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Bulpett: New CBA could hurt Celtics’ chances to take next step

December 17, 2016

The reaching of agreement in principle on a new collective bargaining agreement is being widely hailed as a win-win for the NBA’s owners and players. But the Celtics will suffer a loss of sorts when the pact is ratified.

There are good elements for the C’s, as well, but there will now be potholes on one of the roads the club could travel toward its goal of contending for a championship.

The available pool of money will continue to increase as we get deeper into the nine-year, $24 billion deal with Turner and ESPN, but it’s how that dough is getting portioned in certain areas that will affect the Celts.

One of the more significant new provisions is that teams will be able to offer two designated players who meet certain conditions (including All-NBA team, Defensive Player of the Year, MVP and the like) six-year deals, rather than the maximum length of five under the soon-to-be previous rules. They can either give their own free agent a straight six-year contract or extend a player currently under contract to a total of six. Teams can also offer five-year extensions to two players coming off rookie contracts. They are presently able to do so with just one.

The fact that teams will more easily be able to keep their stars in house means that some of the game’s top players will get offers they cannot refuse and, thus, get locked up and prevented — by their own choice — of hitting the market.

The Celtics were able to attract Al Horford, and they were in the final running for Kevin Durant, but it’s fair to wonder whether either would have been available to them if this new agreement had been in place.

So there will be a smaller pool of top talent the C’s can go after with straight free agent pitches, which will have the club leaning more on trades and draft-and-development to get the talent it needs to take what is still a giant step from where they are to where they want to go.

There could still be some interesting people in the market next summer — we say “could,” because in most cases, such as with Durant, it would require the player opting out of his present contract.

The most intriguing is probably Utah’s Gordon Hayward, who could provide the desperately needed scorer the Celts have been seeking. Hayward still has a strong tie to Brad Stevens, who tutored him at Butler and would have to be overjoyed to coach him again, but word is Hayward is very happy with the Jazz, who will be able to offer him a better deal to stay.

So you can see how this new rule could get in the Celtics’ way.

There is, however, a flip side that could be of benefit, due to all the assets Danny Ainge and company have stockpiled.

Because teams can more easily maintain players longer, it would seem to make top draft picks more valuable. And if that works as well in practice as it sounds in theory, the Celts’ ability to swap first-round draft picks with the Nets next June and the possession of Brooklyn’s 2018 top pick outright could be even more attractive as trade chips.

Another good aspect for the C’s is the expansion of rosters to 17, with two places reserved for players on two-way deals that will pay them more when they move from the D-League to the NBA club. And with the D-League pay scale rising, that will be a more profitable destination for players on the bubble.

If that provision were in effect now, Abdel Nader would be on such a contract, and either Guerschon Yabusele or Ante Zizic would be running for the Maine Red Claws instead of developing overseas.

And while some may put little stock in the D-League for a team like the Celts that already has complementary players and needs stars, having closer control over two more players would give them two extra at-bats in the hunt for the next Hassan Whiteside.

Home-grown talent is going to grow in importance under the new CBA, and that’s by design.

The move to increase the length and value of top-player deals is a clear reaction to Durant leaving Oklahoma City for the already-powerful Warriors last summer. Commissioner Adam Silver said shortly after Durant made his decision that the league was hoping to legislate more consistency.

“I’ve read several stories suggesting that that’s something that the league wants, this notion of two superteams, that it’s a huge television attraction,” Silver said last summer in Las Vegas. “I don’t think it’s good for the league, just to be really clear. …

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens, but, just to be absolutely clear, I do not think that’s ideal from a league standpoint,” he said of elite teams adding stars to their galaxy. “For me, as I discussed earlier, part of it is designing a collective bargaining agreement that encourages the distribution of great players throughout the league.”

Silver added later, “The good news is that we are in a collective bargaining cycle, so it gives everybody an opportunity — owners and the union — to sit down behind closed doors and take a fresh look at the system and see if there is a better way that we can do it. My belief is we can make it better.”

In so doing, the NBA may have made getting better a little more difficult for the Celtics.