BOSTON (CBS) – After a whirlwind of trade rumors over the past few weeks, Danny Ainge started to round out the bottom half of the Celtics’ roster by officially signing five players (Jaylen Brown, Ben Bentil, Gerald Green, Demetrius Jackson, Tyler Zeller) to contracts on Wednesday.
While the Celtics can still do some maneuvering ahead of the season, these deals did use up the majority of team’s remaining salary cap space, a signal that Ainge may be content to head into the start of next season with the team’s current pieces.
Since this week’s agreements put the Celtics’ roster count at 18 heading into training camp, competition should be fierce in October as several players fight for rotation opportunities and the final couple spots on the roster. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the specific deals that were finalized and how they will factor into each player’s role for next season as well as Ainge’s long-term planning.
Jaylen Brown (rookie scale deal for No. 3 pick) – The only unique part of Brown’s signing was the fact he was one of the final rookies in this year’s first round draft class to make his deal official. The delay was likely due to cap management purposes as the Celtics wanted to maximize any available cap space for as long as needed during free agency. Brown should compete for minutes right off the bat at the wing behind Jae Crowder.
Ben Bentil (three-year contract, $250k guaranteed) – The second round pick out of Providence struggled during parts of summer league action, but the Celtics still liked him enough to ink him to a contract despite the roster crunch. The power forward is a long shot to make the roster, but he is guaranteed $250,000 in his deal if he’s cut, making it worth his while to turn down overseas offers for a chance to make a team. Barring a trade or two to open a spot in the frontcourt, the Celtics are likely hoping they will be able to maintain his D-League rights if he is cut before opening night.
Gerald Green – (one-year contract at league minimum) – The 30-year-old swingman is coming off a disappointing season with the Miami Heat, but his contract is fully guaranteed with Boston, making him a safe pick to be on the roster opening night. His extensive experience will give Brad Stevens a more offensive-minded option on the wing and his 3-point range should help spread the floor with the second unit as well. His minutes won’t be guaranteed, especially if Jaylen Brown has a strong training camp, but he provides an offensive upgrade for the bench without eating up the team’s salary cap room long-term.
Demetrius Jackson – (four-year contract worth $5.5 million, 2016-17 guaranteed) – The ex-Notre Dame point guard was considered by most draft experts to be a first round prospect, so the Celtics rewarded him with first round money after selecting him at No. 45. His four-year $5.5 million deal is only guaranteed for next season however, giving the team to the ability to move on if they need to open up more salary cap space. His guaranteed deal does not bode well for the odds that R.J. Hunter and/or James Young make next year’s roster however, as the team was already loaded into the backcourt before electing to sign Jackson to guaranteed money. Jackson’s roster spot isn’t secure either after a mediocre summer league, but he should feel more confident about his spot than Hunter or Young at this juncture.
Tyler Zeller – (two-year contract worth $8 million annually) – One of the biggest surprises of the Celtics offseason was the seven-footer returning to Boston after a disappointing season in which he spent a major chunk of games watching from the bench. Jared Sullinger’s departure gave the opportunity for the Celtics to bring back Zeller as frontcourt insurance behind Al Horford and Amir Johnson. Zeller’s salary is also an extremely valuable asset for Ainge when it comes to potential trade options into next season since his $8 million salary for 2017-18 is not fully guaranteed until next July 3. That arrangement is an identical structure to Amir Johnson’s and Jonas Jerebko’s deals from last summer and will give Boston valuable flexibility as Ainge ponders his next big move.
(Salary figures via BasketballInsiders.com)
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.