As the NBA season progresses and the NBA trade deadline approaches, the Celtics’ trade exception increases in importance. For this series, I’m going to break down some of the possible trade targets for the Celtics’ massive Gordon Hayward trade exception, and how I think these players would fit in Boston.
The Celtics’ obtained the record-setting $28.5 million trade exception when they completed the sign-and-trade with the Charlotte Hornets for Gordon Hayward. They also possess a $5 million exception from Enes Kanter and a $2.5 million exception from Vincent Poirier, but for the sake of this series, I’ll focus on targets for the $28.5 million exception.
The rules and intricacies of an NBA trade exception are slightly complex, but a basic explanation is that the Celtics can take in $28.5 million in player salary without trading any players, they only have to use the exception. The Celtics will have 365 days from the date the trade was finalized (November 29, 2020) to use the exception, so while they technically don’t have to use the exception until next offseason, for the sake of the Trade Exception Target Series, I’m going to imagine that they’ll use it during this season. Trade exceptions cannot be combined with other trade exceptions or player salaries, but they can be coupled with team picks (see the Warriors’ offseason trade for Kelly Oubre). The Celtics do not have to use the entire exception in one trade, so they can separate the exception to acquire multiple players in multiple trades, or absorb more than one player as long as their combined salaries equal or are less than $28.5 million.
One added intricacy of the Celtics’ exception is that they cannot exceed the NBA’s hard tax apron of $138 million, and may also want to stay under the $132 million luxury tax this season to avoid future repeater penalties. The Celtics currently have roughly $117 million in player payroll, so the most they can absorb is $21 million, or $15 million if they want to avoid the luxury tax. You can read more about NBA trade exceptions here and see each Celtic player’s individual contract situation here.
Read about my previous Trade Exception Targets here:
Next up in the Trade Exception Target Series is Chicago Bulls forward Thaddeus Young. Let me preface this by stressing that after the recent play of my beloved Celtics, the importance of using this trade exception before this year’s NBA Trade Deadline appears to be increasing by the game. At just 12-11, the Celtics will need to improve internally beyond any players that they acquire by trade if they’re going to make any noise in the playoffs this season. However, back to Thaddeus Young, the forward has thrived in a Draymond Green-esque role for the Bulls this season. Young is averaging 11.3-5.3-4.4 in 26 minutes off the bench. His 4.4 assists per game is a career high, as head coach Billy Donovan has employed him a point-forward role. Young is also shooting a career high 59% from the field but is only shooting 26% from three this season, though three-point shooting has never been a large part of his game.
While he hasn’t started a game this season, Young often closes games alongside the starters, especially during his recent hot streak. In his last seven games, Young has averaged 13.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.9 blocks per game, providing a strong presence on both ends of the floor. Young stated that he feels most comfortable playing on the inside, and not on the perimeter. This season for the Bulls, that’s exactly where he’s played, as he often positions himself around the freethrow line, and can dictate the offense from there. Young is listed at only 6′ 8″, but he plays big and can line up at center in certain matchups. He’s a smart player that makes impact plays on both ends of the floor, which is always valuable for any team.
Don't look now, but Thaddeus Young (@yungsmoove21) is averaging 9.3 assists over his last three games.
A lot of em are coming via DHO -- "Chicago" action is generating pull-up looks or back-cuts -- but Young's quick processing in space has been on display as well. pic.twitter.com/txmJPcInNv
Young signed a 3-year $41 million contract with the Bulls in the 2019 offseason, and is currently in the second year of that deal. This season he’s making $13,545,000, and he’s under contract next season for $14,190,000, of which only $6,000,000 is guaranteed until June 30th, 2021. If Young continues this level of production, his contract is reasonable for a player of his caliber. Young is 32 years old, but there’s no reason why he can’t be a serviceable complementary player throughout the remainder of his contract.
Prior to the Bulls, Young has played for the Philadelphia 76ers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Brooklyn Nets, and Indiana Pacers. While never a star, Young has easily fit on a number of winning teams, and has experienced some playoff success. At this point in his career, Young likely wants to win a championship, and the Bulls are seemingly a lot farther away from doing so than the Celtics are. At 9-14, the Bulls are 12th in the Eastern Conference, and would not qualify for the play-in tournament if the season ended today. The Bulls could make the playoffs, but their ceiling projects to be nothing more than a first round exit. For the Celtics, I’m still hopeful that their ceiling is higher than that.
Regarding the Celtics, I think that Young could greatly benefit the Celtics in a number of different ways. He isn’t a great shooter, which is another area of need, but he checks almost all of the other boxes Boston needs help with. I picture him playing somewhat like Grant Williams on the Celtics, but significantly more experienced and an established veteran talent. One night, he could be the Celtics’ small-ball center off the bench, and another he could play on the wing. He won’t complain about his roll, and he’d be an x-factor come playoff time. I’d love to see Young and Marcus Smart on the floor with Kemba and the Jay’s, as this would be a perfect mix between grit and scoring talent.
The Bulls may decide to keep Young for another season, but his play this year has elevated his trade value, and a trade would open up playing time for Lauri Markkanen and rookie Patrick Williams. The Celtics should be able to acquire Young by using their trade exception and attaching two second round picks, or maybe one first, and this isn’t a deal I’m entirely opposed to. Young is a player that complements star players well, and at this point, I’m not sure the Celtics have that on their current roster. I’m starting to think that the Celtics might need to make a trade sooner rather than later, and Young should be a prime target for the Celtics, given their needs and standing in the Eastern Conference. Here’s to hoping that the best is yet to come Celtics fans.