A way-too-early projection of Danny Ainge's long-term strategy

The future of the Boston Celtics is becoming clearer as this season progresses. It is now possible to project, or at least guess, what Danny Ainge's plans are for the next several years.

The Jay Team of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the focal point here. In their third and fourth seasons, respectively, they are emerging as potential All-Stars right before our eyes. Unless something unexpected happens, this duo is destined to be in the spotlight for Boston for the foreseeable future. NBA TV's Sam Mitchell recently compared the Jay Team with the Clippers' pairing of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Brown and Tatum could reach that level in as little of a year or two.


Jaylen Brown was granted a 4-year/$115 million deal that goes into effect in the 2020-21 season. With a projected higher salary cap coming, Jayson Tatum will be looking for something at least slightly in excess of Jaylen's figure ($28.8 million per year). With a projected cap of $125 million for the 2021-22 season, Tatum may be looking at roughly $31.2 million per year for four years, going into effect in 2021-22.

What about Gordon Hayward? As I wrote previously, the best route for Gordon and the Celtics is for him to opt out of his player option for next season and work out a 4-year deal at less money per season. Barring a trade for him prior to the February deadline, I expect him to be in a Celtics uniform next season, but he doesn't stick here past that without making such a deal.

Marcus Smart? He is on a team-friendly contract paying him $12.9 million this season and $13.8 million next year, after which he becomes a free agent. I think he remains with The Green for the foreseeable future. Kemba Walker has fit right in and contributes much. He needs to remain.


The future picture gets much clearer if any of the current rookie crop develops quickly. Grant Williams may be one that does become part of the rotation, and two-way player, Tremont Waters, could end up with a standard contract from the Celtics next season. Carsen Edwards has had trouble finding his shot at the NBA level, but he just needs more floor time. He should stick. We have not seen enough of Romeo Langford to make any evaluations. He could end up as part of a trade.

Semi Ojeleye earns so little - and does so much on the defensive end - he should remain in Boston, even though Grant Williams seems to be taking some of his minutes. Robert Williams and Javonte Green are keepers. Vincent Poirier? If he can be the rough-and-tumble big-man defender Boston seeks, he sticks. If not, he is out. Enes Kanter is a bargain and keeps improving. The post-season will reveal his true value.

If the Jay Team is destined to become Kawhi and PG13 - and get paid accordingly - then Danny Ainge needs to find the likes of Lou Williams, Montrzl Harrell and Patrick Beverly, whose combined salaries ($26.3 million) this season don't equal Jaylen's yearly pay next year. Actually, Danny may already have them in his fold. Time will tell how all of this works out.

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