Over the weekend, NBA Insider Shams Charania reported that the Phoenix Suns and veteran wing Jae Crowder were mutually looking to part ways, with the former Celtic formally requesting a trade and sitting out Suns training camp. Crowder, 32, is on an expiring deal worth $10.18 Million, and is looking for a fresh start elsewhere. Most notably, Charania rattled off a list of teams as potential trade partners for the disgruntled wing, which included the Celtics, Grizzlies, Mavericks, and Heat (in that order).
"Sources tell me that both the Suns and Crowder are now working toward finding him a trade out of Phoenix...Look for teams like Boston, Memphis, Dallas, Miami."— The Rally (@TheRally) September 26, 2022
NBA Insider @ShamsCharania reports on the Suns looking to find a trade partner for veteran forward Jae Crowder. pic.twitter.com/sAVkxXumh8
It’s not surprising, but all four teams that Charania listed are former teams of Crowder, with Miami being the most recent before he departed to join Phoenix. For any of these teams, Crowder could shore up wing depth to a degree as a jack-of-all-trades glue guy, who doesn’t really excel at one thing but does a little bit of everything pretty well. But for the Celtics, is adding Crowder not only financially possible, but is it the right move?
So from what I have heard from players Jae Crowder wanted an extension - which he was not going to get. And was also told that he wasn't going to start or end games. And that is why we are where we are today.— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) September 26, 2022
First, we’d have to look at why Jae Crowder is asking out of the Suns, a team that, by all accounts on paper, are contending for a championship. Reportedly, Crowder sought an extension with Phoenix, the Suns weren’t going to offer him one; in addition, he was no longer going to be starting or closing out games in Phoenix, which led to Crowder requesting a trade.
Let’s talk numbers! At only 32 years old, Crowder is a seasoned veteran with plenty left in the tank to help a contender if put in the right role. This past season, Crowder shot 40% on corner threes, and could operate off the ball as a catch-and-shoot, 3-and-D wing. His overall shooting numbers are down from the field, but still shot 47% from the midrange, putting him in the 83rd percentile out of all forwards last year. He also boasted a steal percentage of 2.2%, which ranks him in the 91st percentile among forwards.
What should Brooklyn's identify be? Can they actually pull this together? Fake Jae Crowder trades galore (including one *blockbuster* I just made up and the Suns probably aren't in position to do right now). Plus: PELICANS HYPE!!!! @KingCakeBaby https://t.co/w8LKSKV1YF— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) September 27, 2022
With Danilo Gallinari out indefinitely as he recovers from ACL surgery and Robert Williams recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery for 8-12 weeks, Boston finds themselves thinner at the 4/5 spot on their roster. Crowder wouldn’t address the team’s center depth, but he could provide some help between the two forward spots. But, would Boston be able to offer him a role that he would be comfortable with?
Then, you have to factor in the money aspect, because that’s the real hurdle that Boston has to deal with in acquiring just about anyone at this point. The Celtics currently sit just over $170 Million in total salary, and an estimated tax bill of roughly $44.5 Million. After using the full Taxpayer MLE on Gallinari, the only reasonable way of acquiring someone via trade is to send back matching salary or absorb them into one of the remaining trade exceptions.
Currently, Boston has the Juancho Hernangomez TPE of $6.9 Million (expires 1/19/23) or the Dennis Schroder TPE of $5.89 Million (expires 2/10/2023), neither of which would be enough to absorb Crowder’s salary. That leaves trading away matching salary for Crowder, but does that make much sense in the end? Does trading Derrick White for Crowder make this team better?
Trading Gallinari plus salary filler for Crowder would be risky, considering the optics of the situation and how badly Gallinari wanted to be here. With that considered, without a third team getting involved, it seems very unlikely that Boston could swing a deal for Jae, and even that would be complicated. There isn’t a very clear path to making a deal work without sacrificing their guard depth or risking bad optics by dumping Gallo’s contract. It is also worth noting that Gallinari cannot be traded until December 15th because he signed this offseason as a free agent.
Realistically, the only way that Boston should pursue Crowder is if no trade materializes, and the Suns and Crowder hash out a buyout agreement. On the open market, Crowder would be highly coveted and have the opportunity to choose his next team, and he would be sure to have a laundry list of suitors. Ultimately, the ball is in Crowder’s court, as securing a buyout would give him freedom to choose his next landing spot, one that would provide him with the role and contract that he seeks.