Celtics' top nine in place after team brings back Hauser, Kornet

Celtics’ top nine in place after team brings back Hauser, Kornet originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens pledged to keep the core of his title team intact next season, and he moved quickly to ensure as much this weekend.

The Celtics are set to bring back their top nine from the 2024 title team after 1) Triggering a low-money option of sharpshooting forward Sam Hauser and 2) Agreeing to a one-year deal with big-man Luke Kornet in the opening minutes of free agency.

Boston also reportedly signed backup big man Neemias Queta to a multi-year extension, bringing back another depth piece from last year’s title team.

Boston now has Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, Kristaps Porzingis, Al Horford, Payton Pritchard, Hauser, Kornet, and Queta all under contract for next season.

Just as Stevens promised.

“I’m not anticipating major changes, at least early on,” Stevens said last week. “Because I think this team deserves that.”

There’s still some shaping to do at the back end of the roster. Oshae Brissett opted out of the final year of his pact last week, and the Celtics must fill out their two-way slots, including ones occupied by Drew Peterson and JD Davison last year. Brissett could return but will get a chance to field outside offers while both sides ponder a return engagement.

But it sure looks like the 2025 roster will look very similar to the 2024 champions.

“We’ll continue to work on filling out our roster for the upcoming season, but there’s no doubt that we’ll really value the continuity of that,” said Stevens.

The Celtics, set to linger on the second apron of a restrictive new collective bargaining agreement, don’t have any means of adding outside talent north of a minimum salary. That puts an increased priority on maintaining the players from last year’s title team.

Boston triggered a $2.1 million option on Hauser and, starting next month, can ponder a potential long-term extension. Hauser is eligible for an extension up to four years, $78 million, though any deal the team might ink would be decidedly south of that number given the long-term money committed to an expensive top 6. Hauser will be an unrestricted free agent after the season if no extension is hatched out.

In re-signing Kornet, the Celtics bring back a key depth big. Kornet appeared in 63 games last season, including seven starts. The 7-foot-2 big man averaged 5.3 points and 4.1 rebounds over 15.6 minutes per game.

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The Celtics turned down an option on Queta, who had been signed to the parent roster at the end of last season, but brought him back after he was a dependable depth option, particularly when the team navigated injuries at the big-man spot.

With Porzingis sidelined for up to six months following leg surgery last week, Kornet could be vital to navigating the first two months of the regular season. The Celtics will tread cautiously with 38-year-old big man Al Horford, and can eat minutes by going small. But Kornet and Queta provide dependable big-men options off the bench.

Both Kornet and midseason acquisition Xavier Tillman hit free agency this summer, but the Celtics have their Bird Rights, allowing them to pay to keep both players on the roster at salaries north of minimum contracts.

Stevens’ offseason to-do list is helmed by potential long-term extensions for Tatum and White, but the team moved quickly to lock up Kornet with the goal of keeping its core intact next season.

With Hauser, Kornet, and Queta in the fold, the Celtics have 12 players under contract for next year. Boston is set to return second-year forward Jordan Walsh and in-season acquisition Jaden Springer. Stevens drafted Creighton sharpshooter Baylor Scheierman as the final Round 1 pick of the 2024 draft (30th overall). Second-round pick Anton Watson (54th overall) could also get a shot to compete for a roster spot. Brissett, Svi Mykhailiuk, and two-way guard JD Davison are all unrestricted free agents this summer.

But one thing is clear: Much of the Celtics’ roster that completed the quest for Banner 18 will get a chance to start the trudge toward Banner 19.

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