As the Celtics jointly pursue playmaking and wing scoring additions that top their list of needs this summer, a fresh round of rumors ahead of Thursday’s free agency moratorium period show the multiple avenues they have to pursue those needs.
Jake Fischer reported Boston has interest in Pacers free agent T.J. Warren and Hawks veteran Danilo Gallinari. Both players would provide immediate upgrades on the role Aaron Nesmith struggled to fill, spelling Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum while providing a consistent bench scoring presence through shot creation. Both players also maintain the team’s size and versatility across the perimeter, with a distinct focus on shooting.
Warren enters free agency less certain than previously reported to return to Indiana given their pivot toward rebuilding in the wake of the Domantas Sabonis trade. The Pacers still have significant room beneath the luxury tax line and can offer Warren the most money, but he’s appeared in four games since the NBA Bubble that concluded the 2019-20 season.
There’s a chance he seeks a prove-it deal on a mid-level exception ($6.3-million) before reentering free agency with a bolstered value. If he’s seeking a long-term deal, the Celtics could offer him that too, likely below the value Indiana or teams with full MLEs could provide. Kevin O’Connor reported Indiana could sign-and-trade Warren, not a viable path for the Celtics, already hovering around the hard cap. The Heat have also been linked to Warren. In a thin free agent class, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Warren’s price rise.
Warren, 6’8” and 29-years-old next season, averaged 19.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game on 53.6% shooting in his last full season, a streaky scorer who became the surprise star in Orlando that summer — All-Bubble First Team at that. His six-game regular season featured a run of 31.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.2 BPG and 1.3 SPG on 57.8% shooting that now feels like an eternity ago. After a strong showing in a round one against Miami, he broke his foot to begin the 2020-21 season and hasn’t played since. He reportedly fully recovered late last season, but with the Pacers already out of contention decided to rest.
While Warren’s value may be hard to evaluate given his lack of a consistent track record in the league and recent ailments, Gallinari gives you exactly what you expect entering his 34-year-old season. Scoring in the teens, low-40s efficiency from the field and solid shooting. His numbers declined mildly to 11.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 1.5 APG on 43.4% FG and 38.1% 3PT. You wouldn’t be acquiring him for playmaking or defense, it’d be all about putting the ball in the hoop. Given the Hawks’ need to shed some salary and roster space, he’d make some sense as a low-cost acquisition.
The problem is he doesn’t fit the Evan Fournier trade exception. Gallinari’s final season is worth $21.5-million and Boston would need to match that with Derrick White or by stacking the smaller salaries on the roster. That salary becomes guaranteed today, after being partially guaranteed at $5-million prior. The Hawks could waive him today and make him a MLE target like Warren. The Celtics also could’ve feasibly acquired him at that smaller number prior, or any figure in between the two necessary to match contracts, though at a significant luxury tax hit once his full salary went guaranteed. Keep an eye on Gallinari this afternoon.
Grant Williams is a better overall player today. Gallinari, although better than Nesmith today, is pointed in the wrong direction. There isn’t a straightforward path to acquiring him after today, though Kevin Huerter presents another opportunity for the Hawks to shed salary outright and for Boston to acquire shooting and defense. Fischer also noted the Celtics were among four teams inquiring about Atlanta star John Collins at the trade deadline, though no team aside from the Spurs advanced far along.
NBA free agency begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday.