With Leandro Barbosa officially declared out for the season yesterday by the Celtics with a torn left ACL, the Celtics’ front office has been hard at work over the past 24+ hours. Ainge and company have undoubtably been combing through potential free agent fits and trade scenarios to give this upstart roster some additional help. Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald caught up with Danny Ainge to cycle through some of the team’s possibilities. The entire article is well worth the read, but here are a few of the highlights from Ainge:
“We have players we like in the D-League, and we have a little more than a week before the trade deadline. And we’ll explore all of that. Immediately we will probably bring someone in on a 10-day contract, and we’re going through all those names. There’s a lot of names actually, but it’s going to be very difficult to replace Leandro Barbosa.”
“Immediately” will likely mean the end of the All-Star break that starts tomorrow, and in terms of free agents, the Celtics are looking beyond the D-League and the U.S. border.
“There are guys playing all around the world, and I need to figure out when they may become available with their contracts,” said Ainge. “So there’s a lot to go through here.”
As I mentioned yesterday, Shelvin Mack appears likely to a be a short term fix for the team (likely signing a 10-day deal). However, the C’s front office is also doing their due diligence worldwide to find a player capable of helping right away in this offense, predicated on movement and passing, for the remainder of the season as well. Johnny Flynn, who has spent the year putting up strong numbers in Austraila, is one name that has popped up on the radar who could be a possibility.
For Flynn and other international players though, there are buyouts involved and other restrictions that will take time to deal with.
The other key portion of Bulpett’s piece is the fact that the C’s may only have enough money left against the $74 million dollar hard cap to sign two free agent minimum contracts.
Add to all this the fact the Celtics’ position against the final luxury tax level — a hard cap for them — leaves them able to essentially add just two minimum contracts.
With three season-ending injuries all coming after the January deadline to apply for a injury exemption, there will be no cap relief coming from the NBA in this department, putting Ainge in a very tricky spot. He has to pick players carefully to fill a spot, since there will be no second chance at bringing in a new guy once those two salary spots are filled, unless the C’s deal a player and cut some salary this week before the trade deadline. With just 10 healthy players on the roster, all of which are members of the C’s rotation right now besides Fab Melo, there are no likely candidates to be dealt.
The other option Ainge will probably do to help combat this issue is deal the “dead” salary of Barbosa (along with some cash and a second round pick to sweeten the deal) for a cheap player on a bad team that could use the extra cash. That way, Danny can fill Barbosa’s spot on the roster with a healthy player (who probably won’t be too useful) and maintain the flexibility to bring in two additional players on the open market once there are more roster buyouts after the trade deadline.
It will take a lot of creativity and flexibility to put together a complete roster that can compete in the East down the stretch, but Ainge and numbers guru Mike Zarren have the intellect to get it done.