After exceeding most reasonable expectations for the season by making a playoff cameo, the Boston Celtics' fan base seems more intrigued about the future than reflecting on the past.
The most common question in the aftermath of the 2014-15 season is how Boston can add talent to legitimatize itself as a contender for future seasons. While it will be a slow, two-month crawl until draft night when business really picks up again, this felt like a good time to reset the status of the Celtics' roster and look at 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
James Young -- $1.7 million
The skinny: The Celtics have committed $40.3 million to nine players, but five of those contracts are reasonable rookie scale deals. Sullinger and Zeller are extension eligible, though neither would seem likely to ink this summer. Wallace clogs up a quarter of the current salary commitment (more on that later).
Restricted free agents
Luigi Datome -- $2.2 million
Jae Crowder -- $1.2 million
The skinny: Boston can make both Datome and Crowder restricted free agents by extending qualifying offers in the period from the last game of the NBA Finals until June 30. By doing such, the Celtics will have the right to match any offer those players receive during free agency (or the player can simply sign to play for one season at the qualifying offer). Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has remained steadfast that he sees Crowder as part of the team's future, while coach Brad Stevens has said he'd like to see Datome stick around.
Phil Pressey -- $947,276
Chris Babb -- $947,276
The skinny: Two low-cost options that could either fill out the end of Boston's bench or be moved in order to free roster/cap space.
Unrestricted free agents
The skinny: Jerebko emerged as a key reserve after his arrival from Detroit, and the Celtics will have interest in bringing him back at a reasonable rate. His chunky cap hold could force the team to decide quickly if he'll be back in green. It seems less likely that Bass will be back. He was a good soldier here, but the Celtics have depth at the 4, especially if Jerebko comes back or they draft at that spot.
The Celtics own picks Nos. 16, 28 (via Clippers), 33 (via 76ers) and 45 in this year's draft.
The team's future picks are listed HERE. Boston will also have former second-round pick Colton Iverson to audition again this summer.
The skinny: It's reasonable to wonder if the Celtics might consider bundling picks to move up and acquire players that intrigue them more. One thing is certain: Boston won't use all its picks moving forward, and they'll be assets in acquiring more established talent at some point or another.
One of the biggest questions for Boston is how it proceeds with Wallace. There are essentially three options: (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.
How Boston proceeds likely depends on whether it needs that cap room to add talent next season. The Celtics can still maneuver via trade routes and remain above the cap, which might allow them to stomach Wallace's deal one more season. But Boston might be enticed to move him out if a team (hey, Philly!) was willing to absorb his salary for one of the Celtics' less glitzy future first-round picks. Stretching isn't the worst possibility when you consider that $3.4 million will be a mere 3 percent of the team's cap in two seasons (and only 5 percent next season, though it's less than ideal to muddy the books for three years).
The salary cap is expected to jump to $67.1 million next season (with estimates of $89 million and $108 million in the seasons to follow).
So let's say Boston chooses Option 2. Suddenly, Boston's total salary commitment for next season would drop to $30.2 million for the remaining eight-man core. Pencil in holds for Crowder and its 2015 first-round picks ($1.5 million for No. 16; $1 million for No. 28), and Boston (theoretically) has $33.2 million to work with (though that could decrease quickly if Crowder signs an offer sheet here or with another team, and assumes Boston otherwise clears its books). If the Celtics shed some additional salary, however, there would be the potential to add as many as two max players (though one would have to be in the early stages of his career given the tiers of max contracts based on years of service).
The fun starts on draft night
One thing to keep in mind: The Celtics have a gaggle of lingering trade exceptions, the most noteworthy being the $12.9 million exception from the Rajon Rondo deal and a $7.7 million exception from the Tayshaun Prince trade (this after Jerebko and Datome were absorbed into other trade exceptions). If Boston elects to clear as much cap space as possible for July 1, then it must renounce those trade exceptions.
The fun ought to start on draft night and give us a better idea of how the Celtics might navigate moving forward. The one thing that we keep going back to: Boston has no shortage of options to add talent and will have the sort of assets to muscle into the bidding for any big-ticket player that becomes available.
As Ainge has stressed, it's all about being patient and leaping at the right opportunity. Where the Boston goes from here is cloudy, but it's clear the Celtics have positioned themselves well with multiple potential paths to navigate.