By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Celtics are the reported frontrunners to sign free-agent point guard Kemba Walker. It would put them less than $4.8 million under the salary cap, meaning they would qualify to sign another free agent for that amount under a mid-level exception.
There are three different kinds of mid-level exceptions in the NBA, and the C's would get the lowest amount under the "room" exception. Signing Walker would require Boston to renounce the rights to restricted free agent Terry Rozier and they'd likely do the same for Brad Wanamaker, but could hold on to power forward Daniel Theis.
That's a good thing for the Celtics, because they are now going to need to fill out their frontcourt after the expected departure of Al Horford and trade of Aron Baynes. That's where the $4.8 million mid-level exception will come in handy.
There's also the full mid-level exception for $9.2 million and taxpayers' MLE at $5.7 million, which could make it hard for the C's to reel in the more serviceable centers on the market. There's a chance that attractive targets like DeAndre Jordan, Dewayne Dedmon, Robin Lopez, and his twin brother Brook Lopez get offered one of the higher MLE's to price them out of the Celtics' range.
NBA insider Chris Haynes recently reported that the Celtics will have interest in soon-to-be-free-agent center Enes Kanter when the period opens on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET. Kanter averaged 13.7 points and 9.8 rebounds between the Knicks and Trail Blazers, so he might cost more than $4.8 million as well.
Ultimately, the C's may have to use their MLE on a reserve/role player, but preferably a big. Boban Marjanovic, JaVale McGee, Tyson Chandler, and Kosta Koufos are among the names that may be the "best" available at that number. For a legit starting center, Danny Ainge may have to swing a trade.
But it's at least a positive development for the Celtics that they're likely getting Walker in the first place, and that the move opens up the space to add center depth.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].