- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's the harsh reality of the NBA: A team's roster rarely looks the same at the start of the season as it does at the end.
With that in mind, we asked our panel of 18 writers from eight of our favorite Celtics blogs to predict which player on the Boston roster is most likely not to survive the 2010-11 season.
With Wednesday's signing of Delonte West, the Celtics boast the maximum of 15 players under contract for next season. The team also has two players with non-guaranteed contracts in Tony Gaffney and Oliver Lafayette.
Despite the lack of roster flexibility, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge suggested that there will still be competition for spots at camp, with the team apparently open to the idea of eating a contract in order to carry the 15 best players into the regular season.
And even if Boston stands pat through training camp, any moves during the regular season would require a corresponding roster move with the Celtics at max capacity.
So which player will be the first to be traded, cut or retire next season? Most of our Celtics observers took the easy route and suggested that Lafayette is in the most danger. Yes, it's hard to argue that both Lafayette and Gaffney -- two players signed on the final day of 2009-10 regular season -- face uphill battles to stick with the team.
Boston signed the duo with eyes toward competing for spots this season, particularly as the Celtics envisioned as many as 11 open roster spots this offseason. Amazingly, Ainge has made 11 corresponding signings (re-signing Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels, while bringing in Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal, Von Wafer and West, and signing rookies Semih Erden, Luke Harangody and Avery Bradley).
But our panelists took some risks, too, pointing to players with trade-friendly contracts like Robinson, Bradley and Glen Davis as potential chips to move later in the season.
Here's my take: Keep an eye on Wafer. The Celtics hope he can rekindle the magic that made him such a valuable asset for the Houston Rockets during the 2008-09 season (9.7 points, 1.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists in 19.4 minutes per game). Wafer should also have a lot to prove amidst questions about his attitude (he was once removed from the Houston bench during a playoff contest after an in-game argument with coach Rick Adelman) and a fizzled attempt to cash in overseas (he was waived by Greek club Olympiakos just four months after inking a two-year, $10 million deal). And then there's this: According to the insanely valuable salary site ShamSports.com, Wafer's contract is only $150,000 guaranteed. For what amounts to pennies of Boston's roughly $80 million roster budget, the Celtics can cut ties with Wafer before the season begins (and just marginally more during the season, as Boston is on the hook for only $854,389 overall). While some on our panel pointed to Erden as most likely to go, I think the Celtics envision him as a project and wouldn't be surprised -- particularly with the depth up front this season -- if he bounces between Maine of the NBDL and the parent squad while honing his skills for NBA competition. Plus his deal is fully guaranteed over two seasons (a sum of around $1.26 million) and that doesn't factor in whatever the team paid to earn his release from his Turkish club.
Our panel weighs in with their thoughts below.
Brian Robb, CelticsHub (Semih Erden)
The front line is easily the deepest position on this roster heading into the season, so if Kendrick Perkins returns on a timely basis Ainge is looking to add one more player midseason for increased depth at the wing, Erden is the most logical fit to be on the chopping block. I don't necessarily expect it to happen, given the guy is on a two-year deal, but if push comes to shove and a roster spot needs to be had, he is probably the guy least likely to help this team the next two years, making him the most expendable.
Jay Ouellette, Red's Army (Nate Robinson)
This is a tough one. But I have a feeling that Robinson won't last the season. He has a friendly contract for a trade and I doubt he'll be here long term. He may be the player the C's ultimately trade for Rudy Fernandez once his trade restriction expires. Robinson is a Seattle native and I'm sure he wouldn't mind running with his boy Brandon Roy.
Jimmy Toscano, CelticsBlog (Oliver Lafayette)
I'm going to go with Lafayette here, especially with the signing of West (yes, I cheated and waited until West was signed to answer this question). I still think Lafayette has the talent to be on a team somewhere in the NBA, just not here, at least now. There are too many guys who I would play over him at any point in the game, I just don't see it happening for Ollie here. Now, if we're talking bigger names and trades here, I can see Davis or Perkins being traded. The Celtics reportedly tried to shop Perkins during the draft but didn't get anywhere, and while Davis has seemed to (somewhat) shape-up recently, he's probably not the favorite child of Danny, Doc or Wyc. On a team stacked with bigs, these guys are expendable.
Greg Payne, CelticsBlog (Oliver Lafayette/Tony Gaffney)
I can't see the Celtics making too many trades this season, only because each player who could crack Doc Rivers' rotation should be integral to the team's success. Davis is probably the team's most realistic trade chip right now (because of his upside and his expiring contract), but the team would have to have a glaring need outside of its frontcourt. Plus, the Celtics likely won't risk trading away a player who should have a larger role with the team in the future. I also see it being difficult for the Celtics to trade a perimeter player like Wafer or Daniels, unless it's for an upgrade at that spot. If the Celtics elect to offer a roster spot to Lafayette or Gaffney, I could see them keeping them on for the first half of the season and cutting them if a quality veteran becomes available.
Tommy King, Celtics Town (Oliver Lafayette)
Lafayette has a non-guaranteed contract. With three point guards ahead of him (Rajon Rondo, Robinson, Bradley), Lafayette won't survive training camp.
Brandon Paul, Gino's Jungle (Semih Erden)
I don't know a whole heck of a lot about Erden and I guess that's why I put his name down. He's spent a few years overseas trying to prepare for the league and his numbers weren't astonishing. If he can't do it over there, there's likely no way he can do it over here. I think he'll see some time with the Maine Red Claws but eventually will be cut or included in a trade.
Lee Herman, North Station Sports (Semih Erden)
I would say the Turk gets cut. I haven't followed his career at all, but what I have read leads me to believe he is not NBA ready, with reports suggesting a lack of focus and an inability to rebound in traffic. When a 7-footer cannot rebound the ball consistently, I don't think a team can take a chance on him being able to solve that problem.
Jon Duke, Celtics Stuff Live (Von Wafer)
The first departure for the Celtics during the 2010-11 season will be Wafer. Though the Celtics desperately need wing players and 3-point shooting, Wafer's inability to stick elsewhere in the league has had more to do with focus than ability. If the Celtics can package Wafer with a 2011 first-rounder to add a solid wing to play behind Pierce and Allen, why not look in that direction early on?
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
The Summer Forecast looks at which player will be cut or traded first.