NBA trade season is now (unofficially) open! December 15 is the date that NBA front office executives refer to as the start of early trade season. As of that date, the vast majority of players signed over the summer became trade-eligible. As of now, just over 88% of the NBA is eligible to traded. By January 15 that number will climb to about 93%.
There is roughly a two-month window for teams to make trades before the February 9 trade deadline. Even if no major deals seem imminent, the last four seasons have seen a trade made within the first few weeks after the unofficial opening to trade season.
For the Boston Celtics, reports are that they haven’t been active in trade talks this season. Such is life when you have the best record in the NBA, a fairly deep roster and a couple of key players on the verge of returning.
But Brad Stevens has shown a willingness to be active during trade season. So, it’s time to refresh ourselves with what Stevens is working with during trade season.
Boston has no open roster spot. They’ve got Justin Jackson and Noah Vonleh on non-guaranteed deals, should they need to clear a roster space. Luke Kornet is also on a non-guaranteed deal. But Kornet is a rotation player and not going to be waived to open a roster spot.
The Celtics are currently about $25.5 million over the luxury tax. Presumably, Boston would like to shave that figure down some, but they don’t appear to be in a spot where it’s necessary to do so. That means no one should worry about a potentially important depth piece being moved just to save ownership some cash.
Every player on the Celtics roster is trade-eligible. That doesn’t mean anyone is likely to be dealt, but there aren’t any restrictions holding up Brad Stevens from making a trade if he wants to.
If we had to pick a player who is most likely to be traded, we’d begrudgingly pick Payton Pritchard. Point guard is the team’s deepest position. Pritchard can’t crack the rotation when all of Marcus Smart, Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon are available. That means he could be available…in theory. But as Pritchard still has another full season left on his rookie scale deal after this one, and Smart and Brogdon are good bets to miss some games, don’t look for a deal.
Danilo Gallinari could also be dealt. His $6.5 million salary is a nice piece of salary-matching in a potential deal. But given their already less-than-sterling reputation for being ruthless, Boston isn’t going to deal an injured player who never even got to suit up for his dream club. Unless of course another injury necessitates filling a whole, then it’ll be “We hardly knew ya!” time for Gallinari.
The real most likely to be dealt players are Jackson or Vonleh. If Boston can shave some money off the tax bill, they might do it by moving a non-rotation player or two.
The Celtics aren’t sitting on any monster-sized Traded Player Exceptions any longer, but they’ve got a handful of them they could use. This is a good place to remind everyone that TPEs can’t be aggregated with other TPEs or outgoing salary to bring back more money.
Here are the remaining TPEs Boston has available:
· $6.9 million – expiring 1/19 – from Juancho Hernangomez
· $5.9 million – expiring 2/10 – from Dennis Schroder
· $2.2 million – expiring 2/10 – from Bol Bol
· $1.9 million – expiring 2/10 – from P.J. Dozier
· $1.8 million – expiring 2/10 – from Enes Freedom
· $1.7 million – expiring 2/10 – from Bruno Fernando
Boston has a Disabled Player Exception for Danilo Gallinari. It’s worth $3.2 million and can be used to acquire a player via trade. However, there is a restriction that the player must be on an expiring contract. Like a TPE, the DPE can’t be aggregated with a TPE or outgoing salary to bring back more salary.
One wrinkle: the DPE can also be used to a sign a player to a rest-of-season contract. Because Boston has no other signing exceptions to offer, beyond the standard minimum exception, the Celtics may save the DPE for buyout season. $3.2 million for a few months of work will be attractive to any ring-chasing veterans who might become available.
The Draft Picks
The Celtics are pretty clean on what they can offer in terms of first-round draft picks in trades. They owe a top-12 protected pick to the Indiana Pacers for 2023 from the Malcolm Brogdon trade. After that, the Celtics own all their own first-round picks.
The one wrinkle is that in 2028, the San Antonio Spurs can swap their first-rounder for the Celtics if Boston’s pick is second or later. But that doesn’t make that year’s selection untradable. It just becomes a bit more complicated, since it would have to have language that reads something like “the worst of Boston or San Antonio’s pick” for 2028.
As far as second-round selections go, that’s a little more complicated. Here’s what we’re looking at by year:
· 2023 – The Celtics will get either Houston, Dallas or Miami’s pick. There are protections involved all around this selection, but the Celtics will get one pick from one of those teams. Boston will also have Portland’s pick this year. The Celtics own pick will go to Charlotte or Washington.
· 2024 – Boston’s pick will go to Charlotte or Washington (whoever doesn’t get it in 2023)
· 2025 – The Celtics pick will go to Oklahoma City or Orlando
· 2026 – Boston will have the less favorable of their own pick, Indiana or Miami’s pick.
· 2027 – The Celtics pick will go Orlando
· 2028 – This pick will either stay with the Celtics, go to San Antonio (if Boston has the #1 overall pick in 2028) or will go to Orlando if it lands 46-60.
· 2029 – Boston owns their own pick free and clear of any obligations.
(Note: Some of the conditions have been condensed for simplicity)
To really simplify things: The Celtics have four (five with restrictions on the 2028 pick) tradable second-round picks moving forward.
The Draft Rights
It doesn’t seem likely that Boston will trade either of their draft-and-stash prospects in Juhann Begarin or Yam Madar, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. With the Celtics being a little light in terms of second-round picks to juice any offers with, they could offer Begarin or, more likely, Madar in place of a pick. Both players are good enough as prospects that a rival team might have interest.
If the Celtics want or need to make a deal, they’ve got everything they need to make one. They’ve got more than enough matching salary to trade for anyone. They can offer up to as many as three unprotected first-round picks. They can use TPEs or the DPE to structure trades in a helpful way.
But Boston is 22-7 upon the opening of trade season. They have the best record in the NBA, a fairly deep roster and a couple of key players on the verge of returning.
Trade season might be a boring one for Boston for a change. But that doesn’t mean trade season’s less-attractive cousin, buyout season, might not have lots to offer. That’s life when you’re rolling at the top of the league.