I'll take a stab at doing a full mock offseason. I've posted variations of this but here I'm going to break it down with all the numbers just so there's more clarity into how I got where I got. Here's our starting point with current contracts and projected draft order:
Yabusele (Dead Money) 1,039,080
Jackson (Dead Money) 92,857
Kemba Walker 34,379,100
Gordon Hayward (Player Option) 34,187,085
Jaylen Brown 23,883,929
Marcus Smart 13,446,428
Jayson Tatum 9,897,120
Enes Kanter (Player Option) 5,005,350
Daniel Theis (Non-guaranteed) 5,000,000
Romeo Langford 3,631,200
#17 Pick (Projected) 3,123,960
Vincent Poirier (Partially Guaranteed) 2,619,207
Grant Williams 2,498,760
#26 (Projected) 2,145,120
Robert Williams 2,029,920
#30 (Projected) 2,040,480
Semi Ojeleye (Team Option) 1,752,950
Carsen Edwards 1,517,981
Jevonte Green (Non-guaranteed) 1,517,981
That's a total of $149,808,508 for 17 players. Tacko Fall, Tremont Waters and Brad Wanamaker are all restricted free agents. #46 pick is not included because there's no guaranteed salary with that. If we choose to roster that player, either an NBA deal or 2-way, then he gets added obviously.
Pre COVID, the salary cap was projected at $115M with the tax line at $139M. After COIVD, a lot of people are projecting a flat cap/tax line. Based on current year numbers that's about $109M cap and $132M tax line.
I should also note that the rookie year salaries are based on projections of the $115M cap. If the cap is held constant those would be adjusted down slightly.
First thing I would do is coordinate an opt out and extend with Hayward. He opts out of his deal and re-signs for 3 years, $84.24M. This tacks on 2 years at a little more than $25M/year to his current deal. I think that's the type of incentive it would take for him to opt out. Keeping him on a 3 year deal lines him up to expire with Kemba so it helps coordinate future flexibility. His '20-21 salary on this deal would be $26M. If you replace his salary above with the new number, our team payroll is now $141,621,423.
Next thing I do is waive Jevonte Green. Nothing against him. Just a roster spot and luxury tax crunch. Our new payroll is now $140,103,442.
Next move I make it to salary dump Enes Kanter. He has played well in a small role here but that salary is hurting us in getting under the tax.Just a financial decision. My trade is Kanter and #30 to POR for #38 (they have a trade exception to complete the deal). It's going to be tough to find teams willing to take on salary but I think this works. This also removes the cap hold of #30 from the books. Like with #46 in our starting point, #38 does not count for now. Our new payroll is now $133,057,612.
Next move I make is declining the option on Semi Ojeleye. He's a solid player at a solid cost but it's just a numbers crunch. With him off the books our new payroll number is now $131,304,662.
Continuing down the numbers crunch I am going to move on Vincent Poirier. His salary is just too high for his role. He's included above at his full $2.6M salary, but only $1,476,615 is guaranteed. Also, we currently have #26 with the associated cap hold. I propose a deal of #26 along with Poirier to CHA for #31 along with a future second rounder. We only move down 5 spots and shed Poirier's guarantee in the process. Our new payroll number is now $126,540,335.
I never mentioned our #17 pick but I will project that we take Kira Lewis Jr., the PG from Alabama. He's a sophomore but still young. He projects well in Stevens' system and is a good candidate to groom to take over for Kemba.
In addition to the #17 pick we now have #31, #38 and #46. Those don't count on the payroll yet. I will project that we take Kira Lewis Jr. at #17, Mamadi Diakite at #31, Jordan Nwora at #38, and Yves Pons at #46.
That payroll of $126,540,335 is made up of the following 11 players and picks:
Kemba / Lewis Jr. / Edwards
Brown / Langford
Hayward / Smart
Tatum / G. Williams
Theis / R. Williams
I didn't include the second rounders because they don't have guaranteed salaries. I would project that we sign #31 (Diakite) and #38 (Nwora) to the active roster. The minimum salary for next year is $946,543. So add two of them in at that number and our payroll is up to $128,433,421.
Next I'm going to pursue a veteran addition. Mason Plumlee has been backing up Jokic in DEN but we can offer him a bigger role. He fits Stevens' scheme well and I think should be able to bring the same quality of minutes Kanter brought this year. His veteran minimum with 7 years in the league projects to be $2,291,063. Add that in and our new payroll is now $130,724,484.
That gets us up to 14 players. Since we're in a crunch to stay under the tax I am going to stop there. We also have two two-way deals with 3 candidates in Tremont Waters, Tacko Fall and our #46 pick. I'm thinking someone will offer Waters an NBA deal and just don't think we can match that. Maybe we move Edwards to do so. Basically you can swap them in or out. So the 2 way guys will be Fall and #46.
Our final roster ends up as:
Kemba / Lewis Jr. / Edwards
Brown / Langford
Hayward / Smart / Nwora
Tatum / G. Williams
Theis / Plumlee / R. Williams / Diakite
If the tax line holds at $132M we have some wiggle room under it to pursue buyout guys on pro rated minimum deals when the time comes after the trade deadline. Comparing this rotation to the one we have been using this year.
Kanter -> Plumlee. More a lateral change than anything. And we save money. Don't think this moves us up or down much.
Ojeleye -> Langford. After being sparingly used as a rookie we're now opening the door for Langord to play a consistent rotation role. He showed the defensive chops to hack it on that end and it's not like Semi brought much offense to replace.
Wanamaker -> Lewis. Jr. The bar isn't set that high here. You can definitely see rookie struggles for a PG but I just didn't have the luxury tax headroom to add a vet. Would have loved to. Hopefully Lewis can at least be passable as a rookie which isn't a ton to ask. We'll likely pursue veteran options here at the buyout deadline or maybe Edwards makes a year 2 leap. Smart can always play more PG as well, particularly in the playoffs when rotations are shortened. Langford is a better ball handling option than Semi as well, to further reduce the burden.
Langford -> Nwora. I have Langford "graduating" to Semi's role so Nwora takes over his. He's a 3&D type wing who should be able to hold his own as an upperclassman coming out the same way Semi did as a rookie when called upon.
Poirier -> Diakite. Trade one 4th big man for another. Diakite is a developmental guy who could play a role similar to Daniel Theis on the offensive and defensive end.
Green -> No one. I left the 15th spot open to start the year to help the numbers crunch.
I don't imagine anyone will look at this rotation and be super pumped. It's not flashy. But I think it accomplishes a key objective of making the Tatum/Brown/Kemba/Hayward/Smart core financially feasible for the next 3 years. The bench is a little light but honestly. come playoff time we'll be in 7 and 8 man rotations so that becomes of minor importance. By staying under the tax this year we set ourselves up to not have to pay the repeater tax while Kemba/Hayward are on the team. That means next year we can start getting aggressive with the MLE and really turn it up a notch.