The Celtics might view a former player from their teams that just began winning after the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade as the final piece of their next championship roster.
Steve Bulpett of Heavy indicated the Heat and the Celtics are interested Jazz forward Kelly Olynyk 10 years after Boston drafted him No. 13 overall. Sources he spoke to deemed it unlikely the Celtics could match Utah’s asking price, or San Antonio’s for Jakob Poetl.
That makes sense given Boston’s lack of a 2023 first-round pick and difficult path to matching Olynyk’s $12.8-million salary. Combining Luke Kornet, Payton Pritchard and Justin Jackson falls short. Including Danilo Gallinari’s $6.5-million contract instead of Kornet’s works, but given Gallinari’s torn ACL and second-year player option, he might not be a player Utah wants to absorb without acquiring more draft capital from Boston. Especially since the Jazz would need to waive two players in that case.
The Celtics are currently assessing the price, per Bulpett, with no urgency to do anything drastic given their already-set rotation.
Bulpett’s source: “They can trade a down-the-road first, but I don’t see that right now. I’m not sure Utah or San Antonio has much real interest in Pritchard, and forget about Grant (Williams), because the purpose of getting another big is to get someone after Grant. He’s their third big right now, and they’re looking for a fourth or fifth big, not necessarily a third big. They at least need a fourth one. (Luke) Kornet’s helped them when guys have been out, but I think they want to have more options in the playoffs.”
Utah could end up being one of the more active teams at the deadline, with Mike Conley, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Rudy Gay and Olynyk already involved in reports so far. The Jazz seem poised to sell while much of the league looks to buy, protecting some of their more valuable young players like Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler and Ochai Agbaji.
Former Celtics assistant Will Hardy led Utah to a stunning 27-26 start as Jazz head coach after the Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert trades, tied for seventh in the west with the Warriors and Suns. They sit 1.5 games behind the Clippers for home court and 1.0 game up on Portland from missing the playoffs entirely. They own Minnesota and Philadelphia’s first-round picks this year, plus their own, among many others into the future.
CEO Danny Ainge and GM Justin Zanik won’t hesitate to add more though, and Olynyk could be playing at peak value after Utah acquired him from Detroit in the Bojan Bogdanovic trade last offseason.
Olynyk, 31, struggled through injury with the Pistons last year, but thrived in Hardy’s movement offense, averaging 11.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 49.5% from the field and 40.6% from three. He’s signed for next year for $12.2-million, with only $3.0-million guaranteed before June 28, and becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2024.
It’s easy to imagine him translating to Joe Mazzulla’s offense as a screener, cutter, shooter and ball-handler who could play the four next to Al Horford and Robert Williams, or the five spot next to Grant Williams off the bench. Brad Stevens coached the seven-footer for four seasons where he averaged 9.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 1.7 APG on 47.7% shooting, capping his career with an all-time memorable Game 7 performance against the Wizards where he scored 26 points in a 115-105 win.
Stevens traded for a former Celtic as his first move as Boston’s president by bringing back Horford. He returned Daniel Theis one year ago and signed Kornet after he spent part of last year on 10-day deals with other teams and in the G-League.
Acquiring Olynyk would mark the first move between Ainge and Stevens’ front offices since Ainge departed the Celtics in an apparent retirement in 2021, before soon becoming Utah’s CEO. Austin, his son, remains in Boston along with numerous others who worked under Ainge in his Celtics front office, now performing under Stevens.
That’s not to say Boston would receive a sweetheart deal. Ainge will surely ask for the maximum from the Celtics, and they’re limited in terms of future draft capitol. Trading their 2023 first-rounder to Indiana eliminates their ability to deal 2024 until the summer. They traded a 2028 pick swap to San Antonio, leaving 2025, 2026, 2027 and 2029 at their disposal. They own three second-rounders this year, and traded many of their future seconds.
The Heat, who made the Finals with Olynyk in 2020, face similar limitations, but can offer their 2023 first-rounder. They owe the Thunder a first in 2025, eliminating their ability to send 2024 or 2026 — and the possibility it conveys in 2026 eliminates 2027 too, unless it’s a pick swap.
Duncan Robinson, Miami’s main salary filler, arguably plays on a worse contract than Gallinari’s unless the Jazz see value in rejuvenating his career. He’d also push Utah within inches of the luxury tax, they’re currently $6.9-million below the line.
A source told CelticsBlog’s Keith Smith they see a Grant Williams deal getting done this summer, which would add to momentum against an Olynyk addition if true. Interest in such a trade makes sense if Boston feels the need to position themselves to potentially lose, or even move on from Williams if they don’t picture themselves retaining him.
It also makes sense if they see value in an extra big man as the final piece on the roster in addition to Williams, and while Poetl might be old news or unattainable, maybe a familiar face in Olynyk could come at a more fair price. Or set the stage for a smaller addition from Utah, like Vanderbilt.