If the Boston Celtics are going to make big roster changes, it’s likely to come via trade. With no cap space and likely having only the Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception of $5.7 million, options are limited to improve the roster via other means.
While they lack the full Non-Taxpayer MLE, or even the Bi-Annual Exception, the Celtics have an abundance of tradable pieces. Boston has four draft picks, including three in the first round. The roster is overflowing with young players on rookie scale contracts. And Gordon Hayward is likely to have one of the largest expiring contracts in the NBA this upcoming season.
We’re going to look at some trades that make sense for the Celtics and, just as importantly, the team Boston would be trading with. There are a few caveats:
· Because the Celtics are likely to be right up against the luxury tax apron, it’s highly unlikely they would complete a sign and trade transaction to add a player. If a team receives a player via sand and trade, that team is then subject to the hard cap at the tax apron. That makes building out the rest of the roster an extremely difficult task. So, no Danilo Gallinari sign and trades deals to be found here!
· Any trades featuring Gordon Hayward and/or Enes Kanter assume that both have picked up their player options for the 2021 season. Players who are pending free agents aren’t trade eligible, so both would have to opt in prior to being traded. Given their status and contracts, it would have been very boring to write a trade column without Hayward or Kanter involved. Because of that, we’re making some assumptions in the sake of interest!
· Hayward and Kanter likely won’t have to pick up their options until after the 2020 NBA Draft in mid-November. That makes it a challenge to trade either of them combined with 2020 draft picks. It’s not impossible, but it would involve some serious back-channel conversations and trust that neither Hayward nor Kanter would scuttle the deal by declining their option. Again, in the sake of interest, we’re going to assume this all works out.
There are three section of trades we’re going to cover here:
· Trades involving Gordon Hayward
· Getting a big!
· Small, but most realistic
Let’s dive in with Hayward trades, because they are by far the most interesting to consider.
Boston trades: Gordon Hayward, Romeo Langford, #14 and #26
Boston acquires: Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic
Why would Boston do this? This trade is kind of the Celtics throwing caution to the wind salary-wise, while upgrading their big rotation significantly. Boston would add $106.5 million in salary through 2022-23, but Gordon and Vucevic would both be starters for the duration of their time in Boston. Imagine a starting five of Vucevic, Gordon, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker, with Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis and kids and vets backing them up? That’s a ready-made title contender. One other important thing to note: both Gordon and Vucevic are on declining contracts. That’s helpful moving forward, as Tatum and Brown see their salaries increase.
Why would Orlando do this? This is built simply on the premise that the Magic are rebuilding around Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac and want to clear their cap sheet. There is a sense that Orlando knows the current roster might have gone as far as it can together. That could lead them to look for trades that bring in some youth, and clear salary. This deal accomplishes both. And the Magic could re-trade Hayward to a contender to further that aim down the line.
Boston trades: Gordon Hayward, Robert Williams and #26
Boston acquires: LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay
Why would Boston do this? This one is similar-ish to the Orlando deal, with a couple of tweaks. Aldridge and Gay are both expiring contracts, so it’s really the Celtics giving up Hayward and Williams to go for an established big in Aldridge and a bench forward in Gay. This one has the benefit of adding no long-term salary for Boston. That means things are a bit cleaner on the cap sheet after next season.
Why would San Antonio do this? The Spurs would have to want Williams and the draft pick. Hayward would have value for them as an expiring deal, but so do Aldridge and Gay. If need be, Boston could add #14 instead of #26, but that might tip things too much in San Antonio’s favor.
Boston trades: Gordon Hayward
Boston acquires: Andre Drummond
Why would Boston do this? They wouldn’t. It doesn’t make sense. We covered the reasons why at the trade deadline. Nothing has changed since then.
Why would Cleveland do this? To add an experienced wing, while cleaning up their packed big man rotation.
Why include it? Because it won’t go away!
Boston trades: Gordon Hayward, Romeo Langford, Robert Williams, #14 and #26
Boston acquires Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner
Why would Boston do this? To be honest, it’s unclear if they would. Oladipo is an expiring player and making noise about wanting a max contract in free agency. He’ll be an additional year clear of surgery, but he didn’t look like the same guy last season. It’s also not a clean fit that he’s better for Boston than Gordon Hayward is, as he’s not the same shooter or passer Hayward is.
Turner is also one of those guys who might look better from afar. He’s not the physical big Boston needs in the middle. He has range and can block shots, but he has a hard time banging inside.
All of that said, these are two good players and you have to have faith Brad Stevens would get the best out of both of them. That’s where you can see Boston going for this trade.
Why would Indiana do this? If the Pacers are convinced Oladipo is leaving, they could go in a different direction. Hayward would be nice immediate replacement, while Langford and Williams would be solid upside plays. And the picks would help Indiana rebuild their bench.
In addition, as is often brought up, this deal would send both Hayward and Langford home to Indiana. Not sure how much that really matters, but it is often brought up!
Boston trades: Gordon Hayward, Romeo Langford, #14 and #30
Boston acquires: Will Barton and Gary Harris
Why would Boston do this? The Celtics would save a little money in 2021, which helps the tax bill, while adding some guaranteed money for 2021-22. Harris’ value is down a little bit after he struggled in 2019-20. Harris would start and give the starting five a wing stopper. It’s also fun to imagine him and Marcus Smart playing together when the team needs defense. Barton would fill the sixth man role and give Boston the scoring punch off the bench they’ve missed in recent seasons.
Why would Denver do this? Hayward keeps them competitive in the coming season, but the real goal here is clearing space for 2021 free agency. If Denver plays their cards right, they could have only Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and Langford under contract next summer. That would leave the Nuggets with about $40 million in cap space. That’s enough to get in the mix for a max free agent.
Boston trades: Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter
Boston acquires: Harrison Barnes and Nemanja Bjelica
Why would Boston do this? It gives them a little more size in the starting group with Barnes. He’s more of a 3/4 where Hayward is a 2/3. Bjelica would also add value as a scoring/shooting big off the bench. It also lessens the tax bill for 2021.
Why would Sacramento do this? It would be about clearing out some long-term money for Barnes for the Kings. Sacramento could get in the mix for $40+ million in space if they clear Barnes off the books. That’s enough to be active in adding pieces around De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley, Buddy Hield and a presumably re-signed Bogdan Bogdanovic.
Overall, none of these trades are overly realistic. It’s simply too hard to package together a player that has a player option with draft picks. That involves a lot of moving parts. For that reason, bet against any trade that sees Hayward moved happening…at least this offseason!
With that said, let’s move on to getting a big!
Boston trades: Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford, Vincent Poirier and #26
Boston acquires: Thomas Bryant and Admiral Schofield
Why would Boston do this? Thomas Bryant would come in and form a pretty nice center tandem with Daniel Theis. Bryant is far from perfect, especially on defense, but he’s a solid rebounder and decent shot-blocker. On offense, Bryant is a terrific inside scorer, with a rapidly improving jumper as well. Schofield would add another Tennessee product to the roster alongside his former teammate Grant Williams. And fans will love Schofield’s readily apparent combat muscles too!
Why would Washington do this? The Wizards are getting increasingly expensive, and that’s before re-signing Davis Bertans this offseason. This would add some young talent in the form of Romeo Langford and the draft pick. Maybe Poirier can figure it out in Washington, and hopefully Edwards would be able to provide some bench scoring. But this is really about moving money around for the Wizards moving forward.
Boston trades: Carsen Edwards, Javonte Green (after guaranteeing his deal), Enes Kanter, Semi Ojeleye (after guaranteeing his deal) and Vincent Poirier
Boston acquires: Cody Zeller
Why would Boston do this? Zeller is a quality offensive big, who isn’t as bad defensively as some think. He also had great chemistry with Kemba Walker in Charlotte. He’d make a nice offense/defense duo with Daniel Theis. He’s also an expiring contract, so there is no long-term commitment here. And by sending out five players for one, the Celtics clean up their roster crunch considerably.
Why would Charlotte do this? It’s all about shedding salary for the Hornets. They can take a shot on Edwards, Green, Ojeleye and Poirier. Kanter would probably be moved on again in a subsequent deal to a contender looking for a big. Essentially, Charlotte gets a few bites at the apple for a player who is no longer part of their future.
While Rudy Gobert has been a target for Celtics fans for a couple of years now, it’s just hard to find a workable trade. Almost any deal has to involve Gordon Hayward and he’s not going back to Utah for many reasons on his and the Jazz’s side. That means it would have to a three-team deal. After examining a million different options, there just wasn’t one that really stood out. If this has a chance of happening, start in San Antonio. Gobert to the Celtics, Hayward to the Spurs and LaMarcus Aldridge to the Jazz makes some sense, but has to involve other pieces. That makes it complicated and highly unlikely.
This last section is going to excite no one but Celtics ownership when they write a lessened tax bill. It could also go a long way towards getting Boston out of the tax entirely!
These deals are all the same. Carsen Edwards, Vincent Poirier and #30 to Charlotte, Detroit or New York. In each deal, the Celtics would receive either draft rights to a previously drafted player or a draft pick that would likely never convey.
Why would Boston do this? To clear $4.1 million in guaranteed salary and free up a couple of roster spots. This is a straight salary dump for the Celtics to ease the tax burden. Waive Javonte Green and decline Semi Ojeleye’s team option, and all of a sudden Boston is in range of avoiding the tax entirely. A first round pick is a steep price to pay in a salary dump of only $4.1 million, but Boston has the luxury of three first rounders in 2020.
Why would Charlotte, Detroit or New York do this? They pick up the #30 pic and can take a flyer on Edwards and Poirier for nothing. That’s the kind of shot bad teams with cap space take all the time.
The above deal likely doesn’t get you excited, but it’s probably the most realistic one in this bunch. And it’s guaranteed to be at least one kind of deal that Danny Ainge is actively seeking out.
Do you like any of these trade options for Boston? What trades would like to see the Celtics make? Let us know in the comments!