BOSTON (CBS) – The Celtics got one step closer to trimming their roster down to 15 players before the start of the 2015-16 regular season on Monday, by waiving newly acquired guard Zoran Dragic.
Boston picked up the younger brother of Goran from the Miami Heat in a salary dump just two weeks ago. The team grabbed a Heat second-round pick in 2020 for helping reduce the Miami's luxury tax bill. Eric Pincus of BasketballInsiders.com reports that Boston also received $1.6 million from Miami in the trade, paying Dragic's $1.5 million guaranteed salary for the upcoming season and then some.
Essentially, for being one of the few teams remaining in the league with the necessary salary cap space to absorb Dragic's $1.7 million salary cap hit in late July, the Celtics were able to secure a 2020 second-round pick as well as an extra $100,000 for their troubles. In return, Boston only sent Miami a future top-55 protected second-round pick, a selection which likely will never be delivered unless the Celtics turn into a contender faster than expected.
Since Boston's motives for the deal were simply draft pick related, Dragic never really stood a chance of sticking around, hence the reason why the team cut him so quickly. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Dragic's agents wanted him cut so he could earn a job with a team overseas after failing to impress during his stints in Phoenix and Miami last year. He played in just 16 games and averaged 1.8 points in 4.7 minutes per contest over that span. That wasn't going to cut it in an overcrowded Boston backcourt.
With Dragic out of the picture, here is an updated look at the Celtics depth chart.
Guards (6): Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, James Young
Wings (4): Evan Turner, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, Perry Jones III
Bigs: (6): David Lee, Amir Johnson, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller, Jordan Mickey
The Celtics have also signed a few undrafted players on training camp deals, including summer league players Jordan Walden and Malcolm Miller. However, those prospects have nearly no shot of making the regular season roster. Instead, they will be viewed as potential players for the Maine Red Claws, Boston's D-League affiliate.
Ultimately, Danny Ainge has until the start of the regular season, which lands in the last week of October to trim down one of the team's 16 guaranteed contracts to 15. At this point, there is no obvious candidate to go, outside of perhaps Jones, whose salary has largely already been paid for by the Oklahoma City Thunder with cash sent over to Boston in the trade. From a financial standpoint, cutting him wouldn't hurt the team much.
Jones' size and athleticism as a 6-foot-11 forward helps the Celtics in an area of need though, so he has a chance to prove he can be a useful contributor on the roster in training camp. At this stage of the summer, it's looking likely Boston will take all 16 players under contract into the preseason and let them compete in practice and games for playing time and the right to stick on the roster.
If Jones proves his worth, Ainge could opt to trade away a player from an area of depth (backcourt or bigs) in order to make room for the former Baylor star. Turner, Sullinger or Olynyk could all be candidates for that potential deal.
Whatever decision is made, you can bet Ainge's final move before the start of the 2015-16 season won't necessarily be an easy choice. Cutting Dragic was the easy part. The next step won't be as clear-cut.
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.
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