Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Because the Celtics were approximately $3.86 million over the luxury tax before the Nader release, choosing to stretch him as opposed to just waiving is a drop in the bucket at a difference of $385,714. This would bring them down to $2.54 million over the tax line, meaning they could technically trade Guerschon Yabusele into another team’s cap space or trade exception and duck back under the tax by around $125,434.
But teams are required to have 14 players on roster when the season starts, especially these Hospital Celtics, who were actually only 13thin the NBA in games lost due to injury or illness per In Street Clothes (they were second in salary dollars lost though, with only Memphis ahead of them after losing Mike Conley in the first year of his massive deal). Even if they were to simply re-sign restricted free agent Jabari Bird using his non-Bird rights — named after Larry, not Jabari – the Celtics would still be back over the tax line. They could simply dump Marcus Morris into another team’s cap space or trade exception, but that would only make sense to do so with another contender that would be willing to fork over a draft pick of value. The current teams who may be interested and have a trade exception to take him are Cleveland, Denver, Detroit (expires 1/29), Oklahoma City and Portland (expires Wednesday).
The silver lining is that the team has until the end of the regular season in April to try to duck back under the tax. They can come into the season with a full roster and trade away salary at the deadline, with Marcus Morris’ $5.4 million final year salary being the most straightforward method to accomplish that goal. But the Celtics’ decision as to whether paying the tax this year is worth it to compete both in the short and long-term was for the most part decided when signed Smart.
Let’s start with some background reading music…
First, let’s pour one out for Abdel Nader… a guy who put up some good numbers in the G League but they just didn’t translate to the NBA (or at least they haven’t yet). The Celtics waived Nader yesterday to open up a roster spot and save some money.
Secondly, let’s clear up a few misconceptions when it comes to the luxury tax.
- This has nothing to do with concerns about Wyc Grousbeck’s or the ownership group’s personal finances. They’re all super rich and no matter what the Boston Celtics luxury tax situation is like, they will remain super rich. I, and others, are working on the assumption that super rich people don’t become super rich taking losses on investments, and at some point a basketball team can get too expensive.
- We’re all working off of assumptions. I assume Boston would like to avoid the tax this year because (a) it’s very doable so why spend extra money if you don’t have to and (b) it will save even more money down the road when the repeater tax is avoided for a season.
- The repeater tax, where the tax rates go way up, kicks in when a team is a tax payer in three of the previous four seasons.
Taxes are complicated so I’ll try to keep it simple.
Taxes are calculated at the end of the season so the NBA’s accountants can add up every cent a team paid to its players, deduct all the things they can deduct, and come up with a final number. Things like player fines (half that number comes off the books) and Nader signing to play in Europe (Celtics can set off a portion of that salary if he signs to play professionally anywhere in the world) are factored in, so don’t expect a flurry of deals now just to squeak under the tax. The Celtics have time and very smart financial people to figure it all out.
Boston also has options, the easiest of which is trading Marcus Morris into someone’s cap space. That not only gets them under the tax, it frees up a little extra room for the Celtics to become players in the buyout market.
They could do the same with Yabusele and just squeak under the tax and cross their fingers that this year is better health-wise so the Celtics won’t have to add any other salary.
Or they could wait until next year, which is risky and comes with a lot more uncertainty, but it also might present a better chance of ducking the tax.
The cap and tax are rising next year to an estimated $108 million/$131 million.
Assuming no trades between now and then, the Celtics are guaranteed to bring back Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Guerschon Yabusele, and Robert Williams for a total of $64,673,750. Let’s assume Aron Baynes picks up his option and the Celtics guarantee Semi Ojeleye’s season. That brings the payroll up to $71,745,550.
At this point, still outstanding are Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Terry Rozier, Daniel Theis, and Brad Wanamaker, plus potential draftees with $59 million left before taxes get paid.
If Kyrie Irving comes back, then Rozier is gone. I assume the same for Wanamaker. Kyrie returning at $30 million leaves $29 million left over. If Boston can get Al Horford to opt out and come back on a five-year deal that starts at about $18 million in year one, they’d have $11 million left before hitting the tax threshold.
This is where it gets tight. The Celtics could have up to four draft picks in 2019. The second overall pick (the best-case scenario from Sacramento) is slotted at $7,265,800. The 9th pick (the best-case scenario from Memphis) is slotted at $3,719,500. The 15th pick (the best-case scenario from the Clippers) is slotted at $2,734,100. The last five picks in the first round (assuming Boston is one of the top five teams in the league) are between $1.75 million and $1.6 million.
Maybe the Clippers don’t make the playoffs and that pick doesn’t convey. Maybe the Kings get the 5th pick (slotted at $5,327,300) and the money isn’t so tight.
It’s possible this all costs Boston Daniel Theis. We’ll have to see how well he plays and what kind of offers he’ll get in restricted free agency.
The whole point of all this is to say there’s a chance Boston can avoid the tax next season. They’ll have to because in two years, Jaylen Brown is a restricted free agent, and then Jayson Tatum follows the year after (a year in which Gordon Hayward will be unrestricted). The money will fly out quickly, so if there’s any inclination to get under that tax line, this season or next will be when to do it.
Again, these are assumptions. Maybe the owners just don’t care. Maybe they’re banking on making so much money is long playoff runs that the taxes won’t matter at all. Maybe we’re all just driving ourselves mad with all these numbers for nothing.
I do know rich people don’t like losing money. So until that changes, I’m assuming getting under the tax this year next will be welcomed.
Related links: NBCSN Boston: Report: Celtics waive swingman Abdel Nader | MassLive: Boston Celtics to waive second-year forward Abdel Nader (report) | Globe: Celtics waive Abdel Nader, have one open roster spot
Page 2: Kobe stans vs. LeBron is hilarious to watch
The Kobe vs. LeBron debate has raged for years online, fueled by Kobe stans’ unflinching delusions that Bryant is the greatest player of all time. They are so entrenched that they can’t even accept the arrive of a guy who might actually be the greatest of all time.
Murals of LeBron as a Laker are being vandalized all over Los Angeles by Kobe loyalists who can’t bear to see their God’s legacy diminished.
It’s set up an interesting civil war in La La land. I think it’s a fascinating subplot to watch during the LeBron years as Lakers fans and bloggers have to deal with the Kobe fanatics at every turn. I wonder if, by the end, they’ll think getting LeBron was even worth it… especially when it doesn’t result in any championships for them.
It will be fun to watch.
The rest of the links
NBCSN Boston: Hayward looks just about ready in latest video