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Celtics trade intel three weeks from the trade deadline

Boston is facing a couple of deadlines over the next few weeks

NBA: Playoffs-Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

NBA trade season is in full swing. Well, trade rumor season is more like it. That’s because nothing is actually moving forward at the moment.

Thus far, the only in-season deal we’ve seen was the Boston Celtics trading Noah Vonleh to San Antonio Spurs in a tax-saving move. Aside from that decidedly non-blockbuster, it’s been crickets.

However, there are rumors flying everywhere. CelticsBlog has collected some intel on what we’re hearing related to Boston and the trade market, as we sit about three weeks from trade deadline day.

  • Boston has registered interest in Jakob Poeltl of the Spurs. The Celtics and Spurs have become trade partners twice over the last year, doing the Derrick White deal ahead of last season’s deadline and the Vonleh trade a couple of weeks ago.

On Poeltl, sources told CelticsBlog that the Celtics were more interested before Robert Williams made his return to the court. With Williams back in the fold, Boston feels less of a need to do a trade for another big. In addition, other sources said that it’s unlikely the Celtics and Poeltl would be a long-term match, due to the center’s desire to start and land a $20 million per season deal this offseason.

  • League sources indicate the Celtics have been active in trade talks for players who make under $7 million for this season. This indicates Boston has been trying to use either their $6.9 million traded player exception (TPE) from the Juancho Hernangomez deal before it expires on January 19 or the $5.9 million TPE from the Dennis Schroder trade.

One source close to the situation told CelticsBlog, “It’s probably not going to happen. Using a trade exception that small requires finding the exact right player. That’s hard to pull off.”

  • Other sources said the Celtics appear to be most focused on adding a wing ahead of the trade deadline. One rival team told CelticsBlog, “They want someone else to take the load of (Jayson) Tatum and (Jaylen) Brown. Brad (Stevens) and Joe (Mazzulla) know they can’t be playing 40 minutes per night and make a Finals run. Tatum wasn’t joking when he said he was gassed last June.”

Other sources said the Celtics aren’t looking to move players in a deal for a wing. Instead, Boston has focused on moving draft picks for a lower-salaried player.

  • Multiple sources said Boston has dangled a protected first-round pick in trade talks or multiple second-round picks. Various sources told CelticsBlog, “They aren’t moving a rotation guy. They think their top 8-to-9 guys are solid and match up well with anyone they’ll face in the playoffs. They’re looking to add a regular season guy, not necessarily a playoff guy.”
  • “I bet nothing gets done via trade. Moving another first is risky. That’s getting into a place where you are putting very little into the draft. You need those picks to backfill depth behind what’s going to be a really expensive team in a few years,” a source close to trade talks said. “I bet they’ll be more active in the buyout market.”
  • The luxury tax isn’t a barrier for Boston, according to multiple sources. Brad Stevens has the support of ownership to add to the tax bill if he believes it increases the chance of a title. One source said, “They’re all-in on winning the title. If that means spending a little more, so be it. Yeah, they dumped (Noah) Vonleh, but that was smart. They saved a little money to have it to spend later. The owners want a title as much as the front office, coaches and players do. And they know that means spending some dough.”
  • One league source characterized the Celtics as “stealthy”. They said, “You never hear about anything they are doing until they do it. Who had them getting (Derrick) White last year? What about (Malcolm) Brogdon this summer? No one. Brad (Stevens), Mike (Zarren) and that whole crew keep their business to themselves. Our running joke is ‘If you hear about it with Boston, it ain’t happening!’ and that’s true. They don’t really have leaks there anymore.”
  • Various sources told CelticsBlog that they expect Boston to be a top destination on the buyout market. One source said, “They don’t need to make a trade. Why bother? They don’t need anything. Brad (Stevens) already gave Joe (everything he needs). And that Gallo (Danilo Gallinari) exception (Disabled Player Exception) will allow them to outspend everyone else for a buyout guy. They can let the deadline pass and then just pick off the best free agent or two for playoff depth. And vets will all want the Celtics because they can get paid and they can win.”
  • One rival team executive summed it up by telling CelticsBlog, “They’re in first place. When they are whole, they are beating teams by a million. Making a trade would be stupid. And I’m not just saying that in hopes they don’t get stronger. Brad (Stevens) is still really a coach at his core. He knows you can’t mess with good chemistry and their chemistry is up there with the best in the league. Those guys are motivated to finish the job this time. I bet they add one or two buyout guys and that’s that. But even then, those guys will have to be ok with being along for the ride. Brad (Stevens) isn’t messing with a good thing right now.”

There are some deadlines to keep in mind for Boston over the coming weeks:

  • January 19 - $6.9 million TPE from Juancho Hernangomez expires
  • January 20 - Two-Way contracts become fully guaranteed. It’s unlikely Boston will move on from either JD Davison or Mfiondu Kabengele
  • February 9 at 3:00 PM ET - NBA trade deadline
  • February 10 - $5.9 million TPE from Dennis Schroder expires (functionally expires on trade deadline day unless used on a waiver claim on February 10)
  • The Celtics also have several smaller TPEs that will also expire on February 10, as well. Boston could use a couple of them to absorb or claim a player on a minimum salary, but nothing more. Reminder: TPEs can’t be aggregated together, nor combined with player salaries, to being back more money in a trade!

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