Trade season has arrived! We’re just about a week removed from The NBA Finals, but the offseason is already in full swing. After a disappointing exit on the biggest stage, all eyes turn to President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens to see how he can improve this team. Stevens was excellent in his first season constructing the roster, but there are now clear areas for him to address if Boston is going to get over the hump and win Banner 18.
As most Celtics fans know, the team has quite a few traded player exceptions (TPE) to work with this offseason. The largest is worth $17.1 million, courtesy of the Evan Fournier sign-and-trade with the New York Knicks. Let’s take a look at four potential targets Stevens could acquire with this massive TPE.
After a couple of tough years coming off the Los Angeles Lakers’ bench, Kuzma found new life in his NBA career with a trade to Washington as part of the Russell Westbrook deal. While the Wizards struggled once again, Kuzma averaged 17.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game, starting in all 66 contests he played.
The Utah product also hit 34% of his threes on just under six attempts per game, which is fine for a power forward in today’s NBA. At just 26 years old, the 6’9 versatile wing could slide in immediately as the Celtics’ sixth man with potential to take over the starting PF spot once Al Horford calls it a career.
Kuzma is on the books for just $13 million over each of the next two seasons (with a player option next year), which is a steal assuming his 2021-22 production wasn’t an outlier. There’s a chance the Wizards see him as part of their core for the future, but if he’s available, Kuzma might be Stevens’ No. 1 target with the Fournier TPE.
Stevens has already shown an affinity for acquiring players he coached in Boston. Why not bring one more old friend back?
Morris could provide exactly what Boston is looking for with this current roster - bench depth and scoring. There are certainly some negatives with this potential acquisition, so let’s get them out of the way first. He’s going to be 33 by the time next season starts, and he hasn’t played more than 57 games in a year since 2018.
That being said, he was fantastic for the Clippers in the 54 contests he played last season. Morris averaged 15.4 points per game, also grabbing 4.4 boards on a nightly basis. While he started for L.A. last year with Kawhi Leonard sidelined and Paul George in and out of the lineup, he’s shown the ability to produce coming off the bench.
With two years left on his deal, Morris makes a lot of sense as a potential TPE target for the Celtics.
This was always going to be a divisive pick. The reality of the situation is that Robinson struggled significantly last season. He was virtually unplayable in the postseason, and his defensive limitations are well-documented.
When the 6’7 sharpshooter isn’t hitting his shots, he can’t be on the floor. When he hits his shots, he’s one of the most dangerous perimeter weapons in the league, which was proven in the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
Despite a poor overall 2021-22 campaign, Robinson still hit just over 37% of his shots from behind the arc, which shows his capability to produce even when things aren’t going well.
The contract is another issue. The Heat gave Robinson a five-year, $90 million deal, which is the largest contract ever for an undrafted free agent. Now, he’s on the books through at least the 2025-26 season, and Miami is looking to dump him.
If Stevens believes that Robinson’s poor performance last year was an outlier, this is a great opportunity to buy low on the Michigan product. Yes, Ime Udoka would have to find a way to hide him on defense, and there’s a chance he wouldn’t be able to see consistent minutes in the playoffs.
That being said, if the Celtics can use him correctly, Robinson is exactly the type of weapon they need.
Clarkson might be the best realistic option for the Celtics with the Fournier TPE. The issue is, no one has a clue about what’s going on in Utah right now. There have been reports of tension between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert for years, and that partnership has apparently reached its breaking point. That being said, until one of those players is dealt, it’s all speculation.
Regardless, it looks like the Jazz are heading towards a reboot at the very least, with a rebuild feeling more likely. Quin Snyder opting to step down as head coach says a lot about the state of the organization. Change is needed, and the front office could be open to moving on from Clarkson.
The 30-year-old has been nothing short of phenomenal as Utah’s sixth man, averaging 18.4 and 16.0 points per game over the last two seasons. While he’s not an elite shooter, Clarkson gives the Celtics a bench scorer who can get them a bucket when needed. As much as fans may love Derrick White and Payton Pritchard, neither of those guys have the scoring ability that Clarkson boasts.
The 6’4 guard has two years left on a team-friendly deal and would provide exactly what Boston is looking for with the Fournier TPE.
While the Celtics have a myriad of options to look at with their $17.1 million trade exception, those are four strong candidates who could help the team right now. With the TPE expiring in July, we won’t have to wait long to see who Boston adds to this core.