The Celtics are trading Noah Vonleh and cash to the Spurs, sources tell ESPN. The Spurs are waiving Gorgui Dieng to create the roster spot.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 5, 2023
San Antonio will also waive Vonleh, per Wojnarowski:
Spurs are waiving Vonleh too, sources said.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 5, 2023
Boston will open a roster spot and will lower their luxury tax bill by trading Vonleh. That gives Brad Stevens and the front office some necessary wiggle room ahead of the February 9 trade deadline. The Celtics are also expected to be a player on the buyout market.
Vonleh’s contract was set to become fully guaranteed if he wasn’t waived by Saturday, January 7. That would have seen him at $1,836,090 on Boston’s books. Now, the Celtics have cleared all salary obligation for Vonleh off to the spurs.
In exchange for Vonleh, Boston had to receive something back from San Antonio. As the Spurs are doing the Celtics a favor, it’s likely Boston received a future second-round pick. It’s very likely that was a top-55 protected second-round pick.
The Spurs own five of their own second-round picks in future years that have no conditions attached to them. It would be very easy for them to attach top-55 protections to one of those picks in order to satisfy the trade rules.
San Antonio currently sits roughly $16 million under the salary floor. It’s likely Boston is sending them enough cash to cover their portion of Vonleh’s salary after the trade-and-waive transaction is completed.
On the accounting side, the Celtics total tax bill (taxable salary plus penalties) was roughly $65 million pre-trade. The new total tax bill is approximately $58 million, meaning Boston saves about $7 million in actual taxes plus penalties.
Boston will create a new Traded Player Exception in this trade. The TPE will be for whatever amount San Antonio agreed to guarantee Vonleh for, up to his full $1,836,090. That will be created because Boston is sending Vonleh into the Spurs cap space without taking any salary back.
Vonleh appeared in 23 games for Boston. The Salem native was a part of the early-season rotation for the Celtics due to injuries in the frontcourt. When Luke Kornet, and later on Robert Williams, got healthy, Vonleh’s role reduced to occasional appearances. Overall, Vonleh averaged 1.1 points and 2.1 rebounds in 7.4 minutes per game for the Celtics.