Winners and losers of the Celtics’ NBA Trade Deadline
Maddie Meyer. Getty Images.
The Boston Celtics made two trades yesterday before the NBA Trade Deadline concluded. One brought in Frenchman scorer Evan “Don’t Google” Fournier, and the other brought in German bigman Mo Wagner and sharpshooting bigman Luke Kornet. On the way out was Daniel Theis, Javonte Green, Jeff Teague, two second round picks, and part of the Gordon Hayward Trade Exception. With any trade, there are winners and losers, so let’s break down who should be celebrating yesterday’s moves, and who should not.
The Celtics reportedly are trading Daniel Theis to the Bulls, and also sending Jeff Teague to the Magic to complete the Evan Fournier deal.
Now, without a doubt, the starting center position should belong to the Timelord. As Tristan Thompson continues to be out due to Health & Safety Protocols, Williams is the only center that is available on the Celtics roster. For now, new additions Wagner and Kornet are available to back him up, but the Celtics acquired them more to get under the luxury tax rather than for their talent. It remains to be seen whether the Celtics bring in a buyout player, ala Andre Drummond or Gorgui Dieng, but for now, it appears that the path to starting is there for Williams.
Fans have been pleading on social media for coach Brad Stevens to start Williams, as he has shown flashes of brilliance in his average of 17.2 minutes per game this season. At only 23 years-old, Williams possesses more upside than any of the current Celtics big men. The Celtics need a spark if they want to make any noise this season, and a starting Williams could provide it. Daniel Theis was a reliable player for the Celtics in his four years in Boston, but his departure opens the door for Timelord to receive 20-25+ minutes per game.
Danny Ainge on Rob Williams: "Rob has been our best defensive center so far this year. He’s improved a great deal ... And we think he still has an even bigger upside ahead of him. It’s going to be a bigger role for Rob at this moment."
As previously mentioned, Theis was a reliable center during his four seasons in Boston. Trading him for a seemingly minimal return hurts, as he demonstrated he was a solid role player for Boston. When Danny Ainge signed Theis out of Germany to a two-year contract in the summer of 2017, he was relatively unknown. An undrafted player, who was a 25 year-old rookie, Theis quickly demonstrated that he was up for the challenge of playing in the NBA. Theis played a variety of roles during his time on the Celtics, and his effort and hustle embodied the Boston spirit. At only 6’8”, Theis often matched up against centers who were significantly larger than him. He frequently got into foul trouble, undeservedly or deservedly you can decide, but the War on Theis was a fun calling-card for Celtics fans.
Theis will be an NBA free agent at the end of the season, and the Celtics likely would have lost him for nothing in free agency, but his loss still hurts. It seems like he genuinely enjoyed his time in Boston, and while the Celtics just barely have a better record than his new team, the Chicago Bulls, he now will undoubtedly be backing up newly acquired All-Star Nikola Vucevic. Theis has already demonstrated his value while in Boston, but competing for a play-in spot as a backup center as opposed to starting for the Celtics is likely not how he wants to spend the last few months of a contract year. Celtics Nation will miss you Theis, and best of luck in Boston.
Over the last 4 years Boston became home for me and my family ! I’m grateful for all wins, losses and moments but most important for people I met and friends I found for life ! Boston will always have a place in my heart and I will never forget my time as a Celtic ! pic.twitter.com/DVFV3BFac4
In his seven years in Orlando, Fournier provided a steady scoring presence for a team that was perpetually a bottom playoff/end of the lottery team. The Celtics have their issues, but they have a culture of winning that the Magic do not possess. For the first time in his career, Fournier will have a chance to experience a winning culture that could lead to a playoff run. Fournier started during much of his time in Orlando, and while his role on the Celtics is unclear, I’d argue he’d be best suited in a six man role for the Celtics. He could start at the shooting guard position next to Kemba Walker, but I’d like to see Marcus Smart as the starter to add some defensive toughness next to the undersized Walker. Off the bench, Fournier would have the green light to score consistent buckets on a Celtics bench that has not had a consistent scoring presence. Fournier is the type of player that can get hot off the bench and win your team a playoff game, so let’s hope he’s given the opportunity to do so.
Another aspect of the Fournier trade is his appeal in the locker room as a good teammate. While I don’t have any inside information about the state of the Celtics’ locker room, I can’t imagine it’s great. This Celtics team looks disconnected on the basketball court, so I can only imagine what it’s like behind closed doors. I’m not saying Fournier will be the team therapist, but he could become a unifying part of the team in their push for the playoffs.
Loser: Romeo Langford/Aaron Nesmith
Romeo Langford and Aaron Nesmith can’t be feeling great about the addition of Evan Fournier and their playing time chances. Fournier doesn’t guarantee that the two young first round picks won’t get any playing time, but they should anticipate that Fournier will get around 20-30 consistent minutes a night. This likely leaves only room for one of Langford and Nesmith to play, and in a limited role at that. The Celtics shouldn’t be relying on Langford or Nesmith heavily this early in their careers, especially as Langford has yet to play a game this season, but this does hurt their development.
This is by no means a huge deadline loss for the Celtics, but these players are two near-lottery first round picks. Langford is basically a lock for the Celtics injury report at this point, though he should be back next week according to the Celtics. Nesmith has shown small flashes of skill and hustle, but he’s also been hurt by a lack of Summer League and preseason, and the pandemic season as a whole. It would be disappointing if neither of these players can develop into consistent rotational pieces for the Celtics, and the clock is ticking for the Celtics youth to step up their gameplay. The path to doing so just got a little more difficult.
Winner: “Trader Danny” Fans
Take that Danny Ainge haters! Yesterday, Ainge made not one, but two trades at the NBA Trade Deadline for the first time since the 2014-15 season when Isaiah Thomas arrived in Boston (I’m excluding the trade 2018-19 trade of Jabari Bird for a second rounder because that didn’t actually bring anything to help the Celtics). Ainge understood that this Celtics team needed help, and he went out and acquired a really good scoring wing that fills a need for the Celtics. He also cleared up some cap space, and acquired two young big men who can either easily be waived to sign a buyout player, or provide some help for the Celtics right now.
Back in February, Ainge had said that the Trade Deadline would likely be the sweet spot to use the Player Exception. He also said that the Celtics would need a “shooter with size,” and that the Celtics needed a wing who could defend. Ainge made right on basically ⅔ of these statements with the acquisition of Evan Fournier. He used only $17(ish) million of the exception on a 6′ 7″ 39% career three-point shooter, who is an average defender. The Celtics were never going to land Bradley Beal or a superstar player with the exception, but Ainge made use of it to help the Celtics right now.
-Looking for a shooter with size -Said using the TPE around the trade deadline is the "sweet spot" -Stressed finding defense -Said finding a shooter that can't defend won't make a major change for the team
As much as the argument can be made that Danny Ainge helped the Celtics with his Trade Deadline moves, an opposing argument can also be made that Ainge did little to move the needle. While I would argue that the Celtics are better today then they were a week ago, they still are behind the Nets, Bucks, and 76ers. The Heat also got significantly better in their acquisitions of Victor Oladipo and Nemanja Bjelica for basically nothing. Does the Celtics trades make them better than any of these teams? It’s tough to tell, but right now the answer looks like no.
Another argument to be made is that the Celtics traded away a sizable portion of their exception, along with 4 second round picks, Theis, Green, and Teague, for Fournier, Wagner, and Kornet. When you look at it this way, that’s not great, especially given that Fournier is a free agent this offseason, though the Celtics do possess his bird rights and likely wouldn’t have traded for him if they didn’t intend to re-sign him. Trading Theis just to get under the luxury tax, especially if you aren’t able to sign any buyout players makes these trades look worse, so his moves are more risky than it first appears. I’m writing this article before the Celtics play a game with their new acquisitions, but a trade with Danny Ainge is never as cut and dry as it seems.