As the smell of cigar smoke, champagne, and beer wafted through TD Garden after the Warriors claimed the NBA title with a Game 6 win over the Celtics on Thursday night, Marcus Smart vowed to take some lessons from the defeat.
“We all made some mistakes that obviously shouldn’t have been made, could have been prevented,” he said. “But we’re learning. That’s part of it. You take that and go into next season, and you try to build off of it.”
And one result of playing so deep into June is that next season is not that far away. The NBA Draft will be held on Thursday, the free agent negotiation period opens June 30, and the Las Vegas summer league starts July 7.
After a string of seasons that included chasing big free agents, maneuvering with high lottery picks, and even reshuffling the front office and coaching staff, this appears to be a rare summer of stability for the Celtics.
All of the team’s top rotation players are under contract for next season. Al Horford’s $26.5 million deal is just partially guaranteed, but locking it in will be a formality. Even at 36, Horford was an essential piece of this defensive-minded group, and he showed no wear as the season progressed. He erupted for 30 points in a key Game 4 win over the Bucks in the conference semifinals and had 19 points and 14 rebounds as he tried to ignite a comeback Thursday night.
Horford is also eligible for an extension, and considering his urgency to win a title, and the fact that he won’t find a better situation to do that elsewhere, the Celtics could find a way to keep him around on a discount.
Jaylen Brown has two seasons remaining on the four-year, $107 million extension he signed in 2020. This fall, Brown will be eligible to sign a three-year extension worth as much as $123 million, but he would almost certainly decline that offer because he will be in line for a much more substantial payday when this contract expires, potentially as much as five years and $273 million if he makes an All-NBA team over the next two seasons.
All-NBA bonuses might be a sore spot for franchise cornerstone Jayson Tatum. When he failed to be selected for an all-league team last season, it cost him about $32 million in his five-year, $163 million rookie-max extension. He received first-team All-NBA honors this season, but unfortunately for him there are no retroactive adjustments.
Third-year forward Grant Williams will be eligible for an extension. One year ago, the chances of him being offered one would have been slim, but he emerged as a key bench piece this season, shooting 41.1 percent from the 3-point line and showing improvement as a versatile, physical defender.
If the season had ended when Williams erupted for 27 points in Game 7 of the conference semifinals against the Bucks, his value would have been at its highest. But he had less of an impact in the next two series.
Former Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was always reluctant to give extensions for players on rookie contracts, but his replacement, Brad Stevens, closed a four-year, $54 million deal with Robert Williams last year. Grant Williams does not have the same level of upside as Robert Williams, but he would be a strong secondary piece to keep with the Tatum and Brown core in the coming years.
The Celtics have about $156 million in salaries slotted for next season — including Horford’s full guarantee — which would put them about $7 million over the luxury-tax line that they maneuvered to stay below this season. They remain well above the $122 million salary cap and they will be a tax team, limiting their options for alterations.
They will have a $6.4 million taxpayer mid-level exception, along with $17.1 million, $9.7 million, and $6.9 million trade exceptions that allow them to acquire players without needing to send out similar salaries in return. But it remains to be seen how deep into the luxury tax ownership is willing to swim.
The Celtics traded their first-round draft pick this year to the Spurs when they acquired Derrick White in February, leaving them with just a second-round choice, No. 53 overall.
The flurry of February deals created plenty of open roster spots and the Celtics mostly filled them by signing G-League players. Fourth-string center Luke Kornet is an unrestricted free agent and two-way contract players Brodric Thomas and Matt Ryan are restricted free agents. Nik Stauskas, Sam Hauser, Juwan Morgan, and Malik Fitts are on non-guaranteed deals.
Some will likely compete for end-of-bench slots again, but there will be changes. The Celtics have a $1.5 million team option for Hauser, the sharpshooting 6-foot-8-inch forward who has shown some promise when given the opportunity. If they decline it now, Hauser would become a restricted free agent, potentially allowing the Celtics to sign him to a longer deal if they wish.