The 2023 NBA trade deadline is on February 9. This is the last opportunity for teams to make meaningful changes to their roster to impact the remainder of the 2023 season.
For the Boston Celtics, the 2022 trade deadline brought Derrick White to Boston. The previous year, Boston added Evan Fournier. This season, it’s unlikely the Celtics will be quite as active, at least in terms of making a splashy addition.
Here’s what you need to know about the Boston Celtics with the trade deadline one week away.
Cap/Tax Outlook: The Celtics are a whopping $23.7 million over the luxury tax line. Currently, that projects to a tax penalty of more than $58 million.
Celtics governor Wyc Grousbeck recently said that Brad Stevens has the greenlight to do whatever he thinks in pursuit of a championship. That might mean Boston could add to their payroll, but don’t expect any sort of major additions. $58 million in taxes on top of almost $174 million in salaries is already a massive outlay by Celtics ownership.
Exceptions: Boston has one sizable Traded Player Exception (TPE) left. It’s for $5,890,000 from last season’s Dennis Schroder trade and it will expire on February 10 (one day after the trade deadline).
The Celtics also have a Disabled Player Exception (DPE) worth $3,239,500 from Danilo Gallinari’s injury. The DPE is a bit less useful than the TPE, because it is far more restrictive. Anyone Boston can trade for using the DPE must be on an ending contract, with no options.
On the flip side, the DPE can be used to sign a player, whereas a TPE can’t be used to sign anyone. The DPE doesn’t expire until March 10, so it could be a handy tool on the buyout market after the trade deadline.
Boston also has four other TPEs that range in size from $1.7 million to $2.2 million. None of them are really large enough to acquire anyone that the Celtics couldn’t already add via the Minimum Exception. They’ll all likely expire unused on February 10.
Reminder: Exceptions can’t be aggregated together to bring in more salary than they could by themselves. Nor can exceptions be aggregated without outgoing player salary.
Draft Picks: The Celtics are in a good spot draft pick-wise when it comes to trades. Boston owes this year’s first to the Indiana Pacers (from the Malcolm Brogdon trade) and they have a top-1-protected swap that is outstanding in 2028 with the San Antonio Spurs (from the Derrick White trade). Beyond that, Boston is free and clear to trade any first-rounders they’d like.
The Celtics also have at least five tradable second-round picks. This number could increase if certain conditions are met, but five is the best number to use when thinking of juicing an offer by adding in a second-rounder or two.
Biggest Needs: Boston doesn’t truly need anything. The top-eight rotation is really solid. The depth around them isn’t bad. That said, there are spots that could be bolstered with an addition or two.
The Celtics could use another wing behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Even if this is only a regular season addition, it would help keep minutes down for the two stars.
And, as always, another big wouldn’t be bad. That’s true, if only for Rob Williams and Al Horford insurance.
Just don’t expect Brad Stevens to go all-in on trading for a depth piece on the wing or in the frontcourt. Especially when that player may not be featured in a playoff rotation.
Most Likely to be Traded: This isn’t a very large list for Boston. All of their larger salaries, which would be used in a meaningful trade, are attached to good rotation players. In order from most to least likely, here are the guys the Celtics could deal at the deadline:
1. Justin Jackson – This would be one those salary-dump, roster-clearing trades. It would save Boston some money and open up a roster spot.
2. Payton Pritchard – There’s a Grand Canyon-sized gap between Jackson and Pritchard on this list. But the point guard wants a bigger role and he’s got good trade value.
3. Danilo Gallinari – It’s unlikely, but Gallo and his $6.5 million salary are the only way the Celtics could get to the salary-matching in a meaningful deal.
4. Luke Kornet – See Justin Jackson, but with an actual impact to the rotation. This probably only happens if there is a deal in place that sees Kornet replaced as the Celtics fourth big.
Potential Trade Targets: This one is hard to nail down, as Brad Stevens and staff have done their work in the shadows in the year-and-a-half Stevens has led the Celtics front office. No one saw the Derrick White or Malcolm Brogdon trades coming.
That said, if Boston is upgrading the roster, here are some guys they could look at:
· Will Barton – wing – Washington Wizards
· Malik Beasley – wing – Utah Jazz
· Richaun Holmes – center – Sacramento Kings
· Doug McDermott – forward – San Antonio Spurs
· Kelly Olynyk – center/forward – Utah Jazz
· Jakob Poeltl – center – San Antonio Spurs
· Cameron Reddish – wing – New York Knicks
DraftKings has the Boston Celtics as the favorite to win the 2023 NBA Finals at +360. The next closest team is the Brooklyn Nets at +600. That means, not only is Boston the favorite, but they are significant favorites.
Related to the Finals odds, the Celtics are a major favorite at DraftKings to represent the Eastern Conference in the Finals at +185. Once again, the Nets are the next closest at +320. This means that the oddsmakers see Boston at least being likely to get to the Finals again, in addition to being the best bet to win it all this time.
You can take that standing one of two ways: The Celtics don’t need to do much, if anything at all. Or Boston should be loading up at the trade deadline to further increase that gap between themselves and the rest of the NBA.
Given their limited resources to make a big trade, it’s more likely Boston will be players in the buyout market. But don’t write off Brad Stevens doing some sort of deal. He’s been very active in every trade window since taking over the Celtics front office. It wouldn’t be a shock if he did something else before the trade deadline passes next Thursday.