The Celtics have two key free agents in Smart and Baynes. Despite the consternation this will likely cause some on this board, Smart will be the top priority of those two. With a shade under $13 million of room under the projected tax assuming no trades, it seems difficult to see the Celtics winding up under the tax while keeing both. (This would be feasible if Smart signed his qualifying offer, but while that is possible, it wouldn’t occur until late in the free agency process, by which time Baynes would likely be off the market).
Of course, the Celtics could go above the tax to keep both, but why should they do that? Assuming Baynes walks, here’s a conservative minutes distribution for the top 9 in the rotation:
Irving - 30
Brown - 30
Hayward - 30
Tatum - 30
Horford - 30
Smart - 25
Rozier - 25
Morris - 25
Theis - 15
That’s 240 minutes. And while I understand that players get hurt, and you obviously need to plan for that to a degree, that’s taken care of a little bit already in these assumptions. If a starter goes down, about 12 of his minutes will get redistributed to the other starters, 5 will be given to Smart, and the rest can be given to some combination of the developmental youth (Semi, Yabusele, and Williams). If a second starter goes down, most of the minutes can still be given to Rozier, Morris, and Theis, before also being given to developmental players (also notice that I am not counting Nader as a developmental player, so don’t worry. Bird might get a look in the two-injury scenario.)
Really, if you keep Baynes, it means you’re moving Theis out of the everyone’s healthy rotation. And while Baynes is probably a little better, Theis was pretty good last year, and the difference is so marginal that it wouldn’t seem worth it to go into the tax to very slightly upgrade those 15-20 minutes Theis will get. It also means you’ve further clogged some of those developmental minutes, which could be short-sighted if we hope that one of Yabusele or Williams becomes a rotational big by a year from now.
So barring any sort of trades, it seems most likely that Baynes will find himself on another team next year. We don’t need his minutes, and as he’d put us into the luxury tax, he’s truly a luxury item. If Morris is traded, then certainly a spot opens for Baynes both in the rotation and on the books. This makes sense if the Celtics can get back some sort of future draft asset, but not if the Celtics need to give up an asset to move him. However, given the cap and tax situation with most contenders, there might not be a market for Morris, so the safest assumption is that he will return. (And again, Nader is worthless, but moving his salary won’t create space for Baynes unless Smart comes in at around $10 million for next season, which would be $1-3 million lower than expected. So Nader gets to stay.)