Forsberg’s Mailbag: Sign Melo, or stick with Hauser? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Celtics huddle for the start of training camp in a mere three weeks. But was there ever really an offseason?
Between the team’s July signings, a month of Kevin Durant rumors, and Danilo Gallinari’s knee injury, there have not been many lulls since the team came up short in the 2022 NBA Finals in June.
Let’s start the re-acclimatization process by ripping open the Celtics Mailbag for the first time since the end of last season and checking what’s on your mind (which, it turns out, is a whole lot about what the Celtics will do without Gallinari and a couple open roster spots):
Why not see what Sam Hauser can do for a month or two, and if he falters, then go after a ring-chasing vet? — @WSpooney
Spoons, I think that’s a very reasonable plan. Teams sometimes rush too quick to fill voids and there really shouldn’t be too much of an urgency from the Celtics in the aftermath of Gallinari’s injury. Anyone that’s available now has been sitting there since the start of the summer. Why not evaluate what you’ve got, particularly when there could be other areas of need down the road?
The team’s luxury tax situation will ensure they ponder every dollar spent the rest of the season. It’s important to remember that if Boston signs Carmelo Anthony — or any established veteran — to a one-year deal, they cannot waive that player without losing the league-funded savings for signing that veteran.
Maybe you get into camp, there’s a glaring need for a veteran score-first forward who can eat minutes at the 4, Hauser is still too raw, and that all forces the issue a bit. But if you’re committed to Hauser — and you’ve got him under team control at minimum money for the next three years — then why not try to develop that asset before you reach for a Band-Aid?
One caveat here: While I think the Celtics will leave the 15th roster spot open for much of the season, the team must fill the 14th spot and there’s basically no difference in splurging on an established veteran versus, say, carrying an inexperienced summer leaguer. So if no one distinguishes themselves early in camp, then reaching for a veteran to fill out the roster isn’t any more prohibitive, beyond maybe having to immediately guarantee that money for the season.
One other potential accelerator: If the superstars of the team like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown go to Brad Stevens expressing a desire for a particular veteran, then you just have to ponder it a little harder. But patience is a good thing here.
I wouldn’t mind if the Celtics wait it out in order to reevaluate their needs after the start of the new season. Out of all the realistic options, I enjoy Rudy Gay the most. His current contract fits into the Juancho Hernangomez TPE set to expire Jan. 19, 2023. — @CelticsFiles
I’ve stumped for Gay as a potential trade possibility in recent years but I’m not sure it makes sense for this current team. Gay is set to make $6.2 million this year. Even if he actually fit into the Disabled Player Exception that the Celtics could get for Gallinari — he won’t, it would top out at $3.2 million, or half of Gallinari’s salary, if awarded — the Celtics still have to pay Gay’s full salary and endure the tax penalties that come with it.
Already nearly $20 million over the tax line, Boston would pay at least $4.5 for every $1 spent on a player. That $6.2 million commitment becomes a $28 million spend for a 36-year-old coming off a down season. That’s why I think it’s unlikely Boston uses a DPE or a large chunk of a TPE unless they move out a bulky salary.
Any chance anyone from summer league makes the roster? Justin Jackson, Brodric Thomas, or Matt Ryan? How important are end of the bench guys? — @yella_ghost
One of the more intriguing aspects of camp is going to be watching those younger players state their case for the 14th roster spot. Even beyond that, guys like Hauser and Luke Kornet must show they can help eat depth minutes. It’s not a coincidence that Boston is bringing a bunch of former first-round picks — Noah Vonleh, Bruno Caboclo, and 2-way signee Mfiondu Kabengele — to camp with hopes someone will emerge.
Brad Stevens has traded out multiple first-round picks since taking over and can ease the salary bloat on his team by finding overlooked talent to fill out Boston’s bench on minimum money. We saw last season there’s a value in simply embracing a limited role and being a good teammate, but Boston must also prioritize talent with higher ceilings that can aid in the event of injury woes. Everyone at the end of the roster has motivation to prove themselves in camp.
Why does the front office hate 7-footers? — @c0_nun_drum
With the 5 somewhat thin heading into the season, what is the team going to do to ensure Robert Williams is able to stay on the court? Will he be able to play 65 games and still be ready for the postseason? — @Nice_and_Blue
It’s fair to be concerned about Boston’s big-man depth, especially considering Gallinari might have been able to play some 5 in small-ball lineups. Alas, Boston will lean heavily on its versatility and hope that it can get away with some even smaller lineups.
We are eager to see if Kornet can hold up as a depth big. He’s the only current roster player on a non-guaranteed deal, giving you potential flexibility to maneuver at that spot. Al Horford is going to need nights off (the Celtics have 13 back-to-backs) and Robert Williams must prove he can put together another healthy regular season. Can you get away with tossing Kornet out there at times, especially against players like Joel Embiid? Kornet doesn’t lack for size and he’s got a couple seasons around the team now.
The bigger question here: Can Grant Williams give you some quality defensive minutes as an undersized 5 and limit the amount you might have to lean on Kornet and lesser experienced players? Maybe that lessens the stress of not having a lot of pure size. Remember, Williams logged 35 percent of his minutes at center as a rookie though that number has decreased each year (9 percent in Year 2, 3 percent last year).
Why are these guys under contract allowed to play Euro ball in the offseason? Especially guys with bad knees? — @priusport
Injuries suck. But for the small handful of guys that endure a major setback, there’s 450 other NBA players that emerge from the summer fine. Playing for national teams matters to these guys. And you can’t just put them all in bubble wrap for three months. Are you going to ban Pro-Ams? Ban runs at LA Fitness? Guys are going to hoop and injuries are just bad luck sometimes.
What is a duo off the bench we look forward to watching play? Malcolm Brogdon and Grant Williams defensive stoppers? — @Ricarius
I think Brogdon gives you so much versatility with lineups while offering another veteran body that Ime Udoka can confidently trot out there for 30+ minutes per night. I’ll keep saying it: I think the Brogdon addition has overshadowed just how impactful Derrick White could be. He’ll be more comfy here and Brogdon takes some of the ballhandling stress off his plate.
I’m eager to see how those two coexist while headlining reserve lineups. There shouldn’t be much of a defensive dropoff with, say, a Brogdon/White/Grant Williams lineup on the floor, regardless of the other pieces around them.
What are your expectations for Payton Pritchard? Can he step up with Gallinari out? — @HarryMannjr1
When Dennis Schroder arrived last year, Pritchard’s role evaporated and he had to sort of re-assert himself over the course of the year. I do think there will be nights where he just doesn’t get the court time he might prefer but, if he consistently knocks down 3-pointers and doesn’t allow teams to target him defensively, then he can force the playing time issue a bit.
The absence of Gallinari should create some trickle-down minutes. But his biggest opportunity his might have to wait until instances where Brogdon, White, or Marcus Smart are sidelined.