It’s mailbag time! Thanks for all your submissions from either CelticsBlog or from Twitter. And even a couple of emails. Let’s get to the questions and answers!
Q: Will Terry Rozier be a sign and trade candidate for the Celtics this offseason? Or will Danny Ainge pull a Bill Belichick and trade him at the trade deadline?
A: Let’s answer these backwards…Ainge hasn’t hung on to Rozier to this point to just trade him. The Phoenix Suns put a hard sell on Boston to try and acquire Rozier, but the teams couldn’t get there. That tells you Ainge needs a lot to trade to Rozier. Unless he’s blown away by an offer, expect Ainge to hang on to Rozier throughout the balance of this season.
This coming summer? That’s a different story. Let’s work under the assumption that Kyrie Irving will re-sign in Boston. And that Marcus Smart’s intangibles keep him in green. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of playing time and/or money for Rozier. He proved during last year’s playoff run that he could be a starter on a good team. And he’s also going to get paid. That could put Ainge in position to consider moving Rozier as part of a sign and trade to get something of value, as opposed to losing him for nothing.
Q: What is the likelihood that Al Horford opts out this coming offseason to test free agency or to sign a new deal with the Celtics?
A: There is a good chance Horford could opt out, especially if it means helping Boston keep the team together. Let’s do some quick math… Al Horford has a $30.1 million player option for 2019-20. In addition, Irving, Rozier, Marcus Morris and Daniel Theis will all be free agents, along with Aron Baynes possibly joining them. With a lot of payroll already tied up, retaining even a couple of these players starts to get really expensive.
How does Horford factor into this? Let’s say he wants to stick in Boston beyond just the 2019-20 season. With Irving, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown all presumably coming back, the Celtics will be title contenders for at least a few more years. Horford will be 33 going into next season. Even though he shows signs of aging gracefully, that’s getting up there in NBA years. If he can parlay that $30.1 million option into a three or four-year contract worth an average of, say, $12 million a year, it makes sense for him to opt out. He still gets paid, while getting long-term security. And the Celtics save a little money next year as well. That’s a win-win.
Q: What are the chances Danny Ainge trades someone to get out of the luxury tax this season?
A: This is an awfully popular question. It’s almost as if Celtics fans are going to have to pay that tax bill themselves! As far as chances go, it’s about 50-50. Boston is going to pay the tax at some point. Almost every champion does. The idea is to delay it and then limit it.
Right now, the Celtics are a little over $4 million above the tax line. There isn’t a very likely singular move that Boston can make to get under the tax. Trading Marcus Morris without taking much, if any, salary back would do it. But he’s far too valuable to simply be a salary-dump. That means a couple of player have to go. What continues to make the most sense is the Celtics let the Jabari Bird situation play out (his contract could be voided and wiped off the books entirely) and then see what sort of move they would need to make from there to avoid the tax.
Q: Which of Brad Stevens’ assistants is most likely to get hired as a head coach?
A: Jay Larranaga. He’s Stevens’ top assistant and has had experience leading the Celtics Summer League squad in the past. In addition, Larranaga was been a part of the USA Basketball coaching staff at this past summer’s mini-camp.
Larranaga has had interviews for top jobs in the past, but it hasn’t gone his way just yet. But that seems like just a matter of time, as he’s highly regarded around the NBA.
Fun fact: Did you know Larranaga was the captain of the Ireland National Basketball Team from 2001-2006 and then a player/coach from 2008-2010?
Q: When is an NBA game coming to Australia?
A: Soon I hope! The NBA currently has 10 players with Australian ties on NBA rosters, including Celtics Aron Baynes (plays for the Australian National Team) and Kyrie Irving (born in Australia). Overall, since 1946-47, 22 players with ties to Australia have played in the NBA.
Basketball is wildly popular in Australia. It’s become a top overseas destination for players on the fringes of the NBA. The money is good and the culture is similar enough to that of the United States, that the adjustment is easy for players.
It’s highly unlikely the NBA will play any regular season games in Australia anytime soon. After years of playing regular season games in China and Japan, the NBA has moved away from doing so in recent years. The travel and time adjustments are a grind for NBA teams. To put them at this disadvantage with games that count isn’t something anyone wanted.
All of that said, the NBA continues to play preseason games in China and a trip to Australia isn’t any more arduous travel-wise. Several players, coaches and league personnel hope to make it happen at some point in the future. It seems like it’s just a matter of time until actual NBA games are played Down Under.