The Celtics have come up empty in the opening days of the NBA buyout market as wings such as Danny Green and Terrence Ross has joined teams with the lure of more added playing time over Boston. Brad Stevens has been open about the variables the team is weighing as they try to find the right fit for the final man on the 15-man roster.
“You’ll look at it and you will decide, okay, is there somebody that fits that need and who’s really excited to be here if that’s the case,” Stevens said last week. “Or is it do you feel like you’ve got that all filled and maybe invest in a younger player. And so we’re going to assess all that over the next few days and try to figure it out.”
While it’s unclear at this point just how many more veteran names will become available on the wing beyond Will Barton, there is a weapon the Celtics have at their disposal to try to land a free agent name: the disabled player exception.
Boston was awarded the DPE back in November by the NBA after Danilo Gallinari suffered a torn ACL in the offseason.
The DPE is an exception to the salary cap like any other exception (mid-level, etc.). Teams can apply for it when they believe a player is lost for the season and want some help in spending for reinforcements. A player’s medical information is submitted and examined by an independent doctor that is approved by the league. Despite Gallinari’s hopes of returning to the floor at some point this season, league doctors projected he would miss the year.
There are a few notable restrictions with the DPE, which is worth half of Gallinari’s contract ($3.2 million). Boston can only sign a player for a one-year deal with the DPE or claim a player on waivers within that $3.2 million price range as long as they are on an expiring deal.
Boston has put to use DPEs in the past, albeit in an unspectacular fashion. The team signed Greg Monroe for a large chunk of their Gordon Hayward DPE during the 2017-18 season but Monroe was an outsider in the playoff rotation for Boston weeks later.
The same will probably occur for any player the Celtics target now with their final roster spot. The team is still paying a hefty luxury tax penalty (over three dollars for every dollar spent on salary) for adding players to the roster at this point so no names may be worthy of being paid DPE money anyway with the veteran’s minimum looking like a friendlier price. Signing a minimum deal also opens the door to signing a player to a longer non-guaranteed contract, which Boston did with much of the back end of its roster next year after the trade deadline.
All things considered, the odds are likely against Boston from needing to use their DPE at this point for any of the remaining names available but it can give the Celtics a leg up on the competition when it comes to late-season spending.