Trader Brad has arrived. Following a transaction-less NBA draft for the Boston Celtics on Thursday, Stevens orchestrated a few roster shake-ups this weekend. First, he sent Tristan Thompson to the Sacramento Kings as part of a three-team deal that netted the C’s Kris Dunn, Bruno Fernando, and a 2023 second-round pick from the Atlanta Hawks. Then, Stevens had another trick up his sleeve; he traded Moses Brown to the Dallas Mavericks for Josh Richardson. The Celtics are likely to use the remainder of Gordon Hayward’s TPE to absorb Richardson’s $11.6 million salary.
Now that the Hayward TPE has (probably) run dry, trading becomes more complicated for the green. They do have a new trade exception thanks to the Thompson deal, but that’s worth just around $9.25 million. Nowadays, there aren’t a wide variety of productive players to choose from who make equivalent to or less than this number, as most who do are on rookie deals and seemingly unavailable.
However, the Celtics should explore trading the old-fashioned way and match salaries if they want another high-quality role player. There exist multiple attractive trade targets around the league that Boston could realistically acquire with a package of draft capital and youngsters/salary filler (Grant Williams, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford, etc). Let’s explore some affordable targets capable of impacting winning right away for a Boston squad hoping to re-establish contender status in 2021-22.
Kyle Anderson: the underrated two-way playmaker
Believe it or not, Anderson belonged in the 2020-21 Most Improved Player conversation, particularly in the year’s early going. Anderson’s month of February with the Memphis Grizzlies (the best stretch of his pro career) accentuated his knack for impacting the game in a cornucopia of ways; across 15 outings, he averaged 14.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.6 blocks. During this span, his efficiency in scoring the ball was admirable as well, shooting 51.7% from the field and 42.4% from three on 3.9 attempts nightly.
Anderson’s offensive toolbox is uniquely diverse at 6’9” and 230 pounds. His playmaking chops have been his trademark skill since entering the pros, and for a good reason: he’s nothing short of an elite facilitator, and the advanced metrics support this sentiment. Among all forwards, only ten finished with a higher assist percentage than Anderson (18.2%) per Cleaning the Glass. Six were All-Stars in 2021.
Boston’s playmaking as a team took a significant step back last season. They ranked just 25th in the league in assists at 23.5 per game, both uncharacteristically low figures for a Brad Stevens-led team. There are multiple possible reasons for this. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown fell into isolation spells from time to time, which meant the ball didn’t swing from side to side with much consistency. Also, the lack of bucket-getters on the 2020-21 Celtics (particularly on the bench) perhaps meant the dynamic duo felt the need to take matters into their own hands more than in the past.
Whatever the case may be behind Boston’s playmaking woes, Anderson’s presence could go a long way towards patching them up. He’s excellent as the conductor in the two-man game, finds shooters on the break, willingly makes the extra pass, and is an ideal inbounder for BLOB sets. Additionally, he can make live dribble passes and turns the ball over quite infrequently (70th percentile in turnover percentage). It’s safe to assume Anderson would instantly be one of the top playmaking options on the Celtics roster.
Fours who can pass, handle the rock, shoot threes at a respectable clip and defend multiple positions are few and far between. With only one year remaining on Anderson’s contract with the Grizzlies, Boston won’t have to break the bank to acquire his services, either. A future first-round pick is presumably enough to stir the pot. The Celtics couldn’t go wrong adding a Swiss Army knife in Anderson to the roster, even if it meant surrendering a late first.
Derrick Jones Jr.: the lockdown defender and persistent offensive rebounder
Jones Jr. will be entering his sixth season in the NBA yet is only 24 years old. After bouncing back and forth between the G-League and pros for the first two seasons of his career, he found his footing as a rotational cog with the Miami Heat and is currently a member of the Portland Trailblazers.
The most attractive feature of Jones Jr.’s game is his on-ball defense. Blessed with a wonderful combination of length (6’7” and a 7’0” wingspan) and athleticism, Jones Jr. is a multi-positional defender who utilizes his physical gifts to get up into guards and wings. His role with Portland was to defend the team’s best player night in and night out, and he did as solid a job as anyone could’ve hoped.
According to BBall Index, Jones Jr. had, statistically speaking, the most difficult defensive assignments in the league on average. Still, he remained a net positive defender; opponents shot 3.5% below their season average when guarded by Jones Jr. per NBA.com, including 2.5% worse from deep.
A little Derrick Jones Jr. appreciation post.— Marlow Ferguson Jr. (@meloferg) February 18, 2021
Been loving Dame’s MVP tear, and how everyone has stepped up ... but it’s been fun watching DJJ take on every team’s best offensive player — guards, wings, etc — and life difficult.
Players shoot 4.9% worse against him than average. pic.twitter.com/FgyccOYO9T
The acquisition of Jones Jr. would bring another de facto perimeter irritant to Boston alongside Marcus Smart and Josh Richardson, someone who can consistently check the world’s best players at a high level and make life difficult. The Celtics, once a defensive-minded ballclub, collectively sunk to mediocrity in 2020-21. Jaylen Brown went through some struggles off the ball, and even Marcus Smart, though still a terrific defender, had moments where it seemed he might have lost a step. Jones Jr. isn’t going to be the remedy for all of Boston’s problems on this end. Instead, he’d be a step in the right direction towards resolidifying a defense-first culture.
Offensively, Jones Jr. is a hand-in-glove fit on paper as an opportunistic scorer. Buoyed by his enormous-for-his-size 7’0” wingspan and off-ball cutting chops, he is an efficient interior scorer, having shot 65% at the rim in 2020-21 and 74% the year prior (66th and 93rd percentiles, respectively. Additionally, Jones Jr. is a constant threat on the offensive glass; he averaged 1.3 offensive rebounds per game with Portland and ranked in the 95th percentile in offensive rebounding. His 5.8% offensive rebounding percentage was the highest among all wings who logged at least 1000 minutes. Jones Jr. is, without question, one of the top offensive rebounders in the league for his position.
Simply put, Jones Jr. makes winning plays. Whether he’s shutting down an All-Star wing, diving on the floor for second-chance opportunities, or exploring avenues to cut to the rim, Jones Jr. gives 110% effort and energy on every play. He would be the consummate glue guy for this Celtics team, as he takes pride in doing the little things and would lift some defensive responsibility off the shoulders of Brown and Tatum.