Aron Baynes

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Celtics suffer consequences of Kyrie Irving’s broken pledge

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Celtics 2019 offseason ended in October 2018.

Then, it began a short time later.

After a backward year in Boston, the dust has settled. Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are gone. Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter are there.

The Celtics will be fine. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown return and should keep growing. The major holes are filled.

But the busy summer leaves Boston with a much lower ceiling.

It was never supposed to be like this.

Before last season, Kyrie Irving vowed to re-sign. This wasn’t just an impulsive moment at a pep rally. Irving made a whole commercial about the Celtics retiring his number.

Boston looked like an emerging power – the Warriors’ most-likely successor, maybe as soon as last season. The Celtics were talented, young and deep. Irving’s commitment seemed to answer one of the few questions facing the team.

Instead, Boston unraveled. Irving and other Celtics repeatedly found problems with each other. Everyone seemed miserable. A disappointing second-round loss was almost a relief. At least it was over.

In what was once supposed to be a simple offseason for Boston, Irving bolted for the Nets. Horford followed through the exit, to the 76ers. The Celtics replaced those two with Walker and Kanter via free agency.

Irving is better and younger than Walker. Particularly, Irving has proven his deep-playoff bona fides. Though Walker didn’t get those opportunities with the mediocre Hornets, the smaller guard probably can’t step up against tighter defenses the same way.

Kanter is good at what he does inside. But good teams can expose him defensively.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Boston matched its 49 wins from last season. The Celtics’ chemistry should improve significantly, and they’ll play hard in the regular season. But there’s a long way to getting back on the championship-contention path.

Boston will even face challenges with smaller short-term goals. The Celtics lost a couple solid role players in Marcus Morris (signed with Knicks) and Aron Baynes (traded to Suns). Boston also sent Terry Rozier to the Hornets in a double sign-and-trade for Walker. Though Rozier didn’t help the Celtics much last season, they still essentially got nil for a player with some value.*

*Boston had enough cap space to sign Walker outright. Charlotte needed a sign-and-trade to add Rozier.

The Celtics maintained and replenished frontcourt depth with Daniel Theis ($5 million guaranteed this season, $5 million unguaranteed the following season) and Vincent Poirier (two years, $5,125,000).

Boston did well to leave draft night with No. 14 pick Romeo Langford, No. 22 pick Grant Williams, No. 33 pick Carsen Edwards, No. 51 pick Tremont Waters, a future Bucks first-rounder (from Phoenix) and Baynes unloaded. The Celtics also signed undrafted Tacko Fall, whose 7-foot-6 frame at least draws intrigue.

Maybe one of those rookies blossoms. Maybe Gordon Hayward gets back in a groove as he gains distance from his injury. Maybe a future first-rounder from the Grizzlies lands high in a lottery.

There are ways for Boston to build a title contender.

But that seems far more distant than when the Celtics were envisioning an Irving-Anthony Davis pairing. It seems more distant than even when Boston was hoping to keep Horford.

Many teams would love to settle for Walker and Kanter, but the Celtics were in such great shape. They definitely had to settle. Where I’m from, that’s no Plan A.

Offseason grade: C-

Report: Suns signing Cheick Diallo to two-year contract

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The Suns went old in the draft, picking 23-year-old Cameron Johnson at No. 11.

Phoenix will go younger in free agency with 22-year-old Cheick Diallo.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Barring another move, the Suns have only the minimum available. Diallo will get $1,678,854 next season and $1,824,003 the following season.

The No. 33 pick in the 2016 draft, Diallo worked his way into the low end of the rotation during his three years with the Pelicans. He’s a hustle big, committed rebounder and athletic player. But at 6-foot-9 and 220 pounds, he’s not strong enough to bang with most centers. His skill level is low for power forward.

Phoenix will stick him behind Deandre Ayton, Dario Saric, Aron Baynes and Frank Kaminsky in the frontcourt. Diallo might receive situation minutes, but he must develop further to hold staying power.

Report: Celtics re-signing Daniel Theis (two years, $10M), signing Vincent Poirier (minimum)

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After losing Al Horford to the 76ers and trading Aron Baynes to the Suns, the Celtics badly need bigs.

Enes Kanter is a nice start, but not enough.

Re-enter Daniel Theis and enter Vincent Poirier.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Brian Robb of Boston Sports Journal:

The Celtics will keep Theis at his low cap hold then exceed the cap to re-sign him through the Early Bird Exception. So, this won’t interfere with their cap room to land Kemba Walker.

Boston signed Theis out of Germany to a minimum contract in 2017. He developed into a solid rotation player and will get rewarded for it.

If the Celtics get the same from Poirier – a French interior-focused center – they’ll be quite pleased.

Enes Kanter signing with Celtics for room exception

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Kyrie Irving pledged to re-sign with the Celtics then even made a commercial about getting his No. 11 retired by Boston.

Enes Kanter:

Ian Begley of SNY:

That looks like Kanter will get the room exception, which will be worth $9,772,350 ($4,767,000 next season, $5,005,350 the following season).

I really hope Kanter wears No. 11 for the Celtics. That’d fit his trolling persona so well.

Most importantly to Boston, he helps on the court. The Celtics badly needed a starting center after losing Al Horford to the 76ers and trading Aron Baynes to the Suns.

Kanter is a talented offensive player who’ll score inside while Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward lead the attack from the perimeter. The big question: Will Kanter hold up well enough defensively?

This is a signing worth making. But with Kanter’s defensive issues, consider this another reason (behind Kyrie Irving leaving) the Celtics won’t contend for a title next year despite remaining quite good.

Report: Suns trading for No. 24 pick (Ty Jerome), Aron Baynes from Celtics

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Suns general manager James Jones said he’s prioritizing players in their prime over prospects. I figured that meant deemphasizing the draft and focusing on free agency.

Instead, Phoenix is finding veterans in the draft.

After shockingly choosing fifth-year senior Cameron Johnson with the No. 11 pick, the Suns traded back in the first round to get savvy Virginia guard Ty Jerome.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

That Bucks pick is top-seven-protected in 2020 and unprotected in 2021. Milwaukee will likely push that pick into the late 20s with another strong season, but there is theoretical upside with those light protections.

The Celtics get that pick and unload Aron Baynes, as desired. Boston can now open about $26 million in cap space if renouncing everyone besides Terry Rozier. Renounce Rozier, and that climbs to about $34 million.

That spending power could help the Celtics retool after Kyrie Irving and Al Horford leave.

The Suns get Jerome, whom I like even more than Johnson.