I fully expect Bird to be a Celtic or in Maine next year. To clarify:
His qualifying offer is $50,000, which if he accepts it means he can be a 2-way player again next year. Needless to say, the Celtics will extend him the QO.
Restricted free agents tend to have a limited market as is. Bird is not likely to be an exception to this. Accordingly, I expect he and the Celtics will come to a deal that is structured similar to the Nader and Ojeleye deals — 4 years, year 1 fully guaranteed and at an amount somewhere betweeen the rookie minimum and the year 2 minimum, minimum every other year, partially guaranteed in year 2, non-guaranteed in years 3&4, team option year 4. This signing requires use of some of the MLE.
The way things get dicey is as follows:
1) They use a very large amount of the MLE on someone else (Baynes), leaving too little to match an offer sheet from another team (Bird won’t get one as long as the Celtics have a couple million of the MLE to spend, but once it’s below $2 million a team might take a chance).
2) They use most of the big MLE on a free agent, exposing them to the hardcap, and get too close to it after taking care of Smart.
3) They preserve the MLE, but after signing Smart are only around $1.5 million from the tax, allowing another team to force the Celtics to choose between Bird and hitting the tax a year early.
I think all of the above is unlikely. The Celtics are going to sign Bird or someone else to fill the roster spot. As long as Bird signs for below the minimum for a player with two years of experience, he will be the cheaper option against the tax and hard cap this season. Knowing this, the C’s will make a competitive offer to Bird from the outset to get him under contract. This lets them know how much room they have with Smart, so they can get him taken care of. In an ideal world, they will come to an agreement with Smart in time to enter the rest of the free agent market for a big, but I think that the Smart situation will drag on for a while. We’ll be left looking for a bargain basement big (although if we get a second Theis, I think everyone will be quite happy with a bargain basement big).