangs around while Boston figures out whether it needs more space to hook a big fish. Boston's rough heading-into-the-summer 13-man depth chart looks a bit like this:
PG: Smart, Thomas, Rozier
SG: Bradley, Young, Hunter
SF: Turner, Crowder, Wallace
PF: Sullinger, Olynyk
C: Zeller, Mickey
OK, so what happens now?
The best-case scenario for Boston is to fill out its depth chart by adding an impact player or two. The tough part is figuring out who that might be and how to get them here. Many of the biggest names on the free agent market are likely to either re-sign with their current team or be more intrigued by other situations (including the cream of the big-man crop in Marc Gasol, Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, and DeAndre Jordan). That might force Boston to chase a lower tier of talent.
Fortunately for Boston, they have multiple avenues to pursue players. The Celtics can target guys a bit below the elite of this year's free agent class (Greg Monroe?) Or make an early run at restricted free agents (Tobias Harris?) while other teams are focused elsewhere.
Then there is the trade route. Boston still has a gaggle of trade exceptions that it will have to otherwise renounce if it desires maximum cap room. Armed with those exceptions, young talent, and draft picks that weren't moved on Thursday, the Celtics still have the ammunition to at least make teams consider a move (Philly has three young centers; Indy seemingly wants to move Roy Hibbert).
While many emerged frustrated from Boston's inability to move up in Thursday's draft, there's still plenty of opportunities to add talent. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has stressed that the roster in October is unlikely to look as it does now.
But one key is patience. Even as the fan base seems to grow a bit impatient -- their expectations maybe unintentionally elevated in recent summers -- it's important that Ainge doesn't make a reactionary move to pacify a vocal minority. The Celtics spent two years building their pile of draft picks and assets and waited two decades for honest-to-goodness cap space. These situations cannot be misplayed if you desire to be a longstanding contender.
Any fans still bitter from Thursday ought to be reinvigorated next week when free agency opens. The Celtics will be a big part of the rumors and speculation, and when top names are spotted passing through Logan Airport or near the team's training facility in Waltham, Celtics fans will cause an Internet meltdown.
Ainge and his front office are ready for what lies ahead. Just like with the draft, they've been working towards this process for a long time. Hours after the draft ended, Ainge's staff was back prepping for July 1. The Celtics' training facility will be full of activity at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday when staffers can make their first contact with prospective targets.
A sleep-deprived Ainge stood at a podium inside the Seaport Hotel after Thursday's draft and pledged to improve the roster when free agency arrived.
"Our roster isn’t complete," he said. "If you’ve learned anything, that’s one thing you should know -- what you see today is not what you’ll see tomorrow. We’re a team that’s building for a championship and we’ll continue to do that by trying to find the best players we can."
Yes, Ainge could have just taken a page out of Bill Belichick's playbook after the draft, stepped to the podium and snorted, "We're on to free agency."