ORLANDO, Florida -- The Boston Celtics enjoyed an off-day on Tuesday at Summer League. With no team access, we were forced to choose between spending the day at Disney World and opening your letters.
Luckily, there's time for both. Excuse any typos; do you know how hard it is to type on Space Mountain?
Q: Can you explain how the Celtics can use the $10.3 million trade exemption set to expire this week? Give us an example of what can be done. -- @tomconnolly24 (via Twitter)
A: The Celtics don't have the available cap space to sign free agents outright, so the only way to add talent above a minimum contract is to use available assets and exceptions (read THIS). One of those assets is a $10.3 million trade exception that was created as part of this past summer's swap with the Brooklyn Nets (teams can structure trades in ways such that exceptions are generated based on uneven amounts of salaries being exchanged). Trade exceptions expire one year from the date of the trade -- and most meet a fireworks-free demise.
The Celtics obviously are exploring all avenues, with the primary goal almost certainly being to land an impact player. Boston can offer a team immediate salary cap relief (and maybe sweeten the pot with draft picks) if a trade partner were willing to move a skilled player with a big-ticket salary. That could include free agents via a sign-and-trade agreement.
But let's say Boston strikes out hunting for a big fish. The exception can be split. The Celtics could target, say, free-agent big man Jordan Hill by engaging the Los Angeles Lakers in a sign-and-trade deal -- the Lakers ought to be intrigued about moving any asset that would allow them to add future talent, particularly if they land Carmelo Anthony and further clog up their cap.
If all else fails and Boston believes that next season will be heavy on development, the Celtics could look to take on an expiring salary in exchange for, say, a draft pick or any sort of asset that will live on beyond the week.
A: If league-wide interest in Humphries prices the Celtics out, the team could still explore sign-and-trade options in order to recoup some value for him. If a team with cap space can sign Humphries outright, Boston could be out of luck, but the Celtics could certainly help steer Humphries to a team of his liking. The Celtics had interest in Humphries at a number lower than the $12 million he made this past season, especially given the gritty way he played and the way he embraced helping younger players. As far as replacing his production, Kelly Olynyk's expected uptick in playing time will eat up some frontcourt minutes, and there are plenty of other bigs out there (such as Hill or Ed Davis) who can be had at reasonable rates.
A: We'll repeat what we said Monday: The Celtics are interested in anybody who can help them return to contender status moving forward, and let's face it, beggars can't be choosers when it comes to positions. If you have a chance to land a 23-year-old potential All-Star who stuffs the stat sheet, you worry about logjams later. That said, I think the Celtics have some obvious hurdles in any pursuit of Stephenson, but with the assets to do these sort of sign-and-trade deals, Boston must look under every stone. It's fair to say they've expressed interest in any intriguing talent who might be available.
Q: If the Celtics' roster stands pat with seven (SEVEN!?) guards in Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Jimmy Young, Jerryd Bayless, Phil Pressey, Chris Johnson and Chris Babb, can this offseason be looked at as a failure transaction-wise? -- Bruce (Whitman, Mass.)
A: Bayless is a free agent, and given the draft additions, I'd be surprised to see him back next season. Even if you consider Young and Johnson potential swingmen, the Celtics certainly have restocked depth in the backcourt. A three-guard rotation of Rondo, Bradley and Smart should account for the majority of the minutes, while Pressey adds valuable, low-cost depth with potential to carve out a role. Johnson and Babb, with nonguaranteed deals, still have to distinguish themselves but are low-cost options if Boston elects to limit its offseason maneuvering. As for the success of the offseason, let's keep the jury out until we see how everything plays out over the next two weeks. There's still an awful lot of time, and the annual game of musical chairs has barely begun while waiting for the biggest dominoes to fall.
Q: Your gut feeling: Is Rondo a Celtic at the end of the 2014-15 season? -- Mathew (Taipei, Taiwan)
A: Yes, I believe he'll be here. I think the Celtics will think longer and harder about trade offers that come across Danny Ainge's desk, but I find it hard to believe they'll find the sort of high value they place on Rondo. Deals at the February deadline are often trickier, with team salaries more locked in than at that time of year. Even with Rondo as an unrestricted free agent next summer, the Celtics remain in a power position holding his rights. The 2014-15 season allows them to further identify if he's a cornerstone of the future -- or at least worth the eye-popping salary commitment he'll command next summer -- while getting more time to set the blueprint for the future.
Q: The Jeff Green salary isn't outlandish in this market. The problem is his player option. If he has a good year, he opts out for a payday; if he plays poorly, he opts in and you get two years of bad Jeff Green. Can you think of any team that would roll the dice on him? -- Travis (Waltham, Mass.)
A: Green is set to make $9.2 million this season. Even with a rising cap, that number is still on the high side, at least for his current production. You're right about the team's catch-22. Celtics fans would love for him to have the sort of breakout year they've been waiting for, but then he's more likely to explore free agency next summer and look to cash in (though we've noted that a Green opt-out would not be a bad thing if the Celtics really wanted to free up cap space to pursue next summer's free-agent crop). If Green continues to underwhelm, he's got the safety net of a $9.2 million player option. As for him as a trade chip, most teams unfailingly believe they can harness the talent of a player other teams have failed to get the most out of, so there's always going to be some sort of a market.
A: Sullinger is slightly more established at the moment, but both have intriguing ceilings. If the return on moving one of those players is a bonafide star (such as Kevin Love), then you give up whomever the opposing team desires to make it happen (maybe both). If you remember back to 2007, the Celtics fought hard to keep Rondo out of any trade package with Minnesota in the Kevin Garnett deal -- and, in hindsight, it's easy to see why. I'm not sure either Sullinger or Olynyk has shown enough to this point to leave the team emphatic to keep one or the other. Building a roster with both guys still here isn't the worst option, either, if you're the patient type.
Q: Even if it's just the Summer League, it's hard to imagine that our young players (even Sullinger) will ever be superstars. In this crazy market, is it still possible to have a plan for the future and work accordingly? Or is it a situation in which luck and being in the right place in the right moment are more important? -- Michele (Rome, Italy)
A: I'm always a bit fascinated when armchair general managers are so eager to move Rondo. Don't we understand now how hard it is to get superstars on your roster, let alone draft and develop one? Sure, San Antonio reminds us that there's championship potential in depth and chemistry, but it's still a superstar league, and you need superstar talent as the base. To me, moving Rondo makes little sense unless you bring back a player who has the potential to play to his level of talent or get a top draft pick that might eventually deliver such.
What's more, having a superstar in place is so incredibly important in adding other stars. Take Rondo off the Celtics' roster, and do you think a guy such as Love has any interest in coming to Boston? Money goes a long way toward enticing players to destinations, but a chance to win and play with other stars is probably just as important.
Now, Rondo's impending free agency forces the Celtics to consider potential deals. The team must decide if it wants to pay Rondo a hefty salary in order to help lure the sort of talent necessary to return to contender status. Luck certainly plays a part in all of this; guys have to be available to you at the right time. But making the right moves -- whether they're hitting home runs on draft picks or correctly managing the salary cap -- certainly goes a long way in putting a team in position to add star talent.
Q: What summer leaguers have legit chances to make the training camp roster? -- @JohnnyBarlow (via Twitter)
A: The Celtics will find that those interested in camp invites are two types of players: NBA roster hopefuls and those willing to spend time with the Maine Red Claws in the D-League in hopes of a future opportunity. Of the summer leaguers, Colton Iverson fits into that first group, as the 2013 second-round pick is hoping a year overseas leads to an opportunity to earn a roster spot with Boston this year. European hoopsters Edwin Jackson or Dairis Bertans could stick around and fight for a job, but Boston's restocked depth makes that an uphill battle, and better opportunities for them likely exist, either with another team or simply back overseas. A guy such as Mike Moser, one of the team's bright spots through two Summer League games, could earn himself an invite, but Boston's roster space will dictate whether any camp invitee has a true chance to make the final roster. Boston often has invited players to camp who understand they are likely ticketed for Maine, which doesn't pay as well as overseas options but does put players in the system and leave them eligible for a D-League call-up should a need arise.
Q: Is Colton Iverson a legitimate option/prospect at center? -- @TheBrentM51 (via Twitter)
A: Iverson played well Saturday against Miami, but foul trouble and some struggles at both ends of the court left him on the bench for much of Monday's game against the Pacers. Iverson has been working out with Boston's veteran players recently with a goal of earning his roster spot this season. With Boston short on pure size, Iverson offers the sort of height and physicality from which the Celtics could benefit. Depth from Boston's offseason maneuverings likely will dictate whether he'll be able to scrap for a spot. We're intrigued to see more from him this week.
Q: I was surprised to see that Vitor Faverani was not listed on the Celtics' Summer League roster, and I can't seem to find any news about his recovery from surgery or whether he will be able to continue his development during the offseason. Is he still rehabbing? Is he practicing with the team in Waltham? Will he be ready for training camp? -- Stephen (Northampton, Mass.)
A: Faverani visited Boston a couple weeks back to check in with the team's medical staff. He's still rehabbing from left knee arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus. The goal seemingly has been to have him ready to go again for training camp. Faverani had his moments this past season, and the injury likely prevented him from getting some quality late-season reps once Boston's lottery fate was sealed. His NBA development has been stunted a bit by the setback, but there seems to be no reason to rush him until that knee is fully recovered.
Q: Should we be worried about Young being held out of Summer League? -- Pemake (Quincy, Mass.)
A: No, conspiracy theorists will suggest the team is using the neck injury as an excuse to keep him available for potential trades. It's hard to imagine the Celtics would bring him in and gush about him, only to flip him. More likely is the team will soon announce that both Smart and Young have been inked to rookie pacts, which would mean they can't immediately be traded, and they'll continue to be cautious with Young while he's experiencing lingering effects from a pre-draft car accident.