The NBA trade deadline is rapidly approaching. With a week to go, this is when business starts getting done. Teams get more reasonable in their asks and rivals get more reasonable in their offers. That’s when trades get done.
For the Boston Celtics, they’ve been relatively quiet. That’s been the MO under Brad Stevens. The things you don’t hear about are what happens, while all the buzzy stuff rarely comes to fruition.
That said, let’s talk some buzzy stuff a week from the trade deadline.
Pritchard recently made some waves around Boston by saying he wants a bigger role and that it’s something he thinks might happen when he’s “done” with the Celtics in a year.
League sources told CelticsBlog that Pritchard meant when the season is over, and not that he’s assuming he’ll be traded away from Boston. But it was confirmed by multiple sources that Pritchard has made it clear he would like a bigger role and more consistent minutes.
One source with the Celtics said “It would be a problem for us, and for Payton, if he didn’t want a bigger role. That’s what we want: competitive guys who want to play. When you get a guy who is content to sit, that’s when you have an issue. We’ve never once had that issue with Payton.”
Another person close to the situation insisted that Pritchard hasn’t made an issue of his minutes. This person said the quotes the Celtics coaches and players say about him “staying ready” is a real thing for the third-year guard and that he doesn’t complain about not playing.
Lastly, one rival team said, “They aren’t trading Pritchard this year unless it’s in a really good deal for them. He’s too valuable as a depth guy behind two injury-prone guys (Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon) to just send him off so he can play.”
That approach seems to match Boston’s thinking. However, in-season trade talks can often set the stage for summer moves. The San Antonio Spurs, Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets have all shown an interest in Pritchard, sources said. That’s in addition to the previously reported interest from the Golden State Warriors.
Despite reporting to the contrary, sources continue to insist that Boston hasn’t registered new or renewed interest in Poeltl in months. One source said the teams haven’t talked about a deal sending Poeltl from San Antonio to Boston since early in December, before Rob Williams returned.
One individual close to the Poeltl situation said, “He’s in a tough spot. He wants to win, but he’s a free agent in the summer. And he’s got control for the first time. He doesn’t want to go somewhere and leave the last impression before free agency of being a backup center.”
That’s a challenge for the Celtics. When healthy, Poeltl wouldn’t start over Rob Williams, who many Boston players and coaches have called “the most important Celtic” in recent days. And it’s unlikely the Celtics would be able to pay Poeltl what he wants, given he’d likely always be a backup behind Williams, when Williams is healthy.
Keep an eye on Will Barton, should he work a buyout with the Washington Wizards. A source told CelticsBlog, “There’s some mutual interest there. Barton would give them another scorer off the bench, and he has big game experience too.”
Barton’s contract is a little too big for Boston to reasonably trade for. But the veteran wing hasn’t been a rotation regular for Washington for months. Chris Haynes reported on the #thisleague Uncut podcast that it’s increasingly likely Barton won’t finish the season with the Wizards. That makes him a buyout target for the Celtics.
There’s nothing the Celtics and Grant Williams can legally do as far as a contract extension goes, despite some chatter being reported elsewhere. Any deal Williams signs with Boston will be a new contract as a restricted free agent this July. The deadline to extend a rookie scale player passed back in October.
The Celtics and Williams do remain interested in continuing their partnership, however. A source said, “Grant loves it in Boston and loves his role. The coaches and front office keep pushing him to add to his game. They see him as the eventual replacement for Al Horford. A deal will get done this summer.”
Celtics ownership, led by Wyc Grousbeck, desperately want to bring Banner 18 to Boston. They’ve given Brad Stevens the greenlight to do whatever he thinks he needs to do, as said by Grousbeck himself in recent interviews.
One rival team told CelticsBlog, “Boston has always been hesitant to add too much salary and to push into the tax. This year, that hesitancy is gone. We’ve had talks and asked ‘Can you add that much in taxes?’ and been told it isn’t even the slightest concern. That’s very different from years past.”
That doesn’t mean a major move is coming. But if the right deal comes along where the Celtics add money, which comes with increased tax penalties because Boston is already more than $23 million over the tax, they’ll do it. That’s where the soon-to-expire $5.9 million traded player exception could come into play in the next week.
Gallinari isn’t giving up hope on playing this season, but sources say no one from the Celtics is pushing him to play, nor do they expect he will play. However, Gallinari has been encouraged by quicker-than-usual returns made by veterans Joe Ingles and Danny Green.
As far as trading Gallinari, one source told CelticsBlog, “Nothing happening there. Let’s just say Brad (Stevens) operates differently from Danny (Ainge). He’s a bit more in-tune with the players and the locker room. The guys all see Gallo busting his tail to get back and it would sting to see him traded after all he’s been through. Moving him for a marginal upgrade isn’t going to happen.”
In a real sense, Gallinari can also be viewed a “free addition” of sorts this coming summer. Boston already has him under contract, as it’s highly likely the veteran forward will pick up his player option. If that happens, the Celtics can then use the Taxpayer Midlevel Exception to pick up someone else to fill a rotation need.