Heading Toward NBA Trade Deadline, Boston Celtics Still Eyeing Luxury Tax

There’s a voice calling out the Celtics here in the final days before the NBA trade deadline, and it’s a voice that’s been calling out quite a few other teams.

The audio says this: $13 million.

This is 13. million. dollar. Thank you luxury tax.

It’s expected across the league that when the NBA and the Players’ Association sit down to finish their books at the end of the year, the amount the league will authorize non-tax teams will be significant: $13 million. If you’re among the spending teams in the NBA – Brooklyn, Golden State, Lakers or Clippers – this season is sure to catch your eye. You don’t get 13 million dollars. Your competitors, and you finance that payment.

Despite the fact that the Celtics have been playing well lately, going 8-4 in their last 12 games, and could show more hope in the coming days (starting with their clash against the East leaders Heat on Monday), the prevailing sentiment around the league NBA Boston still wants to be on the receiving end of this summer’s tax payments. This will be the first thing to consider for the next 10 days.

This means that even with the $17 million and $10 million trading player exceptions, the Celtics team won’t take any big steps to add salary to the books. In fact, they’re going the other way, no matter what the latest report on the rumor mill says. Boston is looking to dump about $3 million between now and the end of the season (most likely through the Dennis Schroeder deal), and that won’t change even if their current (one-game) winning streak grows to four or more before the deal caps out.

The Celtics meet Miami on Monday, then basement residents Orlando and Detroit took to the road before finishing off the deadline list ahead of a game in Brooklyn against the contender (but headache-ridden) Nets. It is conceivable that the Celtics, finally with their full readiness to rotate for the first time in two seasons, will win all of the aforementioned matches and move up to 30-25.

Don’t expect it to take them out of their luxury tax status.

“No, they are well set in how this team is presented,” said one Eastern Conference executive. “Brad Stevens, that front office, they know what they are, and that’s the best 5-6 in the East, at best you might win a playoff, and maybe you can get to the second round. But that’s the roof. If they’re going to build around Jaylen Brown and (Jayson) Tatum, they’re going to need another master piece. They have the assets, and that piece will be available to them, but not for the next 10 days. For now, cut salary, save money, and get that tax check.”

It’s, by any account, a big tax check. Never in the history of the league has there been a very narrow group willing to pay big tax payments, and the Celtics are in one of the worst positions in the league – they are not so lucky with talent that they are willing to override taxes. But it is not so economically built that it is under taxes. Going past the $2.5 million bottom line is the worst place a team can be in, because it means you have some stupid contracts on the records, and at the same time, it means you’re not far enough off the threshold to really compete for a championship.

Another man said, “They have two guys at Tatum and Brown.” “What else do you like about the list there? (Robert) Williams is talent. (Payton) Pritchard could be the sixth best player in the league if he gets a chance. But he shouldn’t start. (Aaron) Nesmith needs a bigger chance. Are you on that list that scares you other than Tatum and Brown? They shouldn’t stick around choosing mid-level players to support their cast. They finished with 42, 43 wins, and we’ll be talking again in the summer.”

That’s the attitude most Celtics see. Even with their recent impulse and with so many potential fits in the market, making a simple move or two remains the most obvious way forward.

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