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Irish Coffee: The Celtics’ Carmelo Anthony conundrum

06.04.14 at 12:55 pm ET

As a disclaimer, “an insider at” isn’t a source worth lending any credence, so let’s take Bert A. Ramirez’s bizarre rumor bringing both Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony to Boston with enough salt to warrant Seabass spitting in your burger, but we might as well examine whether it’s even possible under the NBA salary cap.

Using the Bill Simmons trade proposal as a jumping off point (both 2014 picks, both 2015 picks, Jared Sullinger, Keith Bogans and Brandon Bass for Love), here is the imaginary Celtics salary structure for 2014-15.

Kevin Love: $15.7M
Rajon Rondo: $12.9M
Gerald Wallace: $10.1M
Jeff Green: $9.2M
Avery Bradley: $6.3M (RFA hold)
Joel Anthony: $3.8M
Vitor Faverani: $2.0M
Kelly Olynyk: $2.0M
Chris Johnson: $0.9M
Phil Pressey: $0.8M
Chris Babb: $0.8M
TOTAL: $64.5M

That number exceeds the projected salary cap of $63.2 million, so the Celtics could not sign Anthony, even if he opts out, relinquishing an additional $33.2 million in potential guaranteed money from the Knicks. In this scenario, the Celtics would have to clear $23.8 million off the books in order to give Melo the maximum contract of four years and $95.9 million (2014-15: $22.5M; 2015-16: $23.5M; 2016-17: $24.5M; 2017-18: $25.5M). Here goes.

Use the stretch provision on Wallace, sending him packing and limiting his cap hit to $4.0 million over the next five years. Relinquish all rights to Johnson, Pressey, Babb and Bradley (that last one hurts).

Then, the Celtics still have $49.8 million committed to Love, Rondo, Green, Joel Anthony, Faverani and Olynyk, so they’d need to clear another $8.9 million to give Melo $22.5 million in 2014-15. Danny Ainge‘s only option at this point would be to find a trade partner under the salary cap willing to take on a salary dump. Say, Green and Joel Anthony‘s expiring contract for a $4 million player (Dion Waiters?). Now, show Melo the money.

Melo: $22.5M
Love: $15.7M
Rondo: $12.9M
Waiters: $4.1M
Faverani: $2.0M
Olynyk: $2.0M
TOTAL: $63.2M (including a $4.0M hit for stretching Wallace)

With $63.2 million committed to six players, Ainge’s work has just begun. He’d still have the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($5.3M), the bi-annual exception ($2.1M) and minimum deals to fill out the roster (Paul Pierce, perhaps?).

Going forward, Ainge would have to figure out how to keep both Rondo and Love in town. Either could accept an extension, but both could reach unrestricted free agency next summer. As a result, the Celtics could have as much as $61.5 million committed to Rondo, Love and Melo in 2015-16 if they all sign maximum contracts.

Of course, the Celtics could always get a little more creative in getting Love and Melo to Boston, too. If Melo opts out — or threatens to opt out — of his current deal, Ainge could arrange a sign-and-trade like the Cavaliers and Raptors ultimately made with the Heat for LeBron James and Chris Bosh, ensuring the seven-time All-Star’s departure doesn’t leave the Knicks empty-handed (Green and a pick?). This opens the door for all sorts of creativity, including a three-team deal with the Celtics, Timberwolves and Knicks involving even more players.

Again, none of this is to say the current rumor is going to happen, just that it could happen. Whether it should happen from a Celtics perspective is an entirely different conversation worth having, too. While the defense would certainly be a concern, Rondo’s pass-first mentality, Melo’s volume scoring and Love’s talents around the basket as a scorer, rebounder and passer are a fascinating mesh offensively.

Likewise, an argument could be made Love and Melo are the two best unrestricted free-agent options in either 2014 or 2015, assuming LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh remain in Miami. Here are those other names.

With the possible exception of Aldridge, both Love and Melo are better options than most everyone in this group for a variety of reasons, including restrictions (i.e., Irving), injuries (Lopez), age (Nowitzki) and talent (Asik). Considering every other option over the next two years is most likely a worse one, including the long road that is rebuilding with draft picks, this rumor is the best-case scenario for the Celtics. And I’m assuming that’s precisely why this rumor came to be from someone who was last seen commenting on the great Celtics fan blog Red’s Army.


Read More: Boston Celtics, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, NBA
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