After much fanfare and a false start, the Celtics were finally able to land their white whale in free agency on Tuesday when Gordon Hayward announced via the Players’ Tribune that he’s signing with Boston. But his reported four-year, $128 million max deal has created a salary cap crunch for the organization that will necessitate them parting ways with one or more of their key role players.
The Celtics began clearing the way by renouncing Kelly Olynyk, sending him into unrestricted free agency, and have a number of others they can renounce — like Jonas Jerebko and Gerald Green — to begin closing in on the number needed. However, no matter how much salary cap gymnastics they try to do with renouncing cap holds and releasing non-guaranteed deals, they will fall short of the max, meaning a trade has to happen.
According to a new report from Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com, the front office has been “aggressively” exploring trade scenarios for Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and Jae Crowder, the team’s three most modestly priced role players.
The Boston Celtics have been aggressively trying to create enough salary-cap room to give Gordon Hayward the four-year, $128 million maximum contract he agreed upon by discussing trades involving Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley, sources told ESPN.
The Celtics have to make a complicated series of moves to create enough space to sign Hayward to the full max. But because the salary cap did not rise as much as projected, they likely will have to trade one or more of those three players to sign Hayward. Sources told ESPN that Boston has discussed trade concepts involving those players with at least half a dozen teams on Wednesday.
Boston only needs to move one of them (to a team that can absorb the contract into cap space or a trade exception), but they still face the unenviable prospect of losing one or more of their top perimeter defenders. Bradley is the best of the bunch and makes the most sense to retain, in terms of on-court considerations.
Crowder is likely the odd man out in this situation since he plays the same position as Hayward and the Celtics have young, developing talent at that position in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. It also doesn’t help that Crowder’s purported defensive prowess was underwhelming this postseason.
However it plays out, Boston’s wheeling and dealing is far from over as they simultaneously try to keep their finances in order and avoid sacrificing too much depth on their roster.