The Celtics introduced their new first-round draft pick, Robert Williams, at their resplendent new practice facility in Brighton Friday. As Williams sat at a table flanked by president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens, he spoke about how eager he is to join a team that was just one game away from reaching the NBA Finals.
Of course, the exact makeup of the team is not yet known. Over the next few days, Ainge and his staff will work on the roster, as free agency begins when the clock strikes midnight Saturday.
“I feel like there’s always things we can get better at, sure,” Ainge said. “There’s things I’d like to add, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to. We’ll see what happens.
“I obviously can’t talk about players and free agency and even positions, because it’s all predicated on who we have on our roster, and we have a couple of our own free agents we don’t know what’s going to happen with, so that’s where it begins.”
Unlike the past two years, when the Celtics pursued max-contract free agents Al Horford, Kevin Durant, and Gordon Hayward, the options this time are more limited. They no longer have salary-cap space, and after agreeing to a one-year deal with EuroLeague veteran Brad Wanamaker this week, they now have 10 players with guaranteed contracts for next season.
Center Daniel Theis and forward Semi Ojeleye almost certainly will have their deals fully guaranteed, too, and free agents Aron Baynes and Marcus Smart are both likely to be back.
In this case, Ainge said, being limited is a good thing, because it is a sign the Celtics are almost where they hope to be.
“It’s easier when you have three guys already that you’ve gotten from the years before [Hayward, Horford, Kyrie Irving], and you’ve got some budding stars in younger players that are progressing,” he said.
“So we don’t feel like . . . well, first of all we don’t have the cap space and, second of all, we don’t really have a need. We have really good players. And so we need to surround them with role players with the rest of our roster that have a chance to win.”
Boston has been mentioned as a possible destination for Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard, who reportedly has requested a trade. The Celtics, who have made inquiries about Leonard, probably have the shiniest collection of assets to offer San Antonio, but the fact that Leonard missed most of last season with a quadriceps injury, combined with the fact that his contract will expire at the end of next season, could lower the bounty that teams are willing to offer.
Ainge was unable to comment about Leonard specifically, but on Friday he did allude to the constant rumors surrounding the Celtics’ possible interest in him, or other potential trade targets, for that matter.
“We explore every trade of a player of certain magnitude or superstar/first-ballot Hall of Fame type of players,” Ainge said “We’re going to take a look and kick the tires and see if there’s something there. But that’s all. I think those things are unlikely.”
Ainge added that he thinks most of the rumors circulating about the Celtics’ possible trade maneuvering are false.
“Especially the details of it,” he said. “And what I don’t like about it is I don’t like how names are just thrown around. You guys probably don’t care about the names, and that’s your job, is to make good stories and have things to talk about on the air.
“But, yeah, most of it’s not true, but there’s sometimes bits and pieces of it that are true. So it’s not total lies but — I can’t call it fake news — but it’s complex.
“These are complex situations and I think that, just like you guys don’t like answering or having to respond to rumors, even though it does give you good programming, I don’t like it any more, having to deal with the players that are calling me and the agents that are calling me when their name is in a rumor that’s, like, just totally made up.”
The Celtics have made it clear that they hope to bring back Smart and Baynes. According to a league source, an agreement with Baynes, an unrestricted free agent, could be reached quickly. Smart, meanwhile, is likely to meet with other teams.
The Celtics will have the ability to match any offer sheet that Smart signs, but if the price somehow becomes too hefty, Wanamaker — a physical, bruising guard in his own right — could serve as a replacement.
There will soon be more clarity about the final shape of the roster. But there is little reason to believe that there will be another sizable reconstruction.
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.