With the news on Tuesday of Al Horford deciding to part ways with the Boston Celtics, this summer’s outlook has gone from bad to worse.
Things took a drastic turn for the Boston Celtics when All-Star forward Al Horford made it known to management he would be signing elsewhere this summer. It stings even more with initial reports that Horford opted out of his $30M player option to sign a long term deal with the Celtics.
Horford was an integral part of Boston’s championship aspirations the past three years and would have been the sole reason Boston still had any chance contending in the Eastern Conference in the near future.
Few things have gone right for the Celtics this past year, and with major holes up and down the roster, it’s time for Danny Ainge to show why he gets paid the big bucks.
With Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward still on the roster, the most glaring need appears to be at point guard. Kyrie Irving’s imminent departure leaves the door wide open for Terry Rozier to take the reigns, but there could be better options out there on the market.
The most intriguing being Brooklyn Nets point guard, D’Angelo Russell. Russell averaged 21 points, seven assists, and four rebounds in 2019, on the way to his first all-star birth. With Irving reportedly bound for Brooklyn, Russell would have the opportunity to start full-time with a young core to grow with.
Rumors of Russell in a Celtics jersey have been floating around for the past couple days, but never seemed realistic with Horford still on the roster. Now, there is a clear path to put Russell in green for at least the next four seasons.
Russell will command a max contract starting at $26,740,613M, according to hoopsrumors. To start things off, Boston would have to renounce all of their free agents to remove their cap holds. That means Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris, as well as Daniel Theis will not be making a return.
Rozier doesn’t hurt as Russell would be on the team, and there’s a strong chance Morris doesn’t want to return for a rebuild anyway. If you do the math on that, it would appear like the Celtics have $37M to spend. However, that is not the case.
There is a rule in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that states every unused roster spot on teams with less than 12 players has cap hold of $900,000. Right now the Celtics have five for a total of $4.5M. On top of that, they also have three first-round picks whose value adds up to about $7M. In reality, Boston only has about $25M in cap space.
Fortunately, all that needs to be done from here is either trade one or two of the draft picks, or draft and stash them. This is a maneuver that Ainge and his staff have already been exploring, and shouldn’t throw a wrench in any plans they may have already had.
With the youth movement path more or less being chosen for them by Irving and Horford’s departures, Brown and Tatum will need a point guard to grow with them as they begin the next chapter in Celtics history.
Russell has proven he’s more than capable of filling that role. His elite scoring and passing abilities would allow him to flourish in Brad Stevens system the way Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie Irving, and Terry Rozier have in the past.
The icing on the cake is getting to watch Russell form one of the best young trios with Tatum and Brown. Things could get fun in Beantown.