Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens will soon be tasked with making his first cuts as the team’s lead decision maker. While most of Boston’s roster is set, there is still some uncertainty about the 14th and 15th roster spots.
The Celtics have 16 players under contract for next season, and veteran forward Jabari Parker’s $2.3 million salary is nonguaranteed, so the easiest and most cost-effective move would be to simply release him and move on.
Parker signed last April and played in 10 games, averaging 6.4 points and 3.6 rebounds. But he played 22 minutes in Game 1 of the opening-round playoff loss to the Nets and drew some praise from Stevens, who was then the coach.
Center Bruno Fernando, who was acquired from the Hawks in a three-team trade last summer, has a $1.8 million salary this season that is fully guaranteed. But the Celtics already have three centers on the roster, not including occasional small-ball center Grant Williams.
First-year head coach Ime Udoka hinted that when deciding on the final roster spots, the team might put an emphasis on a skill that is not one of Fernando’s strengths.
“Shooting is always at a premium,” Udoka said. “I think that we value that with those last few spots, guys that can come in and always be ready. Injuries happen, or a guy takes a night off, or whatever the case may be, someone that we can plug in and we feel confident that we won’t miss a beat.
“Professionalism is a big part of that, staying ready. And with the 14th, 15th spot, you want guys that are good teammates that are down there ready to play, cheering their teammates on, but when they’re called upon, they’re ready to go. So those are all things we are considering for those last two spots.”
Veteran guards Ryan Arcidiacono and Garrison Mathews are the two players best positioned to nudge Parker or Fernando off the roster.
Arcidiacono averaged 4.8 points and 2.2 assists over his four seasons with the Bulls and converted 37.3 percent of his 3-point attempts. Matthews was on a two-way contract with the Wizards the last two seasons but seized a key role in the rotation, averaging 5.5 points and connecting on 38.4 percent of his 3-pointers last year.
The Celtics still have one two-way contract slot open, too, with undrafted free agent Sam Hauser filling the first opening. Matthews could be a candidate for a two-way deal, but Stevens also said recently that the team will likely wait until other teams have made their final preseason roster cuts to see if any intriguing new options appear on the open market.
Over the first two preseason games, the Celtics have mostly leaned on their regular rotation players as they try to develop some chemistry and find their rhythm prior to the start of the season. But the end-of-bench players could be in line for more opportunities during this upcoming two-game preseason road trip against the Magic and the Heat.
Al Horford and Jaylen Brown will miss both games after testing positive for COVID-19, and Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Dennis Schröder and Josh Richardson will sit out against Orlando Wednesday to rest.
Stevens will make the final roster calls, but Udoka will use whatever time is left to experiment with rotations and groupings.