clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Revisiting Celtics TPE Targets

Boston is unlikely to use the $17.1M TPE before it expires, but they could fill some needs if they did

Detroit Pistons v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

The Boston Celtics $17.1 million Traded Player Exception (TPE) has hit its expiration date. It’s now or never for Boston to use the current largest TPE in the NBA.

With the Celtics already $20 million over the tax line, with three roster spots still to fill, it’s unlikely they use much, if any, of this TPE. Yes, Brad Stevens has said Boston ownership gave him the “greenlight to do whatever we need to do”, but that doesn’t mean you speed through that greenlight at 100 MPH.

That the Celtics have pushed to $20 million over the tax already is fairly remarkable. That means they are facing an actual tax bill of over $45 million. Filling out the roster will push that number north of $50 million.

More simply put: It’s not really reasonable to expect ownership to add $10-15 million more salary, which would push the actual tax bill well north $60 million. That would be more than every team other than the Golden State Warriors and LA Clippers, who are breaking records in tax payments.

But, for the sake of dreaming, let’s say that greenlight is truly as green as it gets and the Celtics can use as much of the TPE as they want before it disappears forever. In that case, let’s examine who Boston could chase.

We wrote an original list of 25 TPE targets before the summer started. About half of the names listed then are no longer available, or Boston having done roster work of their own has changed their needs.

On the original list, there was a heavy focus on scoring, shooting and playmaking off the bench. The Celtics filled those needs with Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari. Now, the primary need is for a backup big, with the secondary need being for a wing with some size.

With all that said, here’s updated list of TPE targets, assuming Boston is going deeper than ever into the tax this coming season:

1. Kelly Olynyk - $12,804,878 – Detroit Pistons: Detroit is flush with bigs now. And they are young bigs that need to play. The Celtics could probably get Olynyk without sending much to the Pistons. And he’d fit in perfectly on both ends of the floor.

2. Kenrich Williams - $2,000,000 – Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder roster is loaded with players who need to play. Where does that leave Williams? This one makes a lot of sense too because of his very low salary. The challenge? Sam Presti doesn’t let anyone go cheaply.

3. Mason Plumlee - $9,080,417 – Charlotte Hornets: With Boston having filled their other needs, it pushes Plumlee up this list. The Hornets drafted Mark Williams and presumably will want to play him, while also saving some small-ball minutes for P.J. Washington. Plumlee could probably be acquired without the Celtics have having to send much to Charlotte.

4. Cameron Johnson - $5,887,899 – Phoenix Suns: Johnson is one of the few players who makes under $10M on this list. The Suns tax bill is now way higher than Robert Sarver wants it to be after matching the offer sheet for Deandre Ayton. This might be a spot where Boston could sneak in and steal Johnson on the cheap.

5. Jae Crowder - $10,183,800 – Phoenix Suns: Another old friend! And we’ve satisfied CelticsBlog editor extraordinaire Billy Sy’s requirement of some former Celtics on the list! Same situation as Johnson, as far as the Suns cutting their tax bill goes. But Crowder’s shooting was really, really bad last year. Boston would have to hope that can bounce back, or they’re best to stay away.

6. Duncan Robinson - $16,902,000 – Miami Heat: If the Heat are really open to straight dumping Robinson, why not? Boston had the defense to cover for him. If Robinson gets back to being a 40%+ three-point shooter, then you can play him 20-25 minutes a night off the bench without much worry.

7. Lauri Markkanen - $16,475,454 – Cleveland Cavaliers: This one only works if you think Markkanen can be the backup center. If so, he’s not a bad option. If you don’t think he can hold down that spot, there’s too much overlap with Danilo Gallinari here for this to make sense.

8. Richaun Holmes - $11,215,260 – Sacramento Kings: Another big. You know the drill by now. Holmes would be more of a pure backup for Robert Williams, but he’d be a really nice insurance policy behind the oft-injured Lord of Time.

9. Nerlens Noel - $9,240,000 – Detroit Pistons: Noel is a Boston kid and has been a rumored Celtics target for years. The challenge is that he’s rarely healthy and he’s basically a poor man’s version of Rob Williams at this point. The good news? Detroit would probably let him go for a song. The bad news? Noel is healthy less often than Williams is.

10. Derrick Favors - $10,183,800 – Oklahoma City Thunder: We’ve hit the “expendable Thunder bigs” section of the TPE targets. Getting an older big from OKC worked out pretty good last year, and Favors can still hold his own against some of the bigger centers Boston might see in the postseason.

11. JaMychal Green - $8,200,000 – Oklahoma City Thunder: Sam Presti already said Green would be traded. He’d cost less than half of the Fournier TPE. But Green is losing his athleticism, and that’s what made him special. Not sure he’s an upgrade over any of the bigs Boston already has, and he really not a five.

12. Terrence Ross - $11,500,000 – Orlando Magic: Ross is another one-skill player, which basically makes up the rest of the list. The challenge is his one skill of shooting comes and goes. The Celtics might need a little more consistency as a title contender. And $11.5 million is a lot for a guy who would be only a sometimes 10th man.

13. Torrey Craig - $5,121,951 – Phoenix Suns: This would be a defensive addition on the wing. He doesn’t fit the need for bench scoring, but Craig would fit in perfectly as a switchable defender, plus his deal is pretty cheap. And again, Phoenix might be looking to shed salary to cut their own tax bill.

14. Malik Beasley - $15,558,035 – Utah Jazz: Beasley is one of the better scorers on this list. If it weren’t for some off-court issues, he’d rank a lot higher on the list. As it is, that’s enough of a concern that is pushes him down to this point. But Utah and Danny Ainge might be opening to moving off salary for not much of a return.

15. Jordan Clarkson - $13,340,000 – Utah Jazz: Clarkson can score, but he’s rapidly declining in his efficiency as a scorer. If you hand him a bench role, you have to live with some mindboggling shot selection, while also giving Clarkson the leeway to cook. That doesn’t seem very Celtics-like, and that’s before you factor in his lack of defense. Boston basically filled what Clarkson would have given them with Brogdon.