The Boston Celtics figure to be better next year, upon the return of stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. The Celtics have done an incredible job drafting and developing talent in recent years, best evidenced by the success they’re having this postseason thanks to Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum.
Marcus Smart has also been a key cog in the Celtics success since being drafted in 2014, providing a toughness and defensive presence that is much needed in Boston. Smart will hit restricted free agency this summer, which creates an interesting question for the Celtics moving forward.
Smart will likely get something in the $12-15 million range annually, which would run Boston’s salary cap figure for next season as high as $123 million, not factoring in potential additions in the draft and minimum deals to fill out a 14 or 15-man roster. The problem isn’t just next season, because $123 million isn’t all deep into the luxury tax, but as more of these young stars come off of their rookie deals (Rozier in 2019 and Brown in 2020) they’ll be commanding significant deals.
Irving will likely be a free agent next summer, given that his $21 million player option comes up well short of his market value if healthy, while Al Horford will almost assuredly take his $30 million player option. To re-sign Irving and Rozier, Boston will find themselves staring at a monstrous tax bill as repeaters after creeping into the tax this season, which has caused some to wonder how long the Celtics can realistically keep this team together before looking to shuffle things around.