The Celtics haven’t been under the salary cap in a long time, but after waiving Donte Greene’s non-guaranteed deal — in a move that caught absolutely nobody by surprise after they dealt Fab Melo for him in an obvious move to shed salary— Boston whittled the current price-tag of the roster down to $71.2 million. This just barely sneaks the Celtics in under the $71.7 million salary cap in 2013-14.
In his post on the topic, Chris Forsberg lays out the details of Boston’s newfound flexibility. Most notably, don’t expect the Celtics to be able to go on a spending spree. There is just one type of contract they could afford at the moment without going directly back over the cap (and into concerns about the repeater tax going forward): A minimum rookie deal. Boston won’t be going shopping any time soon, unless they manage to shed some salary before the trade deadline.
All of this, incidentally, is fine. With the impending awfulness of the 2013-14 season, the Celtics don’t really need to be adding players. That’s not what this year is about, frankly, and we all kind of know that.
But how much the Celtics spend isn’t really something that should concern fans, unless Boston is spending too little (It’s not our money, after all). So why should we care about Wyc Grousbeck and company saving themselves a little money by waiving Greene?
For starters, that “little money” could add up to a lot of money in the future. That repeater tax we mention, which teams fear so much? It goes into effect in 2014-15, but every year since 2011 counts. Since the tax goes into effect if a team has exceeded the salary cap three out of the past four years, this was Boston’s last chance to avoid getting hammered with tax penalties. They have, in Larry Coon terms, a chance to effectively reset the repeater clock, and for a team that’s looking to rebuild, that makes a lot of long-term sense.
Even so, dropping a measly $1.02 million from the payroll may seem inconsequential. It isn’t. If the Celtics stand pat on Kris Humphries and Keith Bogans (which, as I wrote here, I believe they should), that small amount of money (in NBA terms, because $1.02 million is more money than my brain can even fathom in real-life terms) will increase exponentially next summer. Humphries will go off the books for $11 million. Bogans (presumably) will come off for around $5 million. Any other cap shedding Danny Ainge sees fit to do will free up space for incoming free agents as the Celtics look to reload.
When Boston sees an opportunity to reload, we may forget this particular moment, but it will be a somewhat essential little nugget. Say the Celtics become a major player for Kevin Durant in 2016 (which they almost assuredly won’t, but bear with the example), and say signing Durant would take them over the luxury tax. If Boston can stay under the luxury tax until the 2016 offseason, they will have effectively rolled away their repeater salary clock. They will still be penalized for going over the luxury tax, but it will no longer be the punishing blow dealt by the repeater tax.
Anyway, Donte Greene will play in China next season, according to HoopsHype.com, and Fab Melo has become the draft pick Boston traded away to get under the luxury tax in a rebuilding year. Frankly, that seems like a fitting, if depressing, epitaph to his career as a Celtic.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.